Thursday, 28 November 2013

Rayman Legends

The Title Screen

Rayman Legends is a 2D platformer released in 2013 for PC, PlayStation 3 & 4 (2014), Xbox 360 & One (2014), Wii U and PS Vita. A sequel to Rayman Origins, it is developed and published by Ubisoft and features a singleplayer campaign/challenges that can also be played locally with up four players.

The First Thing
Rayman Origins was released without DRM (except Steamworks) as sort of an apology to PC customers. It was therefore a nasty surprise this time to discover Uplay insisting on downloading and installing an update to itself (not the game). Mandatory updates to games are almost justifiable, but with the increasing number of publisher's own launchers things are starting to become unacceptable and even a little insulting.


...then I started playing. And Rayman Legends was so outstanding, even from the start, that it almost made that initial Uplay disappointment acceptable. Everything about this game screams style, elegance, fun and improvement. These days you never know how a sequel is going to pan out and Rayman Legends shows how it is done.

Nap time for the Rayman team

Plot & Devices
Following directly on from the story of Rayman Origins, the Teensy Wizard has survived and returned - bringing the Nightmares once again. Woken from their sleep by Murfy the Greenbottle, Rayman and friends must set out to free the captured princesses and put a stop to the Teensy Wizard and his dark copies.

The plot is once again on the light side but this time effort has been made to explain a little more of who people are and what places/objects are called. There is still no real dialogue, and meaning is conveyed exclusively through animations and tone. The same sense of 'silly' is found throughout, but it never overwhelms.

Rayman Legends continues the demonstration that a game's personality does not need to be tied into a complex narrative/dialogue or deep character progression.

The Game
Most of the gameplay is a continuation of Rayman Origins: a 2D, side-scrolling platformer with occasional 3D-looking elements woven in. Lums and other objects are picked up through touch, crates and enemies are dispatched with physical attacks and wall-jumping and hovering are used throughout. Unlike before, characters now start off with all abilities, including the ability to swim/hover. Instead of an RPG-style unlocking of 'powers', this time more complex platforming is just saved for later levels. There is no lives system and failure in standard levels will return the player instantly to a recent checkpoint. One nice touch is players have the chance to get a heart power-up in the loading screen for each level - if they are quick.

Each Lum will turn Pink if collected in the indicated sequence

Collecting Lums is still important and is tied into a reward system of sorts. Pink Lums are worth double, and instead of the Lum King now Lums will turn pink in order if collected as indicated. Total Lum count will unlock new playable characters and the player will receive a Lucky Scratch Card if enough Lums have been collected from a level. This scratch card always rewards with either: more Lums, a Rayman Origins remastered level, a collectible pet or a Teensy.

Instead of rescuing imprisoned 'electoons', each level now has eight Teensy prisoners and a queen and king Teensy. The king and queen are behind hidden challenge doors, with the other normal Teensies are scattered throughout the level. Collecting Teensies is necessary to unlock further content. The singleplayer campaign is divided into five zones (with a bonus music-zone after story completion). As the player progresses through the campaign short, time-challenges will appear for previously completed levels; which will reward three more Teensies if completed successfully. Each zone has two additional 'rescue' levels which unlock additional princesses and the zone ends in a boss; completion of which will unlock a final 'music-themed' level.

One major new addition to the game mechanics is Murfy the Greenbottle. Every few levels the player will be joined by Murfy, and (if playing alone) will use him to interact in some way with the environment. This can be anything from 'moving objects' to 'eating cake tunnels'. On the PC Murfy will automatically snap to a location where he can 'interact'. At first glance it seems like just an extra button to press, but the challenge comes in fluidly weaving Murfy into platforming - especially in the harder, later levels.

Murfy making a guacamole platform for the player
(who, of course, has been turned into a chicken...)

Rayman Origins was not without it's challenges, but they were mostly tied into the singleplayer campaign. The campaign in Rayman Legends still has challenging elements, but now a new section has been created specifically for people who wish to try more skilful platforming. There are four challenges (two normal and two extreme difficulty), two of which change daily and two that change weekly. Each challenge has certain success thresholds to win gold, silver, etc, and performance is compared to other players around the world. Ghosts of other players are incorporated into attempts which is not only entertaining, but can be helpful as they can lead by example. The 'extreme' challenges are aptly named and it is nice for the hardcore platformers to have a dedicated challenge section.

Navigating between levels and other content is now done in a fully-controllable area, instead of a map screen. Paintings acts as gateways to either sub-menus or levels. Aside from the single player campaign the other sections are: collectible pets area, challenges, a football mini-game, levels from Rayman Origins and playable character. Collectible pets and remastered Origins levels are obtained from the Lucky Scratch Cards. The remastered Origins levels are essentially the same but with slight modifications to incorporate new design choices. The collectible pets are a bit pointless but do reward with Lums each day for the player to collect. Fun statistics such as "distance run" and "number of times failed" can be accessed from this menu-area too.


Visually the game looks the same as Origins, but improvements have been made to tighten up the overall experience. The UbiArt engine still has its strong focus on beautiful visuals, but now there is water rippling, light/shadow effects and even a rudimentary gravity system - much of which is now tied into gameplay. There is a large variety in level design, with some interesting new ideas (there is even a basic 'stealth' gameplay segment). The music is orchestral and appropriate and the moments where the gameplay is tied directly into the soundtrack are especially noteworthy.

Running at a perfect 60FPS/1080p the game felt like a more polished version of the original - if that were possible. As with all platformers, I played with my gamepad and would recommend players do the same. I am not aware of encountering any bugs and an excellent PC game. Rayman Legends brought out my inner completionist and I reached 380/700 Teensies and the end of the 'story' in 18 hours - so plenty of content for those that want it. I could imagine it easily taking another 10 hours to complete all content Rayman Legends has to offer.

Wrap Up & Negatives
No game is perfect, but Rayman Legends comes so very close. Even the Uplay system is ultimately small and mostly unintrusive. I do wish the main campaign levels had a 'retry' button like the challenges, but other than that nothing bothered me at all. It goes without saying that if you do not like platformers, the art style, the music, or fun... then you may not enjoy the game. But that's personal opinion.

What is there to say? I strongly approve of this game! I find it an outstanding example of sequel-making: take core gameplay that works, add new ideas, tighten up loose areas and don't be afraid to remove elements you think should be. I find it amazing that this was released in just under two-years from Origins.

I have not done Rayman Legends justice in this review, since to talk about every new addition and refinement would take too long. It is the best platformer I have played to date and most likely my top game for the year. It is simply a superb game.

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