Rayman, Globox and friends have been snoozing for a century while the Bubble Dreamer’s nightmares grow worse and the gloriously silly worlds he dreams into existence are populated with more and more insidious evil-doers.
Now Rayman and friends must be awoken from their slumber to rid the world of its blight and restore the carefree happiness. Teensies must be rescued, Lums must be collected and evil must be firmly punched, kicked and bounced upon. Luckily, Murfy the fairy makes a return to assist you through the areas by cutting ropes, activating mechanisms, poking monsters in the eye or tickling giant club-wielding enemies so you can throw a disjointed fist in their direction unhindered.
Hold on a minute. Tickling?
Oh yes, Rayman Legends is still as chock-full of happy lunacy as its predecessor was. It’s a galloping, giggling run through an over-saturated world of carefree joy. It’s a gloriously painted, parallax-scrolling potter around a world of unfettered, gleeful exuberance. It’s not even close to approaching what we might consider normal but it simply doesn’t care. It’s the bounding dog chasing its tail in the park. It’s the child on the playground swings that laughs uncontrollably with each weightless oscillation. Rayman Legends is complete, unselfconscious fun.
It’s action packed, too. Legends throws collectables at you at a break-neck pace so that there’s always something unlocking. Some new thing to go and look at, a new painting to jump into and explore the worlds beyond or a new creature, hero or classic “Back to Origins” level to play through.
You can unlock and play as a number of legends, as well as Rayman, Globox and the Teensies. You can play with up to four people. You can set times in tightly designed showpiece levels that push the potentially repetitive platforming mechanics in entirely different directions. Rayman Legends is never boring, always bristling with creativity, imagination and a spirit of exploration that surpasses even its predecessor.
The real star of this show isn’t Rayman. It isn’t even the gorgeously painted background art or the wonderfully immersive parallax scrolling. The real genius of Rayman Legends is the level design. Everything is so tightly created that it works without requiring – or at times even allowing – consideration. The level design works perfectly with you to allow that abandonment of thought that leads simply to pure enjoyment because it all works so naturally. Even many of the hidden paths seem to suggest themselves just as you pass them – encouraging a second run at a level when you will know just the right moment to jump so that you don’t miss it a second time.
It’s not a particularly difficult game and the checkpointing is only very rarely frustrating but that’s not really the point. You’re not supposed to struggle through this, you’re supposed to run alongside it. Even the levels specifically created to act as little speed runs that you can muscle-memory your way through and post your time to a leaderboard don’t needlessly frustrate or obstruct you, they encourage you to streamline and learn timings. Everything is about positivity, improving your core techniques rather than simply circumventing an obstacle.
A Word About Wii U
The GamePad functions add another dimension to Rayman Legends, essentially altering “Press a button to make Murfy do something” into a more interactive experience. It’s not just tapping things either, although there is a lot of that. You’ll have to swipe to cut ropes, rub to tickle enemies and tilt the GamePad to interact with rotational elements of the levels and allow the auto-running hero to progress through the level. It’s smartly done and, as with so much about Rayman Legends, it’s well designed into the levels.
There’s even a completely off-topic local multiplayer mini-game called Kung Foot in which you have to punch and kick a football into your opponent’s goal. It’s all played on a single screen and fantastically captures that couch-bound multiplayer feeling by presenting something that’s incredibly simple and yet decided by such narrow margins that you’ll always be alternating between joyous triumphalism and resentful frustration.
Rayman Legends doesn’t need a thousand words of explanation and assessment. It’s not a weighty, narrative driven game that will make you postulate meanings or attribute deep allegorical intentions. This is a game about not thinking, it’s a game about letting go and just enjoying the colours and sounds and swirling, bouncing happiness that’s taking up your screen. You’ll have to practice elements, you’ll need to learn locations of hidden areas and timings of jump sequences to progress. But you’ll certainly never be bored.
Reviewed from Xbox 360 review code and the freely available Wii U Daily Challenge mode.
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