Rayman is back for more frantically fun platforming action. While Rayman Legends was released last fall for all current gen systems, it's seen a recent release on the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4. We decided it was about time for us to finally put the little guy through his paces.
One of the most common phrases I heard for the most recent Muppets movie was that it was "not cynical;" in other words, that it just had fun and didn't look at the world with a large grain of salt in its mouth and a chip on its shoulder. Rayman Legends feels like the video game world equivalent. It doesn't try to tell a serious story, or do something clever with the meta-game or ludonarrative dissonance. It is simply (beautifully), purely (wonderfully), a platformer that is a platformer.
The main campaign takes Rayman and friends across five different worlds spanning 48 levels. The goal in each level is to make it through by running, jumping, floating, and even swimming, all the while collecting the imprisoned Teensies along the way. The more Teensies you grab, the more levels you unlock. It’s all very straightforward, yet there’s something more there. Each level is carefully crafted and executed. Many of the platformers I play today feel as if they focus on the challenge aspect of the genre; can you time your jump right to make it to the next platform or get the fastest time. There are certainly levels where those kinds of elements come into play - many of which are found in the optional “Invasion” levels - but for the most part, Ubisoft Montpellier focuses more on how to get the most out of the basic running/jumping/punching mechanics.
For example, the first level you encounter in the Fiesta de los Muertos world sees you turned into a duck by an evil Teensy wizard. You’re quickly brought to a road block in the form of a giant piece of cake. That’s when Murphy, Rayman’s magical helper, appears to lend his jaws to the task. Murphy will eat through entire sections of cake at your command and while initially it’s a simple matter of having him eat it all, later on, you have to be choosy as to which sections he eats and which he leaves alone. In another level, you have to swim past devices that shoot on sight and whose view is obscured by random pieces of trash or rock floating in the water.
One of my personal favorites is actually early on in the game where you’re racing through a series of wooden ships that are sinking into the sand. While it can be a bit frantic and crazy at times, there are well-placed “relax” sections where you have a chance to to catch your breath and prepare for the next sinking ship.
That is what I find most impressive about Rayman Legends. Every time you feel like you’re about to hit that point of snapping a controller in half due to frustration, the game backs off. It gives you a moment to catch your breath, come back from the edge, and get ready for the next challenge. This may happen midway through a level, or even with the way the levels themselves are encountered. While the levels do get progressively harder there are some that feel easier than the one before or the one after. Again, Ubisoft Montpellier shows its talents at and understanding of the platform genre by pacing these levels so well.