“Rayman Legends” is a defining example of how to make an incredible 2-D platformer. Sequel to the highly praised 2011 title “Rayman Origins,” “Rayman Legends” builds on the success of its predecessor by perfecting its core elements. Built on the foundation of fun, frantic platforming with gorgeous hand-drawn visuals and precise controls, “Rayman Legends” handles its execution perfectly but also shows some of the limitations within the 2-D platformer genre.
No matter what console you play on, “Rayman Legends” looks fantastic. The art itself is incredible, driven by a distinct whimsical style, but in motion, the art expresses so much more character within its animation. The way Rayman runs in place or hovers in the air by rotating his ears in a helicopter fashion is pure fun to look at. The game mostly builds on the art style of the last Rayman game, “Rayman Origins,” whose approach should appease both adults and children alike, but the color palette and settings are more varied this time, and the game subtly uses 3-D models and environments to great effect. While the game doesn’t seem to necessarily need the power of the next-generation systems, it looks sharp and crisp on the PlayStation 4 and runs at a nearly perfect frame-rate.
In motion, everything works perfectly. Developer Ubisoft Montpellier designed each level with the right amount of range in difficulty. Players wanting to get through the game will have a fun yet decent challenge of getting through the main-line levels, but others who wish for a difficult challenge can find that in some of the optional levels. While there is somewhat of a story to “Rayman Legends”, most of it becomes superfluous as the platforming aspect of the game takes the spotlight. Movement is precise yet forgiving enough that you will rarely mistakenly fall to your death, but the frantic pace places the challenge in understanding your environment and starting the jump in the first place. Checkpoints are well placed throughout the levels, maintaining the game’s difficulty while ultimately still feeling fair.
Of course, the platforming element only works because every level is incredibly well-designed. Each level maintains a great balance of challenge and pacing. One could easily breeze through each level, but the challenge comes in collecting lums (the equivalent to coins), which becomes difficult as you try to collect every one in each level. Yet some of the best levels in the game are the “music stages,” in which the level is designed around covers of songs such as “Black Betty” or “Eye of the Tiger.” These stages are designed such that you’ll be jumping and punching to the beat of the song. There are only a couple of them in the game, but they’re spread out such that each one feels welcome. The game also features a number of levels that were designed to use the Wii U’s gamepad but ported to different consoles, and the translation isn’t quite perfect. These levels are not awful, but they do feel a bit awkward.
Unfortunately, the multiplayer mode, which is drop-in drop-out done locally, cannot catch up to the game’s frantic pace. As players speed across the screen, it becomes nearly impossible to coordinate your movements. As a result, the player who falls behind ends up dying a lot, breaking up the pace.
Other than that, “Rayman Legends” is the perfect execution of the 2-D platformer. While the visuals are some of the best hand-drawn art done, running around in the game’s levels is a complete joy, one that can rarely be matched by others in the genre.
Art Siriwatt covers video games. Contact him at [email protected].