Game Review: Rayman Legends

Through delays, protests and exclusivity issues, Ubisoft has produced one of the most polished and content-packed platformers ever seen. But gifted with an extended development time, has it done enough for our limbless hero to regain the spotlight?Like most platformers, Rayman Legends is all about gameplay and Ubisoft doesn’t try to hide it. The story is bare bones at best and rivals the simplicity of Nintendo’s often criticised Super Mario franchise. Rayman and co. have negligently slept for one hundred years while bad guys have invaded and captured Teensies. Now it’s time to wake up and save them.It’s not much, but it’s enough of a reason to start exploring Legend’s five main worlds. Everything here is much more streamlined. Gone is the world map of its predecessor; portraits instead transport you to the game’s varied levels. What Ubisoft has managed to achieve in introducing creative game mechanics here is unrivalled. Testament to its level designers, no two stages feel alike. While some maintain a similar aesthetic, enemies and obstacles are rarely required to be bested in the same manner.Admittedly, it’s an awesome feat, but that’s actually my biggest gripe with the game. In attempting to produce the single best example of each mechanic, Legends loses a necessary sense of development. While the stages definitely increase in difficulty, none require learning a skill Rayman couldn’t accomplish in the very first level. Rayman Origins was fantastic at this. Each new world would introduce a new platforming mechanic (flying, dive bombing, running up walls) that was key to beating the following levels and conquering the final boss. Legends is completely devoid of any such progression and it shows. Unlocking later levels is entirely tied to the collection of Teensies and can consequently feel like a chore, rather than a deserved reward.New to the series is the addition of the helper character, Murphy. It’s no secret that Rayman Legends was initially designed as a Wii U exclusive, and the disparity between the game’s versions is no more evident in the levels. Intentionally designed for co-operative play, these stages focus on a constant back and forth between the two roles. It’s quite simply the best example of the Wii U’s much touted, asymmetric gameplay yet.Moving objects, tickling enemies and activating platforms with the gamepad is much more fun than it should be, and particularly exhilarating in speed and time centric levels. When playing solo, the Wii U version relegates the player to the touchscreen while the capable yet occasionally stupid AI takes over the rest. In its counterparts, Murphy’s actions are mapped to a face button; a suitable, yet slightly unnatural alternative. Needless to say, you’ll definitely want a friend around to tackle these levels on any platform.       Rayman Legends can be completed after around 50 levels, but there is much more to accomplish beyond that. Completionists can search for all the Teensies, competitive types can test their skills against others in daily and weekly challenges for trophies, and the nostalgic can travel back to 40 revamped levels from Rayman Origins. It’s an incredibly robust offering, but the gameplay itself is a reason to come back for more.Tearing yourself away from the new and incredibly challenging musical stages is a struggle in itself. Taking a leaf from Rock Band and Guitar Hero, musical timing has added another dimension to free-running stages and the challenges present in their later editions can elicit a desire to hurl your controller through the television.All in all, Rayman Legends is a near perfect platformer. Its hand drawn design is unbelievably beautiful, the animation is almost too fluid and the franchise’s score is once again top-notch. Its lack of online co-op has been outed as a major fault, but it isn’t missed; this is largely a single player experience. Playing alongside a friend or gamepad helper, however, is obviously the vision its developers had in mind, and they have effectively mirrored the success Nintendo has enjoyed in its lounge-room-focused, co-operative multiplayer.It is hands down the most polished, content-packed 2D platformer we’ve seen in a long time. However, it cannot escape the genuine lack of character, skill and stage development its predecessor so perfectly captured. Regardless, if you love platforming or are just up for a quality challenge, it deserves your Mark SantomartinoCourtesy of Radio Respawn, SYN Media

September 22nd 2013
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