Back in October last year, I picked up Rayman Legends for a very reasonable price at the local mall. The problem was, the inside was empty. Read more about that in questionable game publishing methods. Suffice to say I was annoyed. It took me until January to get out the box—and stupid download code—to finally give the game a try on the Nintendo Switch.
Its older brother, Rayman Origins, released in 2011—which I for some reason ignored—was the first 2D Rayman to be released in almost twenty years, and the first main installment after Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc. Despite my clumsiness in handling 3D platformers, I have fond memories of v2 and v3, and I’m currently replaying the second installment on my Win98 setup. Legends is a natural evolution of Origins. It’s built using the same UbiArt engine, which also powers the Just Dance series, that allows artists to focus on content and semi-automatically manipulates vector images. The distinct look of these UbiArt games is clearly visible once you compare them. Legends adds dynamic lightning and some 3D effects.
In fact, my Definitive Edition of Legends contains unlockable Origins levels, which is a very nice feature, if not for the fact that unlocking them takes too much work! But we’ll get to that in a minute.
The game is gorgeous. The worlds are varied—lush greenery, underwater and submarine levels, Olympus above and well beyond the earth, food-inspired levels, frog-invaded swamps, deserts, you name it, and it’s all beautifully drawn. Some journalists perhaps rightfully so claimed that “Rayman is the best 2d Platformer game that is not Mario”. I do have a few gripes with the design and overall structure, though.
Every world and level is entered through a painting, in the same vein as Mario 64. Except that in Mario 64, you’re served a nice, albeit a bit shallow, story alongside it: to rescue the princess, to explore the castle and to uncover the paintings. Here, they’re simply placed next to each other, and some are veiled until you unlock them. No overarching story. Nothing that binds these seemingly separate pieces of gameplay together. Sure, the same “bad Teensie” returns at the end of every world, but I felt quite disconnected with the world, compared to Rayman 2 for instance.
On to the platforming itself, which is great, until the later levels start to reiterate on the many chase scenes a bit too much for my liking. I like exploring stuff. Yes, Sonic also rushes through levels, but that’s by design. After finishing the harder levels (denoted by an amount of skulls below the painting), I felt little incentive to go back, even though I love the art.
Rehash rehash rehash
The problem gets worse after unlocking “captured levels” that are essentially time attack modes that rehash a previous level. They’re optional and I skipped them, but they do reward you with Teensies and lottery tickets needed to unlock Rayman Origins levels. The main menu—well, tent—is chuck full of stuff. Extra modes, touch modes, unlockable stuff, a football imitation game, a ladder version of it, …
Competitive players will sure like these additions. But I felt they subtracted from the original Rayman experience: to explore a 2D world full of wonderful colors and animals. To me, all that extra fluff just stands in the way of the actual gameplay—which undoubtedly still is great. But I don’t care about these challenges and races with others. For instance, each week, there’s a challenge to race through a level the fastest, which gets recorded to Ubisoft servers. Even if it’s optional, a bothersome scrolling “WARNING: WEEKLY CHALLENGE IS ABOUT TO END” message takes away from the experience instead of adding to it.
Not even half of the Origins levels are unlocked here and that’s a shame, I really want to play them. But I don’t want to force myself plodding through some half-baked challenge or redoing time attack variations of previous chase scenes I’m glad I finished in the first place.
One more thing. The Switch version is the Definitive Edition, with the addition of a football championship mode (meh), and… wait for it… loading screens. The bigger the level, the longer you’ll be stuck in that screen, and although they’re interactive and provide a chance at winning an extra heart, it’s dis_heart_ening to see that the WiiU version came without, and this much more powerful hardware console somehow would be incapable of doing so? Luckily, it’s not as atrocious as Animal Crossing, but still, it again takes away from the jump-in-and-play experience.
Overall, I’ve got mixed feelings about this game. It’s beautiful, some levels (the submarine parts were soo good!) had me smiling from beginning to the very end. Too bad that the little annoying parts are the ones that I’ll ultimately remember from Rayman Legends. Therefore, I can’t possibly rate it higher than 3/5.
Verdict:/5 I liked it.