We here at Free For All really love lists. We love them so much, that we in fact make them on a weekly basis. We’ve made list for everything from best movies to best comic book villains, from best wrestlers to best candy. So it would come as no surprise that as I traversed through the brightly colored worlds of Rayman Legends, I began to form a list in my head of some of my potential candidates for the best 2D platformer of all time. Games like Mario and Sonic were immediately thought of, and more recent editions to the genre like Super Meat Boy were quick to follow. But of course, being as it was right there in front of me, brimming with more lums and teensies than you can shale a stick at, I eventually had to place Rayman on this long list of wonderful side scrolling delicacies.So where did it end up? Is it all flashy colors and no real substance, or does it offer a challenge only a few others in its league can? Let’s find out, shall we?
Normally I tend to hit what I feel like are the two major elements of most modern games — story and gameplay. Rayman Legends is a slightly different beast in that gameplay so strongly overrides the importance of the story, that the narrative Ubisoft Montpellier does lay out is almost pointless. That’s not to say that it doesn’t exist. Rayman is indeed tasked with saving hundreds upon hundreds of little blue fellas called teensies from five of their own kind that have seemingly turned to the dark side. Why are you asked with this perilous mission? Why have these five teensies turned so evil? The better question is, why does anyone care? While it’s both expected and appreciated that the time was taken to include any sort of narrative at all, you’ll be so busy stomping on the bad guys and rescuing the teensies from their numerous cages, that those questions of substance just simply won’t register.
And so gameplay is where Rayman Legends shines. Well gameplay and replay value, but we’ll get to that in just a moment. Legends is as solid a side scroller as I have ever had the privilege of playing. The controls are precise and tight, allowing you to make just the right move, and to know that if you make the wrong one, you have only yourself to blame. The Legends team keeps it nice and simple, just like back in the glory days, with three basic controls — run, jump, and attack. From there it’s as easy as combining these three skills in masterful ways as you do what video game characters are best at, moving from left to right. Just like with any good game in this same genre, that’s all there is to it, making it not about all the crazy things you can make Rayman do, but about getting so familiar with those basic controls that you could run through a level blindfolded.
About the only issue that Rayman Legends does have in terms of gameplay is a causality of its original exclusivity on Nintendo’s WiiU. In that version of the game there are many levels in which a new character to the Rayman universe, Murphy, was controlled on the WiiU’s Game Pad which either a second player controls Rayman, or in a single player setting, Rayman is controller by AI. I can only speak to a very brief experience with the WiiU version of the game, I used the Xbox 360 version for the bulk of my review, but that brief experience did not leave me wanting for more. Compounding on that is the fact that once the decision was made to move forward with the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PS Vita versions of the game, an alternate control scheme had to be created. In this case during all levels in which Murphy is a part, the player uses a fourth element of control to instruct Murphy to take action. This can me in the form of moving a platform closer, cutting a rope to clear an obstacle for your path, or tickling (yeah… tickling) an enemy so that you can take him out. The issue really comes in that Murphy’s movement around the level is all controlled by AI and based from where you have Rayman positioned, and this can cause for some frustration when there are three or four things on the screen at once, all needing Murphy’s attention. It certainly doesn’t make the game less enjoyable, but maybe slightly less enjoyable, and the only reason after playing both, I think I still look back on Rayman Origins with a bit more fondness.
Earlier, I believe I mentioned something or another about replayablitly. “But Trey,” you say ” how could this measly little platformer possibly give me more than ten hours of fun, even on it’s best day?!”. Well first off, you should really read the entire review before asking questions, and secondly, let me tell you just that. The sheer amount of content packed into this title is astounding. yes, you have five basic worlds to venture through, each with eight maps, one boss fight, and one music level. Just within those forty basic levels you have several challenges including collecting enough lums to earn a bronze, silver, and then gold trophy (not the PlayStation kind), plus a Lucky Ticket, which can be scratched off to win things like extra lums and teensies, extra levels, or creatures. There are also eight teensies per level, plus a king and queen teensy, for a total of ten. Additionally you’re able to unlock Invasion versions of several of these levels, where you’ll race the clock for the chance to save yet another three teensies.
Let’s not forget about the Back to Origins levels that allow you to play dozens of new levels re-imagined from the Rayman Origins game from 2011, the Living Dead Party world where you get an extra music level as well as new 8-bit versions of all the music levels you’ve already played, the creature room where using the previously mentioned Luck Cards you can gather dozens of creature that leave you extra lums every day, the Hall of Heroes where you can unlock new characters to play with up to 1,000,000 lums, the Daily, Extreme Daily, Weekly, and Extreme Weekly Challenges where you’ll complete against the world in a never-ending series of skill tests, and because at this point why the hell not… a mode called Kung Foot where you’ll play against friend in a soccer match. In other words, there a lot to do, and it changes as often as daily in some cases. Be. Impressed.
Rayman Legends has so much content packed in, and that content is so well made, that I was nearly overwhelmed when I first turned the game on. That overwhelmed sensation quickly gave way to video game nirvana as I set my sights on collecting anything and everything I could get Rayman’s armless little hands on. Sure the Murphy levels were not my favorite thing in the world, and probably were the only thing that kept me from giving this game the second perfect score I’ve ever given in my short time here at Free4Geeks.com, but the minor flaw is so very insignificant when put next to how many things Rayman Legends does right, that it barely even registers. I for one, will take a new school Rayman over an old school Mario any day of the week.