Rayman Legends Wii U Review
Before beginning this review, I have just one thing to say: this game is very, very wacked out. The Rayman games are centered on, you guessed it, a hero named Rayman. He was, according to Rayman Origins, created by fairies to defend the Glade of Dreams. On their way to create Rayman, they dropped a sack of Lums (with which they were going to create him) when distracted by some zombie chickens, resulting in Rayman’s lack of limbs. He attacks enemies by throwing his free-floating fists at them, he can fly using his hair as a helicopter, and he can run up walls. Using his unique skillset, he, and his almost as bizarre friends, must save the inhabitants of the Glade of Dreams from nightmarish monsters, evil wizards, and undead old ladies. I’m sure you can already tell that this game is sheer awesomeness.
If I sat down and told you every aspect of this game’s plot, it would take about….15 seconds. There is absolutely nothing in the plot. It opens with Rayman and his friends being woken up by Murphy, a frog-like fairy thing that watches over the Glade. He alerts them that the wizards from Rayman Origins, this game’s direct prequel, have risen again, and Rayman needs to stop them. Rayman then goes into a ginormous tent containing paintings that can teleport him to places in need of help. Don’t even ask why. And so, after this immensely deep and intricate introduction, the game begins. The plot is so simple that it makes Super Mario Bros. seem like Shakespeare, but I didn’t care. This game would have been hindered, not helped, by an actual plotline. Maybe a LITTLE more clarity would’ve been nice, but Rayman is just not meant to be deep.
From the tent, which serves as the hub, you hop into paintings to be brought to the various worlds and levels. There are five worlds (plus a bonus world) in total. If this was a normal platformer, you would expect them to be grassland, then desert, then ocean, etc, but we’ve already established that this game is weird. One of the worlds is sort of a giant, deadly party complete with giant food and undead mariachi bands. Another is a jungle world filled with evil toads and REALLY BIG beanstalks. I won’t spoil them all for you, but you can definitely expect to see some unexpected stuff.
The levels all follow a pretty simple pattern. You start at the beginning, you fight enemies and dodge obstacles as you try reaching the end. Along the way, there are Teensies who need saving, and are usually hidden in hard-to reach locations. This game is usually very fast-based, Rayman rivaling even Sonic in running skills. Other times, you will have to slow down and fly around, or just stop to search for the Teenies. At this point, this may sound like any other platformer out there, only with more weirdness. I can say without any hesitation that it ISN’T.
Everything in the game is crafted around Rayman’s skillset. Ramps, walls, vines, bouncy mushrooms, and enemies are all placed in perfect positions for you to unleash all your powers. It allows room for huge levels of skill and improvement. I would often, after conquering an extremely hard spot on my first try, just sit back and say, “How the heck did I just do that?” But I COULD do it. When everything is centered on speed and skill, you will quickly grow to be faster and more talented at this game then you could’ve imagined. This pure sense of epicness you get from becoming a Rayman master is one of the highlights of the entire game.
It’s very hard to accurately describe this game’s design to somebody and make them grasp it. It is one of the only platformers I’ve ever played that I consider to have absolutely flawless gameplay. The enemies are all creative. The levels are always fresh and different, never repetitive. The perfect blend of speed and precision is unparallelled. The bosses are amazing to behold and fun to fight. But wait, there’s more! Much more.
Outside of the main levels, of which there are many, there are the often-talked-about music levels. During these, you will be running at max speed (if you stop, you’ll get lost off-screen, and die) while epic music plays. The music is all synched to your movements(which are perfectly anticipated by the makers), so everything you do will most likely result in a perfectly-synchronized musical sound, be it a drum after a jump, a snare after an attack, a kazoo as you gather lums, or many other things. Some of the songs are spoofs of existing songs (ie a Mariachi remix of Survivors’ Eye of the Tiger), while others are composed purely for the game. The music levels are the most fun, creative things I have ever seen in a platformer, but there is a downside. There are only six. Only six. What’s worse is that they are usually less than 2 minutes in length. I’ve replayed them each many times purely for fun, but I was very disappointed that they didn’t make way more. Nonetheless, few are better than none, and they were still a highlight for me.
Besides music levels and normal levels, there are also Invasion levels. These occasionally pop up after you complete a level. They are essentially extra-hard remixes of levels that have a one-minute time limit. These are fun and simple additions that boost replayability by a fair amount, and are more creative than just adding “time trials” or the like.
Besides music levels and normal levels and invasion levels, there are also Back to Origins levels. These are sheer brilliance. They are levels from Origins remade with Legends‘ graphics and gameplay tweaks. And there aren’t just a couple added as bonus features or something. There are FORTY of them in total. That is nearly two-thirds of all of Origins’ levels. This game virtually contains an entire game within it. Granted, they are extremely similar to the normal levels, and, in my opinion, not as well-made, they are an amazing addition to an already amazing game.
Besides music levels and normal levels and invasion levels and Origins levels, there is also a challenge mode, and a soccer-based minigame. These are smaller additions than the aforementioned modes, but are still worthy additions. The Challenge mode provides you with weekly and daily challenges. These range from “Gather 200 lums as fast as possible” to “Just don’t die!!!”. The missions are pretty repetitive, but are still well-done. If you’re competitive, you can compare your score with other players around the globe. You won’t spend a huge amount of time here, but it’s still fun. The soccer mode is kinda silly. It’s local multiplayer only, which is too bad, but it can be a blast with three friends. What you do is whack around a soccer ball and try getting it into the goal, assuming you can even control the ball. If you take this mode seriously, you will despise it. If you do it just for fun with some friends, you can easily sink in half an hour or more of frenzied, two-minute rounds.
Luckily, soccer isn’t the game’s only multiplayer. In fact, everything in this game can be played with up to four players, occasionally five. Every player up to the 4th has the same skillset and feel as Rayman, meaning nobody is left out. If you’ve played the New Super Mario Bros. series, you will be familiar with the multiplayer style. All of you play on the same screen, at the same time, trying to help each other win, while simultaneously competing for the most Lums. While you can’t be killed by each other (directly, at least), you can still be attacked by each other. Players will often find themselves having slapping contests as they try reaching a Lum coin, or may sometimes just hit their teammate into a pit just for laughs. As there is no life system in this game, when a player dies, they “bubbilize,” turning into an invincible bubble that can’t do anything until popped (literally) back into the game by a teammate. If everyone bubbilizes at the same time, no one can be saved, and thus you lose the level. The multiplayer is extremely fun and chaotic, though it actually make the game harder sometimes. Having played solo, with one other person, and with a full group of players, I think the best fun is a two-player game. With more than that, it is still fun, but becomes a little too chaotic for my tastes.
As I said, the game can be occasionally played with 5 people. The 5th player can join with the special role of using the gamepad to control Murphy. Murphy can tickle enemies, rendering them helpless, gather Lum coins, destroy obstacles, increase Lums’ value, and some other stuff. This option isn’t just for 5th players. In a two-player game, one player can also use Murphy, while the other uses Rayman. Even in solo, Murphy is required for certain levels. Murphy is one aspect of the game I am lukewarm about. On one hand, 5 players is better than 4, even if their job isn’t that fun. Murphy can also be pretty fun on the levels built around him, where he is required. On the other hand, he just…isn’t all that fun or even useful outside of Murphy-centered levels. Luckily, he is fun when he’s required, and you don’t need to play with him otherwise. Overall, he could’ve been better, but he was still a pretty good, if gimmicky, addition.
Up to this point, I’ve only talked about the way the game plays out, and the storyline. The other main facets of a game, the audio and the visuals, are also very important for a good game. And they are DEFINITELY well done. Rayman Legends features one of my new favorite game soundtracks ever made. There wasn’t a single track that I disliked. In fact, there were barely any tracks that I didn’t absolutely love! All the music, which is pretty diverse, fits perfectly with the settings. I can’t give enough credit to the music with mere words, so I won’t really try. But I can guarantee you that, unless you are deaf, in a coma, or just plain weird, the music will not disappoint you. Outside of the music, the rest of the sound effects are also well done. Sound effects are never very exciting/important, so I won’t bore you discussing them, but long story short, they’re good.
You might be sick of me doing pretty much nothing but praise this game. If so, you can close the page now and go complain about it to someone, because I’m not done. The visuals are as fantastically done as the rest of the game. Origins looked like a bizarre, hand-drawn cartoon (which is actually pretty close to how it was made), and Legends brings it a step further. The obvious step after a drawing is a painting, and that is what THIS game looks like. For all you with fancy HD TVs, this game is native 1080p resolution, and runs at 60 frames per second. The animation is buttery smooth, NEVER laggy. The game, which is on a 2D plane, has a sort of 2.5D appearance, especially certain bosses and other enemies that are fully 3D modeled. The colors are all crisp and vivid, the water is a work of art in itself, the lighting is brilliant, and…well, you get the point. The game is like candy for your eyes, but there’s more to it than that.
Playing the Origins level remakes, I noticed that levels that were hard before were much easier in this game. Same physics, nearly identical controls, but Legends makes them easier. I think the reason behind this is the amazing visuals. This may seem far fetch’d, but it really isn’t. Players of the prequel will know all too well that it was often hard to see Rayman among all the bursts of colors and shinies. In this game, everything is so clear and vivid that it makes the game not just more purty, but actually much funner and less frustrating! In all, I couldn’t be more satisfied with the visuals. They are, quite frankly, the best visuals I have ever seen in a platformer.
In summary, Rayman Legends is like Mary Poppins—practically perfect in every way. The near flawless gameplay, the catchy, brilliant music, and the jaw-dropping visuals merge to create one of the best 2D platformers ever made. The biggest flaw of the game is that there isn’t MORE of it. It is, to be honest, fairly short, but every minute is crammed with more action and creativity than some games have in their entire campaign. If you’re a fan of platformers, passing this game up would be a serious shame. If you aren’t, give this game a try, and you might become one. No game is perfect, but, at least in the realm of platformers, it would be pretty dang hard to be better than this.