It’s been quite the journey, hasn’t it Rayman? The Wii U exclusive launch game was delayed until February, and then delayed until August so it could become a multiplatform game; Rayman Legends has had a rocky path to release. But how is the finished product? Was it worth the wait? My answer to that question is a resounding yes! This game is one of the best platformers for several years, and is only made better by the work done during the delay.
Something I need to say straight away: don’t expect a story from this game. You save Teensies and collect Lums, as per Rayman norm, and occasionally meet a sort of evil Teensie that you have to take down. But you won’t be finding much in the way of explanation; you don’t need it. Rayman Legends is focused on the platforming, and that platforming is diverse, challenging and very, very enjoyable. This is perhaps the Super Mario Galaxy 2 of platformers; nearly every level has a new idea that is used, explored and manipulated fantastically and then sometimes never seen again. You see, Ancel and co. have already moved onto their next crazy and brilliant idea.
Perhaps the best idea, though, is the musical levels. These levels have you playing through what is essentially a rhythm platform level (think Runner2) to an adapted piece of music. You’ll jump, hit enemies and more in time to the music, and these levels are the highlight of the game. Swimming through underwater tunnels to an adapted version of the song Woo Hoo (amusingly named Gloo Gloo due to the water theme) is just a joy (check out a gameplay of this level here!). The musical levels, which see you changing your play to in-game events actually say something about the whole nature of Rayman Legends’ gameplay. You will find yourself being affected by occurrences such as rocks falling and, well, dragons attacking you quite often. This gives the game an exhilarating, dramatic atmosphere as you often rely on your wits, reactions and skill to keep yourself alive.
Of course, there is an area where the gameplay drastically changes, and this is in the Murphy levels. These levels see the player using the Wii U GamePad to cut ropes, move platforms, rotate objects and a lot more. In single-player, you control Murphy while a computer-controlled character will move according to what you do. The computer-controlled character is impressive in these levels; for example, it will find secret areas if you affect the level as required. However, these levels are best enjoyed in multiplayer, with one person controlling Murphy and the other players platforming around him. This set-up is the best way to enjoy the game, with the person controlling Murphy frantically trying to keep the other players alive. While the Murphy levels are decent in solo play, they lack the faster pace and just pure fun of playing with a friend(s).
Also, the controls for the actual platforming – not Murphy – are very tight regardless of which controller you use; the Wii U GamePad, the Wii U Pro Controller and Wii Remotes can all be used to play Rayman Legends with up to 4 other people alongside you. While the platforming might not be weighted quite as well as the Mario platformers – no other platformer does that quite as well as the Mario games – it still feels great and the moveset at your disposal is small but effective; the range of Rayman’s infamous punch, his hovering capabilities and more are all utilized well. Finding little techniques – like using Rayman’s attack after a jump to boost your speed – is satisfying and addictive.
Nowhere is this more prominent than in the online challenge mode, which has you trying to beat a stage in the quickest time possible, get as far as you can, etc. While this mode has been out for a while courtesy of the Wii U’s Rayman Legends Online Challenge App, there are some new things added to it in the full game and continuing where you left off is definitely not a bad thing – you get some Lums and a new costume for your efforts in the App! This is just one of the extra features in Rayman Legends; there is a ridiculously addictive football mini-game called Kung Foot which you will spend countless hilarious hours with in multiplayer, 40 remastered Rayman Origins levels, a large amount of Creatures (which give you lums every day) to collect, and many Heroes (characters, with different costumes) to unlock. Scratchcards are your way of accessing most of this extra content, and you get these by completing levels to a certain extent. Using the GamePad’s screen to scratch the scratchcards is a great touch too! All of these extra details – and more – give Rayman Legends a lot more depth, and ensure that you will be playing the game for a long while until you’re done.
The word “detail” also applies to the presentation of Rayman Legends. Immediately you will recognize the beautiful graphics that stand out at you, with their smooth edges and near-perfect lighting. But when you look deeper, you can really start to appreciate just how good this game looks. Rayman Legends runs exceptionally well in 1080p, and the detail (there’s that word again) is astonishing wherever you are – whether that is underwater or running over a sausage (this game is insane). The backgrounds often have just as much going on as the plane you are in, even if you will never be in them; enemies will be running around of their own accord, telling their own little story (the animation in this game is incredible). They’ll be gone in a second, but it makes the game feel alive and substantial. Even small things, like the Wii U-exclusive Mario costume for Rayman hovering using a Wing Cap from Super Mario 64 rather than Rayman’s hair just shows the effort and detail (I’ll stop now) put into this game.
The audio in this game is equally magical. The soundtrack in itself is catchy, fun and a joy to listen to (especially in the musical levels, of course), but when combined with the range of sound and effects it, like the visuals, creates a world that you can immerse yourself in. Enemies will emit cries and run away at the sight of you; spiked vines will creek and slither as they chase after you; and captured Teensies will shout and call after you when you are near to them. Overall, the presentation of this game is stunning.
We waited. And waited. And then waited some more. But in the end, the delay only served to make an already amazing game only more amazing. The Wii U is taken advantage of so well that it puts other games on the platform to shame; this game makes me realize what the Wii U can do for gaming. Rarely is a game so full of ideas; Super Mario Galaxy 2 comes to mind again as a comparison. But is Rayman Legends good enough to be compared to Super Mario Galaxy 2? You know what, it is.