Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Date Playthrough Started: January 2014
PC Specs Game Played on:
OS: Windows 7 64-bit
Processor: Intel Core i7-2600S 2.8 GHz CPU
RAM: 8 GB
Video Card: AMD Radeon HD 6570, 1025 MB Graphics Memory
The recent trend of new games that throw back to earlier eras of gaming has been a mixed bag. On the one hand, good 2D platformers can be great fun. On the other, it can get stale quick. How many variations on 2D platformers can they come up with? Rayman Legends, I’m happy to report, falls squarely into the former category. Building on the foundation laid by 2011’s Rayman Origins, Rayman Legends is a gorgeous, tough-as-nails package that has a lot to offer anyone who has ever enjoyed a 2D platformer.
After defeating the evil Magician from Origins, Rayman and the crew are enjoying a nice rest. But soon the Magician returns, splitting into five dark teensies (little blue guys). The dark teensies have kidnapped the regular teensies and ten princesses. Rayman and friends gear up to save the day again.
Okay, the story is not going to win the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. But it does work as nice fluff to bookend the experience. This is a game about the levels and the action, which is great. All of Rayman’s simple moves return from the previous game: attack, glide, run, and, of course, jump. And that’s it; the rest is the constantly inventive, restlessly innovative level design. Some levels are mazes where you might have to backtrack Metroidvania-style. Some are stealth levels where you slink in the shadows away from guards. Some are cake-themed, or factory-themed, or Greek mythology-themed. And then there are the music levels.
These involve playing a song in the background (Eye of the Tiger is a memorable early example), while advancing fire forces you to run forward. Then the platforms and jumps are placed so you have to hit the jump and attack buttons in time with the music. These are great; every beat is accounted for, and there are all sorts of flourishes that make each run through a music level a real treat, such as Rayman’s quick air guitar solo when you successfully beat one of these levels.
The visuals have seen a huge upgrade since Origins, as well. This is a gorgeous game; I often found myself just stopping and looking around. The graphics really pop, and it’s all so colorful and detailed. Sprites are mixed in with New Super Mario Bros.-style 2.5D in interesting ways
Legends sees the return of Rayman’s flying green buddy Murfy. In the WiiU and Vita versions of the game, Murfy shows up in several levels that make use of the touch screen. However, I played the game on PC, so these levels have been retooled for use on a controller or keyboard. Here, Murfy will move platforms into place and that sort of thing with the quick tap of a button. This starts easy, but later levels play around with the mechanic in different ways. I found the Murfy levels to be a fun addition to the usual platforming action.
As a person who usually isn’t great at video games, despite a lifetime of playing them, I was pleasantly surprised by Legends’ difficulty. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nail-bitingly, throw your controller through the TV hard, but it hits that perfect, Super Meat Boy-esque sweet spot. When you die, which you will a lot, you usually know why you died and what you can do differently next time to change it. It’s death with a purpose. And the checkpointing is usually generous enough that you rarely have to repeat large sections of a level. It goes without saying that like all platformers, this is far better on a controller than with a keyboard.
Unfortunately, third-party DRM makes playing this game on the PC a less than stellar experience at times. Uplay is a mandatory install, like it is with every Ubisoft game. I own Legends on Steam, so to play this I have to have both a Steam account and a Uplay account. And then I have to wait for Steam to update, then wait for Uplay to update just to play the game. There’s no Steam achievements or anything, it’s all through Uplay. And when I’m done playing, Uplay often doesn’t want to shut down when I tell it to, and I have go in and manually kill the process. It’s a bother, but the good news is that Uplay never really shows itself once you get into the game. It’s just a shame you have to use it at all.
Despite the irritating DRM, this is a great game that deserves more players. Pick it up if you’ve ever liked anything in this genre.