I have a new Xbox 360 controller. My old wired controller served me well – ever since I first bought a 360, in fact, which means probably about six or seven years – but it was getting a bit… broken. The analogue sticks had been worn down to nubs. The A button stuck almost every time I pressed it down. The… look, it’s a bit busted.
Nonetheless, I’ve persevered with it. Just about everything I’ve reviewed recently that has required a controller, from DmC Devil May Cry to Bit.Trip Presents…: A Game with a Very Long Title, has been played with this controller. Rayman Legends was the straw that broke the camel’s back: I ordered a new controller, and then disassembled the old one and cleaned it out in an attempt to make it function better.
So: Rayman Legends is good enough that I was willing to buy (and have rush-delivered) a new controller, just so that I could play it properly.
Also, I didn’t want to put this review up today, because it means I can’t use “I’m working” as an excuse to play Rayman Legends. I mean, sure, I finished it and then earned enough Teensies to unlock the bonus world, and I finished that too, and I did a bunch of the extra side-levels that unlock, and the daily and weekly challenges, but… surely I need more time to see what the next weekly challenge is? And I’ve still got lots of the “Back to Origins” levels to do. And I’ve only done maybe half of the new types of bonus level that opened up. And then I realised I was procrastinating so I could play it more, rather than because I hadn’t finished it, or wasn’t ready to write the review.
If you came here hoping to find out whether Rayman Legends is any good or not, then, here’s your answer: yes. It’s fantastic. It’s one of the best platform games since… well, Rayman Origins, although “one of the best platform games that isn’t prefaced with Mario” works pretty well too. It’s not without problems – no game is – but if you like your platformers, I find it hard to believe you won’t like this.
Also, if you’re whining that it’s too bright and colourful and cartoony, GET OUT.
Here’s the deal: you are Rayman (or another member of the sizeable cast of colourful characters, from a giant blue doofus through a teeny-weeny wizard to dozens of palette swaps of all of them). You leap into paintings representing each level, and then jump and bash your way through them. There are monsters, which can be punched or stomped on or whatever. It’s a platform game.
But one of the best things about this is the sheer wealth of variety. Not just in the graphical design (which, incidentally, is impeccable, and screenshots simply do not do the fantastic animation justice) but in terms of how the levels actually play. One might be a standard left-to-right platform level. Another might focus on gusting winds that let you fly up and down. Another might be a falling tower, or a horizontal chase, or a side-scrolling shooter, or a stealthy level focusing on staying out of lights, or a level where you turn into a duck, or one where you’re eating your way through a giant cake…
That’s not even close to being everything. There are musical levels, where every jump and attack is timed to the beat of a licensed (but Rayman-ised) piece of music, the first of which – set to a rather famous rock song – made me laugh out loud with sheer delight. There are daily and weekly challenges, asking you to compete for high scores on set levels with everyone else on the internet, with prizes awarded to those who do spectacularly well (or at least don’t do terribly; you appear to get a bronze cup if you’re within the top 80% or so, so there’s no reason not to attempt them.)
Oh, and every level has between three and ten Teensies to rescue, and it’s rescuing these that opens up more levels. Some are basically freebies. Others are easy to spot but hard to reach, while others are hidden in little sub-rooms in the levels or just tucked away in corners you wouldn’t normally think to check. Thanks to sterling level design throughout, finding them is actually enjoyable, and regularly feels like a contest of wits between you and the level designer.
There’s a lot of stuff to do, basically.
Quite a lot of this will probably sound familiar if you played Rayman Origins. Legends was originally a Wii U exclusive, and that particular bit of heritage is noticeable, as the biggest changes between this and Rayman Origins are down to the functionality that’s exclusive to the Wii U.
In some levels, you get tiny green lizard fairy thing Murfy helping you out; he can turn wheels, or cut ropes. From what I can gather, on the Wii U, you use the touchscreen to do this – tapping on whatever you want him to interact with. As most PCs do not have touchscreens, though, he gravitates towards whatever you’re most likely to want to interact with, and a tap of a button sees him cut it/turn it/whatever. Might not be as much fun but it works perfectly, to the extent that I only realised how it was meant to work several hours in. The only other real nod to the Wii U version is in the scratch cards you get from completing levels particularly well; you scratch off the face to find out what bonus you’ve won. Here, you use the analogue stick (because I’m assuming you’re sane enough to use a controller for this). On the Wii U, you presumably rub the screen. Again: no biggy.
Conversely, there are a few things stripped out. There’s no more gaining of abilities as you go through the levels – you have access to everything from the start. On the one hand, that’s a little sad if you like to get new abilities as you proceed, and use those to explore hitherto unseen areas in earlier levels. On the other hand, it means that the game’s structure is a lot more freeform – you can challenge levels in pretty much whatever order you like, hopping between worlds as you fancy.
But all of this is fluff. A platform game tends to come down to two things: controls, and level design. If the controls are sloppy and frustrating, it doesn’t matter how clever your level design is. Equally, if your levels are no fun to play through, then the tightest controls in the world won’t save the game.
Ubisoft Montpellier understands this. I’ve already mentioned that the levels are stupendously varied and are full of well-placed collectibles, but I haven’t really mentioned that the general design is sterling. The controls, too, are top-notch; controls are really difficult to describe, but almost every death felt like my own stupid mistake rather than anything else.
Most problems I do have are with individual levels. There might be one or two jumps that are difficult to get right, or the timing on avoiding one hazard doesn’t quite seem to sync up with the animation. Maybe this collectible is only visible as you whoosh past it, and your progress is checkpointed as soon as you land, so repeating the level is pretty much the only way to get it. There are also a few occasions when serious finger gymnastics and rote memory are required to get past obstacles; this one has to be jumped over, but this one needs you to duck, and then you have to jump and have Murfy cut that rope, and then land on the fallen log and jump immediately… which isn’t much fun, but you have unlimited lives, there are no lengthy death animations, and checkpoints are commonplace.
So yes, you should buy Rayman Legends. It’s beautiful and varied and funny and fun and endlessly playable, and is one of the best platform games currently available on any system. It is a game made out of rainbows and joy, with some of the most gorgeous graphics and catchiest music to grace games in years, and hundreds of wonderful little touches – in the animation, or the music, or the level design, or the text – that show the love and care and attention that went into making it. If you’ve ever enjoyed a platform game you will fall completely in love with this.