Review – Rayman Legends – A Cut Above the Rest

Rayman Legends is a game that is not without some controversy. Originally, it was a Wii U exclusive that was set to be released earlier this summer. However, due to Wii U’s less than impressive sales within those early months, Ubisoft decided to port it to every other system under the sun. Unfortunately, this led to a fairly substantial delay so Ubisoft could release all versions at once. Due to the last minute nature of the porting, Rayman Legends looks and feels like a Wii U game, to the detriment of almost every other platform. Truthfully, the experience is so different between 360, PS3, and Wii U, that I actually wouldn’t recommend this game on any platform other than the Wii U with the possible exception of the Playstation Vita, whose touch screen remedies many of the problems found in other versions. That is, of course, if you have any intention of ever buying a Wii U. For those who have no interest in Nintendo’s new machine, then I most assuredly recommend picking it up on another platform with the caveat that you are getting a significantly inferior version. Those of you with Wii Us have the option of picking up what I would consider the best 2D platformer since Donkey Kong Country 2, and I don’t make that statement lightly.

Gender and amphibian equality for the win.
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I don’t know what Rayman Legends is about. Never having grown up with the Rayman series, I can’t identify any of the characters and the game doesn’t go out of its way to explain anything. This suits me fine as Rayman Legends mimics many old platformers in its sheer insanity. You will be collecting a variety of blue guys called teensies, who are held captive by evil blue guys who seem to be nightmare versions of those teensies. However, you don’t care. All that matters is the gameplay. Rayman himself isn’t even necessary in this game as you have the ability to change what character you play as from the get go. In fact, after unlocking the female warrior line of characters, I never played as Rayman again. In some cases, barebones stories like this don’t work. But this harkens back to the old style where plots were meaningless, and it was best to just accept what was going on. You don’t need to know if some princess was captured, only that there are enemies to kill and random things to collect as you constantly move to the right.

Its best not to look for logic in this world.
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Rayman Legends follows the amazing gameplay and graphical style that was seen in the critical darling Rayman Origins. You’ll spend most of your time travelling to the left of the screen. There is a run button, a jump button, an attack button. Really, the controls are standard for the kind of platformer it is. The big advantage this game has over others is the level of precision found in the controls. I’ve heard complaints that this game has flighty controls and I couldn’t disagree more. Clearing many of the challenges and levels at high levels has done nothing but prove to me that Rayman Legends has one of the most accurate and precise controls out there, miles ahead of the stiff, often clunky controls found in Donkey Kong Country Returns. If the controls were poor, many of the game’s challenges would be simply impossible, which makes me wonder on the credibility of the game’s detractors.

I can’t even imagine why people think the controls in this game are anything less than stellar.
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There are five main worlds in Rayman Legends. Each one contains various levels of four main types: platforming, Murphy, boss, and music. Platforming levels are the most common. These are basic ‘make it to the end’ levels with various hidden teensies in between. It is basic fare, but the level design is far above what you see in traditional platforming. One moment, you’ll be going through a regular jungle, and the next you’ll be avoiding search lights in an secret submarine decked out in an early James Bond theme. Murphy levels are why the Wii U version is completely superior. During these levels, you will control Murphy the fly on the touch screen and clear a path for the an AI, or player controlled friends. These levels make great use of the gamepad, and tend to do so in interesting and unique ways such as holding a shield above players to avoid bouncing fireballs, or clearing a path through delicious pastry. For non-Wii U users, a button press does the same job, but it takes the entire fun out of the levels. The biggest problem for non-Wii U users is that there are almost as many Murphy levels as there are platforming ones, meaning nearly half of the game is more or less a chore.

That’s Murphy down there. He’s either a great change of pace or a complete waste of time depending on the version you’re playing.
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Boss levels are a little underwhelming. The bosses themselves are huge and fun to look at, but none of them are anyway harder than the levels you cleared to get to them, which is a shame as they could have been much more epic if the difficulty was above easy. There were some great ideas here, particularly the giant luchador fight, but simplicity made them pretty much an after thought. Musical levels on the other hand are the highlight of the game. At the end of each world, you are treated to a chase level where music plays in time to your jumps and attacks. It’s truthfully something I’ve never seen before in a platformer, and something I’m extremely keen to see again. While few of the musical levels are as inspiring as Castle Rock, which is included in the demo, all of them are major reasons to want to push through the five worlds.

This is after crawling through an endless variety of butter platforms and snake-ridden cakes.
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With only five worlds, which can be cleared within five hours, you’d think that Rayman Legends is a game devoid of content. You would be wrong in this thought. There are trophies attached to each level obtainable by collecting teensies and getting enough lums (think coins) in each level. This gives you an incentive to go back and play again. Trophies are tied to a universal ‘awesomeness’ rank which serves little purpose outside of online bragging rights.  By collecting enough lums in a level, you unlock scratching tickets which randomly award you various things. These include more lums which are used to unlock a rather large variety of character skins to play as; a creature, which are collectible pets you can view and earn more lums from daily; teensies, which are used to unlock more levels in the main game; and revamped Rayman Origins levels. These levels are numerous, and each has been tailored to fit with Legends’ new mechanics including new collectible teensies. Also, as you collect more lums, previously beaten levels will be invaded, which basically lets you play a speed run version of that level. On top of this, the challege app that was released for sore Wii U users back when the game was first delayed is in the game in its entirety. This means there are daily and weekly challenges for you to compete across various leaderboards. This alone gives, Rayman Legends more content that the vast majority of platfomers on the market.

The Vita version currently doesn’t have the invasion levels, but they are being patched in soon so don’t fear.
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Graphically, there isn’t much more I can say that the screenshots I’ve posted don’t. This is an amazingly beautiful game. Not only are the graphics crisp and well animated, but the art style is one that will keep you coming back again and again. Musically, the game is also a triumph, reminding you of times when platformers had some of the best music in the business. There isn’t really any voice acting in the game. The team made the decision to have each character and enemy speak gibberish most of the time with only the occasional familiar world to ground it in some kind of reality. This generally works due to the cartoony style of graphics, and, I for one, have no interest in any dialogue or story getting in the way of good gameplay.

This game can be called many things, but ugly isn’t one of them.
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For Wii U users, Rayman Legends is now the best game on the system. It makes The New Super Mario Bros U look like a complete joke by comparison. Unfortunately, for PS3/360 users, Rayman Legends is still very much tailored to the Wii U, meaning that a large portion of the game has its fun drained away. Even so, Rayman Legends is a triumph, one that I have a very hard time coming up with any significant downsides. Therefore, for the Wii U version, I’m giving it a perfect score, while you can safely deduct up to two points for the PS3 or 360 version. It’s a shame, but too much of the game was based on exclusivity to a unique platform, and the game suffers for it.

Score 10

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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