By Ben Popalardo
In an age inundated by brown, gloomy shooters and visceral action games, it would seem gaming has grown up. Rarely does a game recapture that same essence of happiness, excitement and of course, fun that the games of the past had. But there are times when a game manages to do just that: take classic ideas, executed masterfully, and bring about a feeling of childhood without relying purely on nostalgia.
Rayman Legends was released September 3 on Wii U, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, PC, and Playstation Vita. The game was published by Ubisoft, and was originally intended to be Wii U exclusive last February. The time taken to port the game to other consoles was not wasted however; the team at Ubisoft packed in loads of additional content that was not originally intended for release.
Most of the gameplay consists of precision platforming; running, jumping, and occasionally floating to platforms to reach the end of a level. Anyone who’s ever played a Mario game (or in fact a Rayman game) will know the basics.
The level design in Legends is top notch. Enemies and platforms are placed in just such a way that when executed perfectly, the player can sprint through the level without even stopping.
Despite simple mechanics, Legends must be commended for its difficulty curve. Never punishing but always challenging, you can and will die a multitude of times, but infinite lives and generous checkpoints keep you from falling too far behind.
Legends mixes up the standard platformer formula by adding in a number of highly interactive levels. Played on the Wii U gamepad, you control Murphy, one of Rayman’s innumerable companions, guiding the computer through a harsh maze of obstacles. Murphy can cut ropes, move platforms, and confuse enemies long enough for the computer player to smack them into submission.
On the touchpad, these levels are executed wonderfully. Everything feels intuitive and the computer-controlled character understands what you want it to do every time.
Easily the most enjoyable experiences are the music levels that appear at the end of each world. The player is forced to run at a rapid pace forward, while every jump, kick, and slide is keyed to a note in the levels music, which is always a remix of a popular song (the Eye of the Tiger level in particular is a joy).
The gameplay is exceptional, but the art direction is no slouch. Beautiful background vistas, vibrant worlds, colorful characters and responsive animations all work together to make Legends look like a moving work of art. It succeeds in being cartoony while at the same time awe-inspiring.
Everything about Rayman Legends evokes a sense of childhood glee. One cannot help but smile as they are chased by a giant luchador through a level made entirely out of cake. It creates a whimsical world that we don’t mind getting lost in, and above all else, reminds us that games are for having fun.