Wii U review: Rayman Legends

raymantitle

Rayman Legends captures a sense of style and cohesiveness that its predecessor so sorely lacks. No longer is each world a too-random assortment of off-the-wall platforming tropes. Instead, they’re unified by a shared mythology, an overarching folklore that feels rooted as much in our world as Rayman’s.

Legends’ world is one of Norse warriorettes, trollish toads, and jeering giants; there are dragonslayers and dragons to be slain. Even when the game breaks off from its mythos to explore underwater research stations and foody fiestas, it remains consistent in a way that Rayman Origins’ randomly juxtaposed level and enemy design never did.

raymanlegendsteensies

Viking warrioress Barbara very handily wins my vote for “best new character of 2013.”

That cohesion helps make Legends’ levels largely more memorable, but they’re better designed as well. These levels flow; they’re made to be sprinted through. They feel more diverse, more willing to break off from traditional platformer gameplay and experiment with touch-screen puzzle elements, speed-run enemy invasions, and auto-running musical stages.

These auto-running stages are a treat in particular. The first one, Castle Rock, has players running and jumping over the ramparts of a besieged castle to a Rayman-ized version of Ram Jam’s Black Betty. Enemies and lums act as audio cues, contributing to the song when they’re attacked or collected. These levels play like a pared down rhythm game more than anything, and they’re incredibly infectious. I wouldn’t mind a whole game of them, even.

raymandragon

Rayman Legends’ visual style is absolutely stunning.

But there are also the Murfy levels, which turn the gamepad player from onscreen participant to touchpad helping hand. They’re incredibly fun in multiplayer, manic energy building as the four onscreen players race through the levels, Murfy trying his best to swipe away obstacles and move platforms without dooming the entire team. Played solo they’re less engaging — players guide a thankfully competent AI character through the stage, coaxing them onto secret paths and toward the level’s exit.

Playing through Rayman Legends, one can see Ubisoft Montpellier really pushing themselves to compete with Nintendo on their own turf. There are daily and weekly online challenge levels, bunches of unlockable character skins, a kung-fu soccer minigame, collectible creatures, and a couple world’s worth of levels from Rayman Origins.

There’s maybe even too much stuff. Each level has ten captured teensies to save, crucial for unlocking gated levels. On top of that, levels require you to collect a majority of their lums if you hope to score a lottery ticket, which in turn might unlock an Origins stage with even more teensies to save. Generally I don’t have a problem with unlockable-centric or collectable-heavy platformer design, but Rayman Legends goes a bit overboard with it.

raymantoadstory

Their expressions of froggy fear are absolutely adorable.

The game remains compelling in spite of its collectable excess. I can’t fault Ubisoft Montpellier here: they’ve created a  daringly original platforming series. The slidey speed of these newer Rayman games feels so slick and idiosyncratic that it always takes me a few levels to gel with them — I haven’t played anything else that so fluently breaks from the mold Mario set down so many years ago.

Even so, Rayman Legends captures the warm feeling one gets seeing goombas and koopas patrolling newer Mario games, that same sense of underlying legacy and deeper heart. Here are your lums and teensies; here are Rayman, Globox, Barbara, and Murfy; here’s the entire lexicon of Rayman’s bubble-dreamt world. I don’t care about Rayman’s origins or any of Legends’ lore — but it helps immensely that I can feel that loving spark throughout every area and in every fun-sized foe.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , ,

6 Responses to “Wii U review: Rayman Legends”

  1. Strawberry Says:

    I might have to check this game out sometime.

  2. dennyvuquach Says:

    I played this game on my Xbox 360 console, and the gameplay is awesome! The level designs in this game are colorful and nice, and the characters are great too. Personally, my favorite level is Castle Rock. Rayman Legends rocks!

    • catstronaut Says:

      Castle Rock is a total “whoa” moment throughout, a great idea that’s executed with style. I’m not sure if it’s my favorite, but it’s definitely the level that stuck with me most :O

      • dennyvuquach Says:

        I got to ask you though, why don’t you like Rayman Origins? I heard that it’s good too, but I haven’t played it yet.

      • catstronaut Says:

        It’s not really so much that it’s bad. There’s just a lack of character and theme throughout — everything feels thrown together at random, like the point of every environment is to be as wacky as possible.

        The enemies don’t fit together with the levels, and each world feels like a jumble of different elements. There are birds with spiked helmets, gooey black bats, chef lizards, and safari zombies. Every level just blends together in my mind, because there’s no real definition to them.

        It’s not a bad game. It just doesn’t have the cohesion of Legends, and it feels to me like a wash of random design elements. Plus, I think the Legends levels have a wider variety of different ideas and designs.

        Also, Legends has a bunch of levels from Rayman Origins, so go and play those if you haven’t already. Maybe you’ll like it more than I do!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: