When Rayman Legends was announced, I was ecstatic.The previous game, Rayman Origins, was one of my favorite games of 2011 and I was ready for more. Hell, I was so excited, I pre-ordered a Wii U just play the game, which breaks one of my cardinals rules of buying video games: no console is worth just one game. Thankfully, the game was postponed and ported elsewhere. Still, even with as excited for the game as I was, I was also a little worried. Yes, Rayman Origins had been great but it was also a long time coming. The franchise hadn’t seen an entry as remotely stellar as it was since 1999 with the release of Rayman 2: The Great Escape. Could Legends really live up to the bar Origins set or would it feel like a expansion pack? Thankfully, not only is Rayman Legends bigger than Origins, it’s better in every way.
Taking place some unimportant amount of time after Rayman Origins, the Glade of Dreams is once again under attack by the dark teensies. This time, they’ve taken over 5 themed worlds and captured 10 princesses and a whopping 700 good teensies. With the help of the usual pals and Murfy, a frog/fly who was absent from Rayman Origins, Rayman must run, jump and punch baddies in order to save the day.
It’s hard not to gush over Legends’ visual design; the game is beautifully rendered and each world is a treat to go through as you visit areas inspired by fairy tales, 60’s spy movies and ancient Greece. Each world is broken into 10 levels, in which you free teensies and collect lums. These two things are the game’s currencies. Teensies open up new levels while lums unlock new characters to play as. Rayman is also tasked with rescuing two princesses in each world. Unlike the fairies in Origins, the princesses become playable characters rather than giving Rayman new abilities since Rayman has all of them from the outset of the game.
Thankfully, the level design is one of the highlights of the game. While completely enjoyable in and of itself, Origins relied on each new ability gained in order to change things up. Legends doesn’t have that luxury and, luckily, crafts its levels in such a way to make up for it. A number of later levels really shine, requiring you to do much more than merely run from left to right. One level in particular has everything segmented to what you can see on screen (giving it a Metroidvania vibe) while another level requires you to be stealthy and sneak by lasers.
For better or worse though, the biggest game changer is the inclusion of Murfy. Although he’s not a persistent part of the game, every time he shows up he completely changes the pace by allowing you to interact with the environment in new ways, like cutting ropes, pushing blocks, and tickling enemies so Rayman can punch them. Sections where Murfy is available create an extra special brand of crazy because you control both Rayman and Murfy at the same time. Unfortunately, while these moments can end up being some of the best in the game, they were clearly designed for multiplayer with the Wii U gamepad. Consequently, they also offer some of the most frustrating moments because they require the most trial and error.
Conversely, the greatest part of Rayman Legends are musical levels at the end of each world. These level really are something special, placing every jump and punch so that when done correctly it’s in time to the music, giving you a feeling of participation in the music’s creation. There’s just nothing like running, kicking and swimming to the beat of Eye of the Tiger or Woo Hoo.
Two of my biggest complaints with Rayman Origins were the game’s checkpointing and overall looseness. Unfortunately, only one of those has been addressed. Legends has checkpoints far more often than its predecessor, making the core game much easier and less frustrating. But if you want challenge, Legends isn’t lacking. In addition to the mains levels, saving princesses and playing music, Legends includes invasion levels, leaderboard challenges, levels from Origins itself and even a new multiplayer mode.
The invasion levels are remixed versions of their original counterparts that have been attacked by enemies from the other worlds. Some the levels have you running a particular section in reverse while others put new obstacles in your way. The leaderboard challenges task you with collecting a preset number of lums as quickly as possible, collecting as many lums as you can in the allotted time, running a far as possible or running as fast as possible. These challenges are refreshed both daily and weekly and provide, by far, the greatest challenge. The Origins levels are just that, levels from Rayman Origins re-done in Legends’ new art style Finally, the new multiplayer mode is Kung Foot, a 2-4 player soccer game. If you ever found the Origins co-op (which returns) to be filled with a little too much griefing, then Kung Foot is for you.
As mentioned, the only part of Rayman Legend I find fault with are the controls. Movement in Legends feels just a little too loose to do all the things the games asks you to do. In some of the later levels, I felt like I had to game the system. While this was never too big of a deal, I wish the physics were a little tighter so that in-air control were easier to manage.
Any control issues aside, Rayman Legends never ceases to be enjoyable. The game is so fully featured that it makes Rayman Origins seem like a prototype. From the game’s delightful tone to it’s gorgeous graphics and top notch level design, Legends is better than Origins quantitatively and qualitatively. Not only that, it’s one of the best games of 2013 and one of the best platformers of all time. Maybe even better than Rayman 2.