For the longest time, Ubisoft’s “Rayman” franchise has been stuck in limbo. Rayman was intended to be Ubisoft’s mascot, like Mario or Sonic, but his first few middle-of-the-road platformers (as well as a lot of disappointing spin-offs) were too lukewarm with audiences to gain the recognition that other mascots had.
However, that all changed about two years ago with “Rayman Origins,” which was an incredibly pleasant surprise that stood out and dared to be different when the “New Super Mario Bros.” franchise was king. It had a few flaws — a lack of level variety being one — but on the whole, many saw it as a refreshing return to form. Now Rayman is back with the direct sequel “Rayman Legends,” which fixes those small issues to become what may be one of the best 2-D platformers the generation has seen.
As per the norm with the “Rayman” series (and most 2-D platformers in general), the story is practically nonexistent. Innocent creatures have been kidnapped, and Rayman must travel through various worlds in order to rescue them. It’s barebones, but that allows the developers to stretch their imaginations and present levels that are both challenging and charming.
There are a ton of levels in this game, and each of them has its own clever twist. One moment you’ll be fighting a boss in the style of an old shoot-‘em-up game like “Galaga,” and another moment you’ll be swimming underwater and dodging security cameras a la “Metal Gear Solid.” None of it feels out of place, and each of these gameplay ideas is presented in interesting ways.
And those are just the main story missions! The game also packs in several optional challenges based on these ideas, as well as compelling multiplayer options (both cooperative and competitive) and a few levels from “Origins.”
Also, the game looks absolutely stunning. “Origins” looked really good, but “Legends” takes the engine above and beyond by adding improved lighting effects and softer edges, making “Legends” look even more organic than its predecessor.
Ubisoft has now hit two home runs with the formerly aging “Rayman” franchise, and this one has flown out of the park and crashed directly into a nearby car windshield. The game is pure, perfect platforming bliss with tons of replay value and incredible level design. I can’t even list everything this game has to offer without the fear of leaving something really cool out. It’s just that good, and if you’re interested in games like “Donkey Kong Country” or “Super Meat Boy,” this will absolutely be up your alley.
Game: “Rayman Legends”
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Platform: Wii U, 360, PS3, Vita, PC