Until Rayman Origins, I had never played a Rayman game. It took about half the game for me to adjust to the fact that it wasn’t Mario, but once I did, I had a pretty good time. Rayman Legends required no such period of adjustment. Before I even exhausted the demo, this game had me hooked. This did not change in the slightest when it came to the game’s release. I wanted every trophy, every challenge, every teensie, and did not mind having to spend extra time playing the beautiful and brilliant levels of Rayman Legends in order to do it.
The level design in Rayman Legends immediately stands out when you play it. The game is not only vibrant and gorgeous, but incredibly varied. There is no gameplay or visual fatigue to be had here because the game never spends too much time doing or showing anything. The levels are also designed to play very quickly. They’re not quite Sonic levels of pushing right and jumping occasionally to avoid hazards, but there are moments here and there where you not only “gotta go fast”, but you start to wonder if maybe you are going too fast and missing a collectible vital toward earning a gold trophy at the end of the level. The game’s platforming is so fluid that I often felt bad slowing down in order to explore more, because it was so much fun and so satisfying to zip through levels and hit platforms and objects that were clearly put there for me to land on and hit.
The speed and fluidity of the game is on full display during its end of painting (the Legends equivalent of worlds, or sets of levels with the same theme) rhythm based platforming levels that are a essentially kinder, gentler BIT.TRIP RUNNER levels with Rayman mechanics, which are an absolute joy to play. On the slightly more challenging end of the spectrum are the game’s time attack “invasion” levels, where practically every lum, platform, and enemy is strategically placed as a clue to the level’s optimal path for speed. These levels, along with the game’s online daily and weekly leaderboard challenges are where the advanced mechanics of Rayman Legends come out to shine. The refreshing part about this is that there are no tutorials for advanced techniques. The game never tells you that you get a slight speed boost when you do a sprinting attack a slight speed boost on top of that when you perform a jump during that attack–it is discovered through the level design.
One or two more advanced moves aside, Rayman Legends is far from a challenging game, which personally, made me enjoy it much more and play it more obsessively. I would play every level and collect every trophy before moving forward because it wasn’t an enormous, daunting task. To me, a game can only be “too easy” if it trivializes player input, which I don’t think Rayman Legends does. You still have to play well to succeed, but you almost never have to play perfectly, which means you’re almost never stressed, almost never frustrated, and almost always having fun.
In addition to the regular levels, time attack levels, and music levels, there are boss battle levels and levels from Rayman Origins. These were perhaps my least favorite parts of the game. The bosses themselves were fun to look at, and amusing in concept, but not as much fun to play as the rest of the levels. I left the Origins levels until the very end, after I had earned a diamond cup in all the Rayman Legends paintings, and after two of them, I found myself enjoying them much less than the Legends levels. Granted, they were the early levels from Origins and as I mentioned, it took about half of Origins for me to actually get into it, but they did not make me want to play more, which is what almost every level from Legends does. Fortunately, they are completely optional, and it is possible to unlock every level from Legends without playing a single Origins level, if you so desire.
I played Rayman Legends on PC with an Xbox 360 controller, so all the touchscreen elements that exist due to this game’s origins as a Wii U game were noticeable and a bit awkward, though in some cases, I feel like the experience is possibly better without the touchscreen controls. There are levels that are basically designed to be played cooperatively with pointer/touchscreen controls, and on the versions of the game on platforms without touchscreen controls, the cooperative functions are replaced by a single button press, which makes these levels not so different from the other levels. When playing alone on platforms with touchscreen controls, however, you actually lose control over the character and play only the secondary character, which sounds a lot less fun to me. It would probably have been a better idea to make these levels platform or co-op exclusive, but they actually make up a decent portion of the game, and played fine under my circumstances (single player, traditional controls only). I’m also only speculating that single player with touch controls isn’t so great, and they may play fine that way as well.
Rayman Legends is a spectacular example of why I continue to hold the 2D platforming genre in such high regard. There is a precision, fluidity, and speed to the level design of a great 2D platformer that is extremely difficult to match in 3D. Rayman Legends not only delivers mechanically, but with some of the most cheerful and charming art and music one can find in an era dominated by grit, grime, and grim. Play Rayman Legends and be happy.