As a follow-up to Rayman Origins, Rayman Legends retains much of the side scrolling mayhem of its predecessor, while ironing out some of Origins’ shortcomings.
First and foremost, level progression has been streamlined so players can go at their own pace. Each of the game’s world’s and stages are accessed by jumping into paintings in a central hub. You’ll still need to collect Lums (think Mario’s coins) and rescue creatures called Teensies in order to unlock more stages, but often multiple stages are unlocked all at once, leaving players to decide where they should go next.
The difficulty has been better balanced from Origins. There are still plenty of difficult moments, but its less demanding, and less punishing than its predecessor. Some platforming veterans may cry foul at the game’s more accessible approach, but its more stable difficulty curve makes for a more enjoyable, less frustrating game.
Characters such as Rayman, Globox and Teensies are playable, just as in Origins. They are now joined by a cute barbarian girl named Barbara. Various other characters can be unlocked throughout Legends, though they are mainly just reskins. The Wii U version even includes versions of Rayman and Globox decked out as Mario and Luigi.
Legends benefits for being just as much fun to play alone or with friends. The recent craze of four-player sidescrollers finds a good balance here. It never feels empty when playing alone nor does it feel overcrowded with four.
The gameplay remains unchanged from Origins. Rayman and friends have all the moves they learned in the 2011 title, and have no room to learn any new tricks here. Whether or not this absence of new mechanics is a means to make the game more accessible or just a cop out for a lack of ideas is up for debate.
Thankfully, the level design makes up for any other creative missteps. The stages here are a chaotic frenzy of platforming. There’s rarely a moment that doesn’t keep players on their toes. There’s always something to be jumped over, bounced on, or slapped into oblivion. The best are the music stages, which require you to progress through the level in sync to the background music. The music selections include such crazy mashups as a salsa version of Eye of the Tiger and the theme music from Kill Bill sung in a giggle-inducing gibberish. Sadly, the music stages are few, and not all of them feature such creative twists on licensed music.
The Wii U version features stages built around the wii U Gamepad, in which players take control of a creature called Murphy. Murphy doesn’t take part in the platforming, but works as a sort of cursor through the Gamepad’s touchscreen. Murphy can interact with the environment in ways to help out Rayman and hinder enemies. He can even double the points awarded for Lums.
The Murphy stages are a bit of a bittersweet deal, however. They are creative, and make good use of the Gamepad. But they are intended for a multiplayer crowd. These stages are vastly more fun with one player controlling Murphy and the others controlling Rayman and company. If played by oneself, the player must take turns playing as the platforming character and as Murphy, which not only makes for awkward breaks in gameplay, but also leaves a less-than-reliable AI in control of the platforming character when the player takes control of Murphy.
The visuals are a bright, cartoonish treat. The hand-drawn visuals of Origins return, with added flairs in lighting and shading. The music is equally as delightful and silly.
Rayman Legends may feel like more of an extension of Origins than a full-on sequel (it even includes most of Origins’ best stages), but its a darned entertaining game filled with style and charm. It’s not the most creative platformer out there, but its so fun you might not even care.