Delightful, energetic, and a little long in the tooth. Those were my reactions to 2011’s Rayman Origins, a well-crafted platformer from Michel Ancel that was an absolute pleasure to play. Beautifully rendered, tight controls, and some sharp level design. The kind of things you want in a 2D platformer, and it was a breath of fresh air to boot. Because the reality is you get these types of games from Nintendo or the indie scene, and rarely with the same caliber of production. Rayman Legends is a whole lot more of that same game.

Like its predecessor, Rayman Legends is an absolute looker. Gorgeous hand drawn art that animates beautifully gives the many environments of the game character and a personality of their own. Be it a luchador inspired environment, or my personal favorite, a mishmash of James Bond-esque spy levels with a group of enemies rocking Splinter Cell gear. Even platforming familiars such as the lava level has an absolutely beautiful pop to it. You could argue that the art direction was already impressive in Origins, and that’s true, it was. But Origins wasn’t nearly as varied on a visual level, and that’s something Rayman Legends corrects early and often, constantly moving you through levels that feel distinct visually, even if the theme of the art direction stays the same.

Like the original, Rayman Legends is a tight platforming experience. Some of you may need to adjust to how Rayman handles as he’s not really floaty but he isn’t carrying nearly as much weight as you’d expect. Once you adjust, Legends is as sharp mechanically, if not sharper, than Origins and you’ll be moving from one obstacle to the next with precision and relative ease.

Some effort has also gone into one my biggest disappointments with the original in that some levels overstay their welcome. I rarely found a level that I felt just dragged. Though there is a backtracking segment; it was handled effectively as you weren’t necessarily doing the same exact thing all over again. The game varies itself nicely, having you speed running, doing gliding levels, swimming levels, the aforementioned spy meets stealth meets platforming levels, and the not so satisfying Murphy levels.

The biggest gameplay addition to Rayman Legends is Murphy, a character designed with the touch controls in mind. I can’t comment on how he stacks up on a touch controlled device, but on a gamepad he’s a blemish on what is an otherwise well put together game. Rayman Legends, like the original, is at its best when you are moving through the level at a brisk pace and hitting all your marks correctly. Murphy slows that pace down to a screeching halt, as more often than not you’ll be standing still to take care of whatever Murphy prompt you need to handle.

On a gamepad, it’s done with the press of a button, and some of these levels can be enjoyable. Specifically ones where you are asked to move along quickly, and you’re simply pressing the button to have Murphy move environment pieces to keep you moving quickly. But most of them just dampen the pace, and all the satisfaction comes from when you finish those levels. Not because they are satisfying, but more so because you’re glad they are done with and you can move onto Rayman Legends proper.

Which again is a tight platformer with sharp controls, and one that actually had some interesting boss fights to boot. The initial two and final boss fight leave a lot to be desired, but there were a handful of segments that used Rayman’s mechanics rather intelligently. Specifically a robotic dragon that had you hoping under moving cover to deflect attacks back at the beast before you could finish him off. Another is an excellent throw down with a gigantic masked wrestler. Platformers usually don’t have fun boss battles (at least in recent years) so it was an absolute delight to fight some that were this entertaining.

Like its predecessor and most platformers this game is a collect-a-thon. This time blue teensies, those blue things with giant noses. To reach the credits sequence simply playing through the game should get you to the finish line. Which is a welcome change from what you had to do in Rayman Origins. Where you most likely had to go back to some older levels and go hunt down missing pink things (I forgot the name) to progress the game. That said to make it to the games hardest levels you’ll still need to obviously collect all the teensies, and specifically 400 for a bonus area. This area is frankly good enough to justify some of that tedium do to how satisfying these levels can be.

If you played Origins; there were these levels where you chased a treasure chest on what were tough-as-nails levels. In place of those now are music based levels. Where you go along on a similar type of obstacle course. Where any mistake results in you needing to start over (but with check points this time), but the kicker here is that it’s all done to the rhythm of a song. And for those who have a keen ear for music this can be a delight of its own. As it is both infectious and gratifying to hit every note of a level, and it also is a level where you can feel out where the jumps are coming.

Black Betty ends up being a good introduction to these types of levels, but my personal favorite was a mariachi inspired of the Eye of the Tiger. That is as far as music selection is concerned (there is even some classic orchestral stuff), but that final area is those levels at their peak as far as game design is concerned. Devilish obstacles, faster paced tunes, and all around less forgiving. At times frustrating, but the finish line is that much more satisfying for it. It’s just a shame that most likely you’re going to play a lot of Rayman Origins levels to get to it.

Most of the standard levels in Rayman Origins should have about 9 teensies to collect. A king and queen who are hidden in secret stages within the levels, and teensies hanging for their dear lives to an enemy, a rope, stuck in a cage, or what have you. Collect enough yellow lums in a level and you will get a scratch card. This scratch card will unlock pets that will get you more lums, extra teensies, or levels from Rayman Origins. On one hand its extra content to a game, but on the other hand it’s recycled content. It’s content that they already made last time. And frankly I purchased Rayman Legends to play Rayman Legends, not the levels I already beat in Rayman Origins.

So really the whole tedium of a collect-a-thon isn’t really lost here, but ultimately I find that extra level more for completionists. If you just prefer to play your game and make it to the credits? You won’t have to worry about it what so ever. But for completionists and people well versed in platformers? Yeah it’s a collect-a-thon in the vein of collect-a-thons.

And that’s really the lasting impression of the game. When it’s hitting its stride the game is an absolute delight. A game pouring with enthusiasm and high energy in so much of its content. But there are occasional dips along the way. Be it a new addition that frankly that isn’t that satisfying (at least on a gamepad) or the usual boredom presented by being forced to collect things.

But maybe the real drawback here is that really it’s more Rayman, instead of another step forward. Rayman Origins was part return to form for Rayman, and in many ways a brilliant reimagining of what Rayman games are and can be. While it didn’t do anything new for the genre, it did plenty for the Rayman series as a whole. Legends just gives you more of that, and more of that was already a really good game. And it still is a really good game. It just never quite does enough to put Rayman in the same class as genre legends. And really that’s a shame considering the subtitle of the game. Make no mistake about it though. If you enjoy platformers, Rayman Legends is a must buy.

Final Score - 8/10

 

 

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