Long before its current standing as the power behind the plethora of Tom Clancy titles and their ever increasing renown with the Assassin’s Creed series, Ubisoft were a small independent French publisher with a very small catalogue of third party titles. When Michel Ansel pitched his unique vision of what he believed a game should be, all of this changed. Of course I am referring to his creation of the limbless and timeless Rayman. I doubt it would be exageration to say that the small hair-whirling, glove wearing 2D creation was the seed from which the modern day Ubisoft would grow.
At its core the fifth official Rayman sequel is a classic 2D platformer but with all the visuals expected from a modern release.
If you have been living under a gaming rock for the last two decades, Rayman first reared his head on the Saturn, Jaguar and PS1 back in the day and is one of the few enduring characters from the golden age of platforming that has retained his stature. (Rayman hit shelves at the height of the Sonic vs Mario era).
This said, being a 16 year old gamer at that time, I was more interested in the more mature games emerging, and although not part of the games target audience, I was more than aware of its presence.
Fast forward 18 years and little has changed. Arguments still abound about Sonic and Mario’s great rivalry, platforming giants have moved on from their 2D origins to bound into the realm of 3D and many have simply ceased to be. Yet Rayman keeps on running.
Returning to their 2D roots in the 2011 Rayman Origins, Ubisoft’s Rayman Legends follows in its wake as a direct seqeul and succeeds in capturing what made some of those original platformers so challenging and endearing.
Legends is a game that anyone can play, but only those willing to dedicate time and elicit extreme patience will ever truly conquer it. Players are tasked with navigating over 100 varied levels by running, jumping and fighting against the Nightmare creatures infesting the land all the while attempting to collect as many Lums as possible and rescue any Teensies who have been imprisoned along the way. So far, so Rayman, and this is definitely one of the games strengths. Ubisoft Montpellier have spent their time since Origins, tweaking and refining what was already a pretty solid game into something that much tighter. If you are looking for the next big innovation in the platform genre, then this is not where you should be.
That is not to say that the game is a carbon copy of Origins. Legends still has enough variety and new additions to its substantial level set to differentiate itself from the pack. The new Ubi Art Framework utilised for Origins has been updated with crisp new visual assets alongside new dynamic lighting and 3D integration to give a depth to the world that makes the graphics pop off the screen. This cute, cartoon style looks bright and crisp, and will appease many of those who are looking for advances in graphical fidelity irregardless of greater realism.(which does not really suit a fantasy game series such as Rayman, anyway.)
Playable characters are taken to a new level also, with numerous unlockable characters available beyond your initial staple of six, each with their own style and variations, although only slight, on their controls and attacks.
Many of the nintendo crowd were enthralled by the interaction between the Wii U Touchpad and Murfy, with the greenbottle facilitating critical interaction with the environment during the level. This is where the first alteration to allow novation to the Xbox falls flat.
These sections, redesigned with the touch-less hordes of xbox (and I presume PS3) players in mind feels slightly out of place, especially during the more hectic moments when speed and accuracy is key. Murfys movement has been automated, but the interaction on the Wii U pad felt more natural than the mini-QTE that is has become on the other consoles.
With the tight controls of your playable character honed to near perfection, these somewhat cumbersome interactions would break the flow of the levels on numerous occassions.
Where this game truly shines, is in the co-op. Playable with up to four players simultaneously dependant on format, the team at Ubisoft know their target market is the gaming family. This is especially true of the new Guitar Hero style rhythm action sections which were shown of to great effect in both the demos and the E3 presentation.
Whether, like me you have a young gaming family, or whether (also like me) you are a big kid at heart, there is a lot of joy to be gained from this title, regardless of the minor niggles and flaws that it bears from being a ported title.
If you have the option to buy this on the original intended platform, then I would say this is a must buy title. In this case, I would simply say it is a game that shines throughout and should be experienced if you have any love for the genre.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Format: PlayStation 3 / Xbox 360 / Wii U / Vita Release Date: 30/08/2013
Disclosure: Midlife Gamer were provided a copy of Rayman Legends for review purposes. The title was reviewed over the course of two weeks on a Xbox360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.