Review

Rayman Legends

Supersize It

Rayman Legends is opulent and brilliant, but it’s missing some of its predecessors’ sweet scrappiness.

By Anthony John Agnello • September 4, 2013

Success is a double-edged sword, especially when it comes to art. We want our art small; we want it all for ourselves before it gets too big. Who wants the U2 that fills stadiums with $150 tickets rather than the younger, hungrier punks who made October in a 300-person Dublin club? How many people prefer the Sam Raimi who makes gaudy nonsense like Oz The Great And Powerful over the Sam Raimi who cobbled together Evil Dead 2 with a few thousand bucks? But then, sometimes bigger actually is better. Opulence can be its own delight. Just look at The Beatles. The tin-can charms of Please Please Me are powerful, but it’s hard to deny the greatness of Abbey Road’s mad ambition and scale.

Ambition and scale define Rayman Legends, Michael Ancel and Ubisoft Montpelier’s sequel to the genius Rayman Origins. It is a grand exploration of Origins’ ideas, a downright edacious display of visual art and level design. There are more stages, more characters to control; everything about Legends is bigger. And it is excellent. Yet it’s also missing some of Origins’ lithe inventiveness.

Rayman Legends

Origins’ greatest idea was how it reimagined momentum in a game about jumping and running. Rather than starting and stopping all the time to collect items or line up the perfect jump, Origins set up stages that asked you to (almost) never stop running. You had to flow from the start of level, dashing up jungle walls and skipping off enemies as you went. The velvety controls made the process a thrill to master. It was more fluid than other games of its ilk but more precise than the average Canabalt-style infinite runner. Legends keeps the sweet motion intact.

The game is spread across six themed worlds (like a dragon-infested medieval fief and a secret underwater base), and in most levels, you run from left to right rescuing Rayman’s tiny blue friends, called “teensies.” Each world culminates with levels in which you chase down the evil teensies (who are imprisoning the good ones), a big boss fight, and a level where you literally can’t stop running and have to jump along with the rhythm of a Rayman-ified pop song. These stages are their own reward; you haven’t lived until you’ve heard a squeaked-out version of “Eye Of The Tiger” in which you collect glowing bugs to make the melody.

Rayman Legends

Legends features a few twists designed specifically for the Wii U’s touchscreen controller, and they come in the form of the Murphy stages. Murphy is Rayman’s new touchscreen buddy, and some levels are designed entirely around Murphy manipulating the stage. Sneaking through an underwater base requires you to hide Rayman from security cameras or tap buttons on the touchscreen to flip out new platforms. Sometimes you have to make Murphy tickle a big monster to leave him vulnerable. Murphy was made with cooperative multiplayer in mind, but he still works well if you’re playing by yourself.

You control Murphy on the gamepad while the character on TV moves through the stage automatically, directed by the game itself. While the computer-controlled character sometimes didn’t go where I wanted him to, the game’s actually pretty good at recognizing intent. In fact, the Murphy stretches are not that different from the rest of the game. You’re tapping a touchscreen instead of pressing buttons, but the challenge is still to manage momentum. Legends’ big innovation is really just a small twist and a way for you to play with a fifth player rather than just four.

Rayman Legends

The more exciting use of the Wii U controller is how it helps you engage with Legends’ excesses. There’s an overwhelming amount of stuff to do. When you beat a level, a new time trial stage unlocks in a previous world. Collect enough of those glowing bugs, and you get a scratch-off ticket. Scratch away at that ticket, and you might receive a piece of toast in a chef’s hat, which coughs up more golden bugs, which unlock more characters. The touchscreen keeps a log of all these details, so it only takes a tap to find some new things to do.

More and more and more. That’s Rayman Legends. Even the art style has been plumped and primped, the stages awash in pastel color and shadows. Giant 3D boss monsters look surprisingly brilliant next to the hand drawn characters. Intoxicating as it all is, it never feels as shocking and weird as Rayman Origins did. Origins was level after level of speed and strange world design, with glaciers made of martinis and giant kitchen versions of hell. Legends is rich with things to do, but it never strays far from the tune set by Origins. It simply inflates that tune to absurd degrees. Both games are great, but decadence is Legends’ only real innovation.

Rayman Legends
Developer: Ubisoft Montpelier
Publisher: Ubisoft
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360
Played on: Wii U
Price: PC, PlayStation Vita—$40; PlayStation 3, Wii U, Xbox 360—$60
Rating: E10+

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57 Responses to “Supersize It”

  1. patagonianhorsesnake says:

    one of the things i love about origins was the fact that, even though it’s a co-op game, you can still slap your friends silly when they keep messing up, or just for fun. and it’s so silly and slapsticky that no one gets mad about it!

    so i hope that that’s still true for this one.

    • TheMostPopularCommenter says:

      You can, and now there’s a whole menagerie of collectable creatures you can slap about as well.

  2. Merve says:

    When I started Origins a couple of weeks ago, I was greatly looking forward to Legends. But Origins has worn me down with its frustratingly difficult final few stages, and now I don’t want to have anything to do with Rayman for another couple of months. Are Legends’ final few stages less infuriating than Origins’? If so, that might entice me to dive in sooner.

    At the risk of veering dangerously off-topic, October is one of U2’s worst albums. I’ll take Boy or War over it any day.

    • Cornell_University says:

      I’ve never liked U2, though I think mostly because they robbed Thin Lizzy of their “greatest Irish rock band” title.  That I airbrushed on my van.  Do you want a Molson?  They’re sorta warm, but way better than that beer you Americans drink!*

      *based on a conversation I had with a guy when I was in Toronto attending a Rush convention.  My life is terrible and I hope to die soon.

      • NakedSnake says:

        I like the idea that somebody would use Molson as an exemplar of what a good beer should be.

        • PaganPoet says:

          Nothing annoys me more than non-Americans complaining about American beer. This may be because I live in Colorado, which is the Mecca of beer breweries. But judging an American beer off Budweiser and Coors is like judging Dutch beer based off Heineken.

        • NakedSnake says:

          @PaganPoet:disqus In my experience, the U.S. has way more diversity of beers than other countries (the U.K. included). Not only that, but U.S. diversity is more widely available. You don’t have to go to specialty beer places to get great stuff.

        • Cornell_University says:

          I live in Indiana, and we are also awash in great local breweries (that practically all stores sell and lots of bars have on tap). That is all nice and good, but it’s not as though A-B or MillerCoors is calling it quits around here anytime soon.

          Other countries generally like ragging on Americans for how dumb and uncultured we are, which FAIR ENOUGH, but I see you English over there falling into hysterics at the sight of a man in a dress.  I see you.

        • George_Liquor says:

          Colorado really is a beer wonderland. I live within walking distance of a pub that has nothing but Colorado microbrews on tap. They have 50+ taps too, and they rotate their selection on a weekly basis. Last Saturday, I stumbled home after getting trashed on a delightful kriek they had just tapped that afternoon.

        • PaganPoet says:

          @George_Liquor:disqus Which pub is that? I’d like to give it a go.

        • George_Liquor says:

          @PaganPoet:disqus It’s Colorado Plus Brewpub, on west 38th in Wheat Ridge. They’re a bit on the spendy side, (those krieks were 8 bucks a pop) but their selection is the best I’ve seen anywhere in town. They serve some damn fine gourmet takes on bar food too.

    • PaganPoet says:

      It’s funny, I agree that Origins is frustratingly, cussword yell-worthingly, controller-breakingly difficult (wait until you get to the Land of the Livid Dead), but for me, the difficulty is never unfair. You always exactly know exactly what you’re supposed to do, and it’s not like the controls are broken and ever result in your deaths. It’s just a matter of actually pulling what you need to do off. This is why I could die 100+ times on a level, and never feel angry at the game. I would recognize right away what I did wrong and feel excited to correct my own mistake.

      • DrFlimFlam says:

        I played Super Mario Bros. 3 yesterday and got so annoyed I just shut the SNES off (Mario All-Stars is how I was playing it) so I oculd cool off watching Air Force One.

        Rayman Origins is frustrating at times but is always fun and always feels totally fair, and that momentum always keeps you pushing forward. Also, co-op helps you keep your progress, which is huge.

        So yeah, I like these Rayman games, and I’m ready for more.

      • Merve says:

        You’re right in that the game is usually fair. There are some instances in later levels, though, where you can run up some surfaces but not others, even though the surfaces are identical in appearance. But maybe that infuriated me just because the rest of the game was so fair.

      • indy2003 says:

        Yeah, some of those later stages definitely require Zen-like focus. I must have died dozens and dozens of times on that last level where you’re supposed to make those perfectly-timed jumps across falling debris. Damn, that was frustrating, but I always knew that I was the one to blame. Same thing with some of those tricky trap levels. 

      • Unlike the original Rayman game.

        Oh that teared my family apart as a child when I asked my dad to help.

        • George_Liquor says:

          No kidding. As tough as controller-smashy Origins can get, it’s a cool groove compared to the original Rayman. 

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          It’s so hard to explain to a child that you’re not mad at them, but if they ask you to play that game one more time, you’re going to explode.

    • CrabNaga says:

      I’m sure my experience differs, but I feel like Legends is easier than Origins from what I’ve played so far. I’ve been able to find all the Teensies without much of a problem in all the levels I’ve played so far, and there is a lot of leeway when trying to get the gold Lum trophy (analog for the Medals in Origins). I completed the first two worlds so far. 

      • dreadguacamole says:

         Yeah, there’s nothing in this game to rival the hardest levels in Origins. I blitzed through this one in a single weekend with my son, and it was really enjoyable; great use of co-op. Totally worth getting a (cheap-ish) wii-u for in my book.

         In fact, the most frustrating levels in Legends are actually remixed versions of the levels in Origins; the one where you’re in that giant beast’s stomach, for example, is still total bullshit.

    • TheMostPopularCommenter says:

      Legends is definitely easier, at leastin terms of the “main” levels.

    • George_Liquor says:

      Maybe this is just because suck at it, but Origins’ desire to create smooth, flowing & speedy levels seems to be at odds with its requirement to stop and grab every last damn lum & electoon in order to unlock all of its extras. I’ve only played a couple of levels in the demo, but so far Legends seems to be less treasure hunt-y than Origins, which I think is a significant improvement.

    • Oxperiment says:

       Night of Livid Dead in _Origins_ almost destroyed me and Ms. Oxperiment, but in the end we conquered that bastage.

  3. stepped_pyramids says:

    Rayman is awesome.

    But you know what excites me the most about this? It means that Michel Ancel can finish Beyond Good & Evil 2 already!

    • Crusty Old Dean says:

       Are we still holding out hope for that? I thought it was scrapped.

    • CrabNaga says:

      Can someone explain to me the cult status of Beyond Good & Evil? I played it, enjoyed it, but never felt like it was a great game. It was kind of some hodgepodge of a Zelda clone and a point and click adventure, if I recall correctly. The story, characters, and environment were all good and definitely unique, though.

      • DrFlimFlam says:

        I don’t get it either.

      • Crusty Old Dean says:

        I guess there’s nothing extraordinary about it in terms of gameplay. I don’t think ten years ago I expected it to become the cult classic that it has.

        There are just so few games of that particular genre (third person action-adventure without a heavy side dose of shooter) coming out these days that the possibility of a sequel to Beyond Good and Evil is immensely appealing to me. I mean there’s pretty much just the Zelda games (which I love, but their formulaic nature of does get a bit grating) that does this kind of thing any more. And, ahem, I guess hopefully in the future the Last Guardian.

      • dreadguacamole says:

         The characters and environment do carry it a really long way, though, especially when they’re that well realized. Exploring the world is great, especially as the scope keeps widening throughout the game, and the collectible photographs really encouraged you to look everywhere. It had (much like these last two Rayman games) an excellent soundtrack, and looked gorgeous at the time.
         It was also one of the very few exponents of its genre released for the PC (something that may also explain my undying love for Anachronox). I’ll freely admit it’s flawed, but at least for me it pressed all the right buttons.

      • stepped_pyramids says:

        “The story, characters, and environment were all good and definitely unique” is pretty much the long and short of it. Good worldbuilding and art can cover up a lot of gameplay flaws for me, and BG&E didn’t really have bad gameplay, just bland.

  4. JamesJournal says:

    Full disclosure. The only Beatles album I’ve listened to all the way through was Abbey Road. And the only Rayman game I’ve beaten was Rayman 2 on Dreamcast (which was fucking brilliant). But Hoodlum Havoc and all those Raving Rabbids games turned me off to the whole franchise. This looks cool though.

    But what I need is BG&E 2 already. 

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      I’ve been working through the Beatles catalog over the last six months thanks to my local library (I can’t see myself paying for music that is haldfplayed to death over my life), and man, I love that whole last half of Abbey Road. Even a skeptic like myself cannot fight back against that.

      Raymans Origins is awesome. So, so awesome. And a  great co-op game for really any age that can move and jump.

      • The_Misanthrope says:

         The first half feels a lot like they gave every member of the band a chance at writing one or more songs, but the second half really soars with its ambitious multi-song suite and repeating melodic passages.

        Although I get where you are coming from with the rationale for not buying the album, I can’t fully get behind it myself.  When people say that they’ve heard most of the Beatles catalog through radio-play, they are the metaphorical ship only seeing the tip of the iceberg.  For example, “Here, There, and Everywhere” off Revolver is one of their best songs and I’ve never heard it on the radio.

        • DrFlimFlam says:

           It’s the “deep cuts” I’m going for, since the singles are what I’ve heard ad nauseaum. Some awesome gems, too, like “Maxell’s Silver Hammer.” I really dig Paul’s “Granny music”.

      • CrabNaga says:

        Abbey Road is definitely my favorite Beatles album. I am such a sucker for albums that have a definitive progression, songs that are connected, or some unifying theme. It’s something that I need to listen through to completion if I start playing it, and I get slightly annoyed when an Abbey Road song pops up when I’m listening to music on shuffle, because that overarching cohesion is lost.

  5. The_Misanthrope says:

     3 games reviews in two days?  Did Teti dole out some kind of “What I played over Labor Day weekend” assignment?”

    Agnello stands in front of class with a sheet of paper in his hands.  Reading from the sheet, he begins in a stilted monotone:  “The game I played over Labor Day weekend is called Rayman Legends.  It is about this weird-looking guy with no arms or legs that can still walk and punch things.  I think his name is Rayman because that’s the name of the game.  He runs and jumps around mostly but sometime he hits monsters.  Other times, he has to beat really big monsters that are trying to eat him.  I would say what I liked most about this game is that it had very funny drawings that made me laugh.  I really enjoyed this game even though my younger brother kept hitting me.  The end.”

  6. TheMostPopularCommenter says:

    My only real problem with this game is its nasty habit of making your character really small. Granted, on a lot of levels you end up in a zen state of reacting to obstacles (almost like a rhythm action game at points), but coupled with the dark spaces on the Bioshock levels it can get pretty obscure.

  7. CrabNaga says:

    Legends definitely loses some of the magic that Origins had, but that’s inevitable. I feel like that loss of magic happens for practically every single big sequel. You often get a bunch more polish, but that polish counter-intuitively removes that magic coating. 

    See: Mass Effect 2, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, Metal Gear Solid 2, etc.

    I feel like all of these games have much more realized and refined gameplay, but I also feel like these games also lose a lot of the rough edges that made the great segments stand out. It seems that, for example, replacing Mako segments with another shooting segment is more fun by default, but I can remember practically every individual firefight in the original Mass Effect, and almost all of Mass Effect 2 is a blur to me. Whereas for Legends, it seems like the “Mako segments” removed were the Mosquito shmup levels, the Tricky Treasure levels, and practically any level that doesn’t have you moving forward at a breakneck pace all the time.

    • indy2003 says:

      I’m actually quite sorry to hear that the Mosquito levels are gone. Those were a lot of fun.

      • Merve says:

        So Rayman doesn’t randomly turn into a shmup every few levels anymore? Shame.

      • dreadguacamole says:

         Yeah, they’re missed. There are a few levels on one of the worlds where you get on a flying shield and can shoot, though – I felt they fill pretty much the same niche; I imagine playing solo they’ll control the same way, too.

      • Colonel says:

        Good news, everyone!  About 40 levels from Origins are in Legends and include some of the Mosquito levels.

    • DrFlimFlam says:

      Vice City was such a disappointment for me. I just remember being stunned at how unfun it was after the unbridled mayhem of GTA3.

      It’s funny, I think ME2 is a much better game than ME1, but you are right; there’s  professional sheen over so much of it, and so much of it is unmemorable. Fun in the moment, I enjoy playing it, but something about that bite-sized nature of much of the game prevents it from sticking.

      • Roswulf says:

        I wonder if the “professional sheen” is what makes the sequels forgettable, or simply that they weren’t your first exposure to a series.

        I played ME1 and ME2 for the first time in rapid succession, and I found the firefights and scenarios in ME2 at least as sticky as ME1.

        • DrFlimFlam says:

          The combat in ME2 is leaps and bounds above ME1 for sure. And some locations, like Omega, are as memorable as Virmire or Noveria. But since players generally spend less time in the areas, they’re a little less imprinted on my brain. I remember more of the experience of ME2, but I remember more moments from ME1, if that makes any sense. And maybe it doesn’t.

  8. boardgameguy says:

    edacious? not sure if that’s what Anthony intended but now i’m one word smarter!

  9. Kyle O'Reilly says:

    Really, for me, Rayman Legends biggest mistake was coming out two weeks before goddam Grand Theft Auto V.  Though I know my wife will be disappointed I’m playing America’s Most Popular Murder Simulator as opposed to France’s most popular Mario impersonator, as she always had a soft spot for the music in Rayman Origins, especially the jazzy underwater theme.

    Go youtube it yourself I’m lazy.

  10. duwease says:

    EVERYONE.  WILL YOU STOP MAKING SO MANY GREAT GAMES.  SOME OF US DON’T HAVE THE TIME.

    Or invent a time machine.  Some people will kill Hitler, I’ll finally play Bioshock Infinite.

    • The_Misanthrope says:

       But what if, by killing Hitler, the timeline alters so Bioshock Infinite was never made?

      No, what you need is some time-stopping device, as seen in the Twilight Zone, the Simpson Halloween episode, that awful Adam Sandler movie, or any of a million other pop-culture sources.

    • George_Liquor says:

      Speaking of, I know this is belated but I had a chance to play yours, and it’s pretty damn fantastic. Good job!

  11. dreadguacamole says:

     I usually find the whole Ubisoft “More is More is Better” approach to make games worse, not better. Not here, though – this one just feels generous.

     It even includes remixed versions of most of the Origins levels!

  12. DrZaloski says:

    More of the same still makes it probably GOTY for me (at least AAA game, there are still lots of indie games that could impress by the end of the year).

    In fact, it’s that it’s more of the same but better that makes it GOTY.