- Street Date:
- September 3rd, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Brian Hoss
- Review Date:1
- August 26th, 2013
- Game Release Year:
- Wii U
- Ubisoft Montpellier
- ESRB Rating:
- E10+ (Everyone 10 and older)
Despite the near twenty year history of the 'Rayman' franchise, complete with various spin-offs, 'Rayman Legends' has seemed entirely intertwined with the Wii U. The game was introduced to the public as a Wii U exclusive ahead of its (launch title) time only to be held back and ported to no less than five platforms. The question is, was it worth the wait?
Then again, fans of the 2011 'Rayman Origins' are likely to only care that a sequel was made and is probably available on their platform of choice. (Sorry Dreamcast) And so, what's left is a game that many may expect, but many more go into completely without knowledge of the series or what to expect.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Right off the bat, it is easy to say that 'Rayman Legends' is nothing ground-breaking but nevertheless defies convention. Consider it similar to an expertly made and exquisite sports car that can still be driven speedily and comfortably by just about any novice in your family.
'Rayman Origins' is fine platformer with tight control, good level design, pleasant visuals, nice variety, and some inherent challenge. It is just the kind of game to please fans of platformers. Rayman's long time accumulated skills such as his directional punch, run, jump and hover abilities can be finely controlled and contain nuances such as ledge grabbing and wall jumping for a total effect of sublime control. After playing a significant amount of 'Rayman Legends,' including several remade 'Rayman Origins' levels, 'Rayman Origins' just seems crude, with challenging but rough levels, remarkably lesser visuals, and only a fraction of the amount of variety and total content.
For me, playing on the Wii U, with a mix of co-ops and single player sessions, 'Rayman Legends' is engaging in a way that game's first Wii U demo failed to reveal.
Naturally, I have already classified much of the game with no mention of its story, which would be irregular for many titles, but not 'Rayman Legends.' Rayman, Goblox, and co. awake from a long slumber to find that each level has been taken over by bad guys and that each Teensy (blue royalty persons) must be individually found and freed while the many Lums (yellow and purple this time) must be contently collected in order to unlock many things.
It would be unfair to say that the story is entirely inconsequential, rather, it is each individual level's design that tells a small scale story screen by screen and level by level.
Level gimmicks play a role, but there seems to be level variety great and small, with chase levels, challenge levels, invaded levels, musical levels, character freeing levels, teensy-freeing bonus levels all filling out the core level traversal experience.
The per level difficulty ranges, as is represented by the number of skulls on the level entrance's poster frame. But it seems clear that levels reflect a greater degree of accessibility and rhythm than 'Rayman Origins.' The contrast in design philosophy between 'Rayman Legends' and a game like 'New Super Mario Bros. Wii' is staggering with the latter's tendency to punish rhythmic, natural level traversal constantly seeming both sadistic inelegant.
The great caveat though, is the game's co-op, which is local only. What can seem workmanlike in single player comes alive when one player is moving through the level while the other is assisting with Murphy on the GamePad's touchscreen. The Wii U can support five total players, and being in the level together gives them a winter wonderland/jungle gym feel. Meanwhile in single-player, some levels are so good and so fun that they seem to exist beyond the range of just trying to get enough Teensies and Lums to unlock every level, creature, and costume in the game.
Then there are the challenge levels. At any moment, there is a daily challenge level, a weekly challenge level, and extreme versions thereof. Getting full access is merely a manner of raising the player's Awesome level, which exists as global measurement of game progress. By constantly mixing up the current challenges, the player can always hope to ascend the leaderboards, beating friends, countrymen, or even the world. This being the Wii U and before the game's general release, the full extent of competition was stunted. Of course, on the Wii U, the game has had a Wii U exclusive challenge app for awhile, almost like a beta test.
Whenever I stopped playing co-op, and went back to single player, the experience was lesser and the for most part the gameplay was harder. Without the Murphy player, hitting each level's top Lum goal was much tougher. Of course, in some levels, such as ones where the player falls with the edge of the screen chasing, having only one player in the level made it easier to focus and beat the level. Deciding which way to mange co-op was part of the fun though. Likewise, unlocking new costumes for each of Rayman's crew was significantly more enjoyable with in co-op. Without co-op strategies, the game's dynamics can feel stilted, and items like lucky scratch tickets merely a means to unlocking all the content.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
There is no shortlist of games of that 'Rayman Legends' does not put to shame visually. The game's color pallet makes a rainbow look like a clumsy mess of unrealized potential. While 'Rayman Origins' is the obvious forbearer in design and implementation of visuals in the UbiArt Framework engine, a full host of what was next-gen visual tweaks have helped unify and imbue the levels, characters, and items with the stunning strokes of Ubisoft's Montepellier best. While the game is mainly 2D with level depth drawn into the player pane and assembled from 2D pieces in the background, there a few 3D cut scenes, and 2.5D level sequences. Those 2.5D sequences visually trump a gamut of games that have attempted the dark art.
Overall, simple but beautiful character and environment designs overcome any sensation that a given area lacks in detail. Furthermore, the glorious realization of each environment strengthens this reviewer's conviction of lightly detailed, flat-poly 3D environments common to current side-scrolling games. The only oddity is that when playing with Murphy and thereby playing the level on the GamePad, the inexpensive screen is obviously the lesser when compared with an HDTV. If used to only seeing the common muddy/teal looks of most current games and movies, the visual feast when starting game may quickly be spoiling, but once settled into play, the overall feel of the game will take precedence.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
It is tempting to call the audio unremarkable as it is unlikely to stun in the way that other aspects of the game ought to manage. That is hardly cause for concern though, as the music just tends to be a sedate part of the experience. Sound effects are very suitable and reflect the kind of decision making needed to fill a game like this with sounds that are complimentary. Actual rhythm levels with their musical covers are inspired and it would not be surprising to see them as instant crowd favorites.
For a game without achievements (at least on the Wii U and if you don't count Ubisoft Uplay Actions), 'Rayman Legends' is nevertheless modern in much of its approach. Levels are dotted with checkpoints and systems to help players obsessively collect everything impossible without painful, forced backtracking. But the volume of content is far beyond the reasonable expectation of a platformer, even at $60. The challenges are fun and are great at inciting the 'one more attempt' feeling, even without hope of cracking the world's top ten. Getting a million Lums in not likely to happen in a weekend, but asking new friends to try some co-op runs is equally viable to just accumulating Lums.
HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?
While the game is packed full of entire sections of content that most game's would have cut for due to budget and time constraints, the stand-out 'Bonus Content' would seem to encapsulate the challenge levels and even more Bonus-y, the remade, 'Rayman Origins' levels. Remove those, and the extra costumes and creature collection would be far less satisfying. The Wii U version has some unlockable Mario and Luigi themed costumes, which is not usually a given for most games.
And then there is Kung Foot, the little versus soccer mini game. It can seem slight, but it way to illustrate the move set.
The various elements that come together to make a great co-op game often make the game in question seem like a diamond in the rough. With 'Rayman Legends,' the lack of online co-op may sentence many to a less-than-fulfilling playthrough. And yet, the masterful level design, which endlessly teaches the player clever ways to proceed, shines through a complete package that should engage anyone willing to attempt a platformer. Co-op or no, Ubisoft has an instant classic in hand that ought to endure much longer than most platformers. By setting such a high standard, the inevitable sequel or expansion may have to settle for being less impressive.
- Dolby Digital 5.1
- Offline Co-op
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