Rayman Origins was something of a surprise in 2011 - since about 2005, Rayman's appearances had been limited to the Raving Rabbids series of minigame compilations, so seeing him in a brand new platformer was pretty refreshing. Even better, it was a really good platformer too, with impressive graphics (combining hand-drawn graphics and a new art manipulation system by Ubisoft called Ubi Art), inventive levels, and hectic multiplayer gameplay. Rayman Legends would have a lot to live up to, and I'm confident to say that it's lived up to its predecessor.
I sat down with memories of Origins relatively fresh in my mind, and was wondering how Legends could surpass it, and while it's really easy to notice a lot of similarities, there just so much more here that it's hard not to feel like the entire package as a whole is more than worth it. There's some crazy level design, which can see you dodging waves of hot sauce, running through collapsing towers, over the shields of dozens of enemies, or down giant vine-filled corridors.
Some of my favourites are the music levels, which have your actions (such as attacking enemies, jumping, riding ropes, and so forth) synced to music as you sprint through as fast as you can. The first, a rendition of 'Black Betty', has to be seen to be believed, and had me tapping my foot to the rhythm as I jumped smashed through barriers, took out enemies, and sprinted past hordes of singing orcs all to a beat. And they only get better.
The platforming is pretty solid, though you may feel like there's a little bit of a slipperiness to how Rayman and company move. There's a decent chance that this may get you killed more than once, but from what I've found it's rare that the levels really punish you for a lack of a precision; on the contrary, more often than not I found it easier to rush through areas, keeping my momentum, something that's very easy to do with how the game works the combat into the platforming.
There's more than enough content in Legends to keep you occupied for a while. First, there are over a hundred levels to play through; this includes 'Invaded' levels, in which levels you have beaten are changed around, with new enemies or objectives, like having to run through in a time limit, or backwards, or what have you. Then there are levels that have been brought back from Rayman Origins, updated of course, to play through again. On top of that, there are daily online challenges to complete with leaderboards that track how well you're doing in comparison with everyone else. And with every level comes a host of captive Teensies to rescue and a collectible (known as Lums) target to reach before you truly 'complete' them.
A specific kind of level is present for the Wii U and Playstation Vita versions, one where you must control Murfy - a peculiar fairy that last appeared in Rayman 2 - to cut ropes, poke enemies, and otherwise provide a safe passage for characters running through the level. In a single-player game, the character running through the level is, interestingly enough, controlled by the AI. And while I was a little hesitant at how this would play out, it turns out the AI is pretty darn good at navigating the levels without doing anything stupid. Of course, this doens't even compare to the frantic nature of trying to provide a safe passage for a host of player-controlled characters as they bumble over spike pits and moving platforms.
For the non-touchscreen-enabled consoles, these levels are still present, only Murfy is controlled simply by pushing button prompts as they appear on the screen as you control the character running around. It's not as fun, but it's certainly preferable to having the game bereft of those levels entirely. Incidentally, Murfy can actually be controlled on any level by the person with the Wii U Gamepad, whether he's required or not - he can tap enemies to stun them, increase the value of collectibles, and otherwise just help out the players in a variety of ways.
Multiplayer's a blast, by the way. Having four people race through a level (or three, with one person controlling Murfy), trying not to smack each other into a pit while collecting the most lumes for bragging rights is fun in more ways than one, more so because it makes the game a little easier when your character's death doesn't mean instantly restarting at a checkpoint. And now that there is a fourth character to the mix, a barbarian woman named Barbara, everyone gets their own character, unless of course you want to switch to one of the many, many unlockable costumes for Rayman, Globox, Barbara, or the Teenies of course.
I haven't had this much fun with a platformer in a while, certainly not with one so colorful, animated, and full of life. It's clear that Rayman Legends builds upon its predecessor while easily surpassing it in a number of ways, and if anyone enjoyed Origins, they'd enjoy this one, easily. As a solo game or one with a group of friends, Legends really stands true as at the peak of its genre.