Save the Glade of Dreams from a quintet of malicious magicians.
PC Release: September 3, 2013
By Ian Coppock
This month’s platforming fun continues with a look at Rayman Legends, the much-anticipated sequel to Rayman Origins. After Origins was released to critical acclaim, series creator Michel Ancel immediately started making a follow-up: a game that seeks to preserve Origins‘ carefree fun but also makes a few formula shakeups. Rayman Legends is the result of that effort; how fun is it, and what shakeups does it make to Origins‘ platforming brilliance?
Like its predecessor, Rayman Legends is a side-scrolling platformer whose format evokes the titular character’s early years. 1995’s Rayman was a side-scroller, but the series wouldn’t see that format again until Origins launched in 2011. Rayman’s return to form was met with widespread acclaim by critics and players, who praised Origins‘ fluid gameplay and level design. No doubt giddy with excitement, Ancel returned to his gaming workshop (a building that, given the design of the Rayman games, is most likely a bubble-emitting castle or a flying pirate ship) and released Rayman Legends in 2013.
After kicking Darktoon hiney in Rayman Origins, Rayman and his buddies celebrate by taking a 100-year-long nap. They wake up (no doubt feeling quite invigorated), and discover that a gaggle of evil magicians has been corrupting the Glade of Dreams during their snooze cruise. Once again the Glade is overrun with monsters, and once again, it’s up to Rayman and his sidekicks to defeat them and save the world. Because this is a platformer, players can also bet that there’s a princess or two to save.
Rayman returns to center stage with the same abilities he had in Rayman Origins. Everyone’s favorite limbless hero can run and jump around, as well as punch the living daylights out of any dark beastie that stands in his way. He can also utilize his trademark helicopter hair to drift to new areas. Just like in Origins, players can choose to play as Globox or one of Rayman’s other buddies, and they too have these platforming powers. Players can also team up and fight together with Legends‘ seamless co-op function.
Like Rayman Origins, Rayman Legends’ levels are set up in segments. Rayman can only take one or two hits before he’s dead, but he’ll respawn at the beginning of that segment instead of the entire level. Players can extend Rayman’s longevity by picking up hearts, which are offered as a reward for executing certain moves or for defeating the right opponent. The goal of each level is to rescue as many Teensies as possible; the more Teensies players rescue, the more levels they can unlock down the road.
This entire gameplay setup is virtually identical to that of Rayman Origins, albeit with one small tweak. While Rayman Origins is fun, it’s also a challenging game, one whose later levels have the potential to drive novice platformer fans bonkers. Rayman Legends is a formidable game too, but the difficulty has been reduced just enough to make the game more accessible for newcomers. Not to worry, platformer aficionados; Legends doesn’t sacrifice the challenge that more inveterate fans relish.
A few other smidgen-sized adjustments have been made to the Rayman formula too. Whether Rayman is jumping or running, the controls are a bit more responsive than Origins‘. This makes the game’s reflex-driven challenges not only more doable, but also more fun. When it comes to gameplay, Rayman Legends does what a good sequel to a good game should do: make a few adjustments here and there without sacrificing the core mechanics that made its predecessor popular. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
Rayman Legends builds a charming world around these gameplay mechanics. Players are given five colorful worlds to liberate in pursuit of cleansing the Glade of Dreams, as well as numerous bonus levels and even a hidden sixth world (not so hidden now, is it?). Rayman Legends also includes a selection of mini-games that players can compete in in local or online co-op… the Kung Foot game is particularly lively. The game even features all of the levels from Rayman Origins re-engineered with Legends‘ gameplay, but these can only be unlocked at random by the game.
The best thing about all of this content is how fluidly it’s organized. Players can access these worlds and challenges via a series of paintings, and moving from gallery to gallery is a cinch. Rayman Legends aptly categorizes an otherwise bewildering array of levels, challenges and minigames to make it as simple as possible for players to find what they want to do next. It’s one thing for a game to simply have a lot of content, and quite another for all of that content to be easy to find. Legends succeeds on both counts.
While on the subject of menus and choices, let’s go over Rayman Legends‘ options menu. The game runs mostly on 2D visuals, so it’s not a huge surprise that the menu is as small as it is. Players can expect to find the usual roster of basic resolution and sound options, but there’s not a whole lot more to this title’s roster of toggles. Since Rayman Legends does contain 3D objects, more in-depth options for visual fidelity are called for with this title.
Then again, all of this seems like nit-picking in the face of how well Rayman Legends runs on PC. Thanks mostly to its 2D presentation, Rayman Legends runs brilliantly on potato laptops and monster rigs alike. As with most platformers ported to PC, Legends‘ keyboard & mouse controls are serviceable, but a gamepad works much grander wonders. Gamers weary of glitching, freezing, and crashing rejoice; Legends produces no such performance issues.
What was all of that hullabaloo about 2D visuals? Well, Rayman Legends has tons of them, and they’re significantly more sophisticated than those of Rayman Origins. Make no mistake, Origins is a beautiful game, but Legends displays noticeable improvement in object and character detail, coloring, and textures. Michel Ancel and his team succeeded in giving Rayman and his buddies more realized character models without sacrificing their cartoon-like veneer.
The worlds of Rayman Legends display similar improvements, with much sharper backgrounds and foregrounds than Origins had in its worlds (again, not to say that Origins didn’t also look jaw-droppingly awesome). Legends’ biggest break with its predecessor is the use of 3D models, which are seamlessly integrated into the 2D world. Legends tops all of this off by avoiding sexualizing its female characters as Origins did, which makes them more visually consistent with the world.
Rayman Legends‘ enthusiasm for good art extends beyond the visual department and into sound and music. The game’s score is a lively mix of string-driven songs that sound right out of a lighthearted adventure film, as well as some grander horn-driven tunes that play during the game’s most intense sequences. Rayman Legends also includes some not-so-subtle adaptations of classic rock songs that play in certain levels, including a goblin-sung rendition of Ram Jam’s Black Betty.
With a gameplay and art arrangement this solid, Rayman Legends doesn’t quite need a heavy-hitting narrative. The game’s story is told non-verbally and is essentially the same as Origins‘: a group of monsters are out to conquer the Glade of Dreams, and oh boy, Rayman comes out swinging. In spite of not tapping into deeper narrative territory, Legends still benefits from cutesy presentation and laugh-out-loud nonverbal humor. Gamers of all ages can giggle at watching a bad guy get shot into space.
Rayman Legends‘ art, gameplay and humor culminates in a great title, one that is both a loving improvement upon Rayman Origins and also one of the greatest platformers of all time. It may not have sold quite enough copies to warrant a proper sequel, but Legends stands unchallenged as perhaps the best platformer of the decade four years after release. It’s for that reason that gamers everywhere (platforming fans and otherwise) should immediately buy this game. Rayman Legends is a fluid, feel-good romp through a colorful world, and damn if it isn’t a ton of fun.
You can buy Rayman Legends here.
Thank you for reading! My next review will be posted in a few days. You can follow Art as Games on Twitter @IanLayneCoppock, or friend me at username Art as Games on Steam. Feel free to leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a game that you’d like to see reviewed, though bear in mind that I only review PC games.