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Rayman 2: The Great Escape
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The Game Effect Review

Rayman Legends Review

A Ray of Sunshine Amongst the Grit

By Elijah Beahm on 11/23/2013
Everyone loves to talk about how games are too dark; they’re too gritty, too dull, and too Gears of Gore. If you’re one of these people, Rayman Legends is your breath of fresh air from Marcus McGrim Face: Funtime with Chainsawguns. If you’re intentionally ignoring it because “you don’t do platformers” or, even worse, because “you don’t do kid’s games”, you clearly do not understand you’re turning down one of the best games of this generation.

The amount of eye puns I could make in this screenshot is too damn high! 

A Whole New World

Rayman Legends doesn’t look like a game. When the opening plays, it looks like something from Pixar’s concept art department brought to life. And then suddenly, the movie you started watching says you get to take control. You get to play the Disney movie that never existed but that you almost wish it did. Every aspect of the game is brimming with personality and character, whether it’s a chopped tree trunk or Rayman himself.While Origins still felt distinctly like a platformer that was just quirky with it’s art, Legends features some of the best lighting and character design you’ll ever see. The contrast with new 3D elements, like water and bosses, helps make the important elements pop. All the detail in the background trumpets each universe you venture into like you’re running across storyboard panels and concept art for a movie. You can feel a story building around you that’s truly never spoken about, just always merely presented for you to interpret. It’s the subtle storytelling most indie games are known for, so it’s great to see this kind of storytelling in a AAA game.

It’s great that the environment does that, as Legends is still far more scant on story than the old Rayman platformers. Besides the intro movie, your only means of getting a clear sense of story are text blurbs explaining the various characters you unlock in the game’s galleries. A number of characters return as unlockables in Legends, although now you only need to collect more and more Lums instead of the game’s key objective. That is, except for the game’s brand new main character, Barbara, who you have to rescue through a specially designed level, as well for all her fellow princesses who can be used as alternate costumes.

Normally I prefer disembodied heads, but this’ll do! 

The barbarian princess is a welcome addition and became my favorite character over the course of the campaign. Rayman’s fine and all, but Barbara fits the setting and is one of the few female characters who actually feels well rounded. She’s got an enjoyable personality and spring in her step that feels far less artificial than most of the cast. It’s nice to finally see a decent female character for kids… ...wait. Hold up. Did I just see... wait what?!

You had one job, character designers! 

Oh dear…

Ubisoft Montreal, she’s barely wearing anything! I realize I said all age groups should be playing this game but not for that kind of reason! You can even see the underwear when she turns into a bubble upon death for some of her alternate appearances as other princesses. I realize this sort of thing is found funny in France -- you can even see a similar sense of humor in the animated clips hidden in Heavy Rain, which was also made by a French game studio. Perhaps to balance it out, there are a nude skins with a fig leaf for Globox and Rayman, but those are the hardest costumes to unlock, whereas the offensive costumes for Barbara are easily unlocked. Why not have those be unlocked at nearly the same time if they’re equal?

This isn’t even a “Hello Nurse!” kind of wink to adults. Nothing about Barbara’s character is expanded upon with this attribute. Animaniacs had a point with ‘Nurse. Hello Nurse was more for commentary on treatment of women than simply a “heh, bewbs” gag. Her sexual appeal worked against anyone taking her seriously despite being quite intelligent. There’s nothing like this in the case of Barbara. It doesn’t highlight some kind of flaw in female character design, it simply shows it. It’s not a joke, it’s an overt reference at best, and a reference is not a joke. If Ubisoft Montreal really wanted to do something interesting, they could have either explained the decision through some sort of narrative element or used it to actually make a point. Instead of being a choice I could grudgingly accept, this just seems like a cheap attempt at generating a giggle.

One could argue you don’t have to play as Barbara or her alternative costumes -- this true. However, besides one Teensie who is “secretly in love with Rayman”, there are no other female characters in the game. I’m glad that some alternate costumes for Barbara are more practical, but that doesn’t change the fact that if your daughter wants to be a “the super spy”, she’s gonna be running around in a mini-skirt and a push-up bra piece of fabric possibly identified as a shirt. What it comes down to is what parents, gamer or otherwise, are willing to allow their kids to see. All I can say is that I wouldn’t be.

I’m having VVVVVVV flashbacks… I can see the pixels… GAH! 

Look Ma! No Limbs!

There are a handful of new levels for unlocking the various costumes for Barbara in the form of other princesses (really they are just Barbara retextured). Along with these, there are new speed run levels separate from the main campaign , and new musical maps at the end of each in-game world. They range from licensed songs, such as a mariachi version for Eye of the Tiger, to original scores like Castle Rock. These new forms of play work well with the sped up pace of Legends that requires you keep your finger constantly on the sprint button. A few methodical levels will break up the pace, although the side scrolling shoot-em’ ups are reserved for the Back to Origins bonus levels now. (H3)

A fantastic change from Origins is the addition of mid-level checkpoints. Don’t get me wrong, I think there were three mid-level ones. Every other time though, you would get sent back way too far. Not only did this make you suffer through multiple motions over and over again, but it made the PC port even more difficult thanks to awkward keyboard controls that all but required a controller to get past. The control issues for keyboards are gone now, and I actually enjoyed playing Legends more on the PC than with a controller.

The level of precision you’re given is fantastic, and your mouse finally has some use now. You can use it to scratch tickets you get after you reach a certain number of Lums in a level that unlocks new items or levels from Origins, and to navigate the menu. Why they failed to implement control of Murphy, the little helper who toggles and manipulates the environment to keep you alive and moving, to the mouse on PC is confusing. A mouse would be as appropriate to control him as the Wii-U’s touchpad, and with most PC gamers already used to one-handed play with a keyboard, they could control both Murphy and their character at the same time with ease. Instead, it appears the PC version is a straight port of the console versions for PS3 and Xbox 360.

To the Teensie Mobile! Wait, does that make Murphy -Batmite-? 

All By Your-sellllf…

There’s also still no online co-op for any version of the game, so you’ll be cramped for space on your keyboard if you have more than two players active at any given time. Console gamers will have it easier, although then you have to deal with the screen coverage changing as someone inevitably takes the lead and… let’s just say, using the full co-op option locally isn’t ideal. Online needs to be added next time. I’d happily get more than one copy of this game if I knew I could play with a friend online, especially if that meant we could play the game’s new competitive mode Kung-Foot, a martial arts version of soccer.There is one new addition though that you can enjoy all by yourself -- boss battles that aren’t utterly frustrating. Instead of tedious tests of reflexes and patience, the new mid-level checkpoints, combined with bosses that make sense in their attack patterns instead of requiring pure guess work, have produced some of the best battles I’ve ever played. The final boss in particular is genius, and is one of the most organic experiences in the game, right up there with bouncing to the beat of the music levels.

It’s in those moments that the game shines brightest. You can see it all come together: the animation, the scripting, the level design, the aesthetics, the musical score… it’s sublime. This is what you come for in Legends. You don’t come for a massive open world or to save the universe; you just have fun. I can’t believe that’s an outstanding quality in this day and age, but with games like Spec Ops: The Line, brilliant as they may be, becoming more popular every day, it’s nice to just have a game that’s fun. When Legends works, it really works. I mean, addictive, makes you want to play it for five hours to just get one more level done, really works.

Would you kindly fix that hole in the wall? 

This goes hand in hand with tons of content. There are a new set of ten rescuable creatures to unlock new worlds with in each level. Extra hard 8-bit remixes of the music levels push you to your limit. Back to Origins fixes most of the balance issues it’s levels had, and adds in new features from Legends along with improved graphics. The flying bug sections make a comeback with a few tweaks of their own, although I wish they were in the main campaign. Those who enjoyed Origins’ soundtrack will be delighted to know even the songs return. You can even collect a gallery of pets who generate more lums for you every day you come back. There is one catch though.

As I said before, the mouse is used to scratch tickets that unlock things like the pets and Back to Origins levels. The problem is, you have no choice over what you’ll get. You always get something, but that might just be 20,000 more Lums or yet another one-Lum generating pet instead of your favorite level from the desert sections in Origins. By the end of the game, you’ll have unlocked a majority of the content, but making it a game of chance, along with the grindy nature of the lums, makes it feel like Ubisoft is trying to artificially lengthen an already decently long game. Doing so made me less interested as the cycle is obvious, and starts to feel forced after a certain point.

Why do you keep including so many pictures?” Because by golly, this game is beautiful! 

There is only one thing left to note specifically for the PC version. The online challenge mode seems to be plagued with issues on PC (and according to some reports PS3 users have been having similar problems). We've contacted Ubisoft on the the lack of being able to connect. They had this to say "We do have servers for the PC version of Rayman Legends and have tested that the online challenges mode works."
Despite having an otherwise operational copy of the game with a fairly strong internet connection, we cannot connect, and we've found an unsettling number of users cannot either. As it is, Xbox 360, Wii-U, and next-gen consoles seem to have the least issues, so if you're upgrading already, you might just want to wait until your PS4 or Xbox One arrives.

Overall Impression

Rayman Legends is more than worth the money if you love platformers. It’s a solid 2D gaming experience that has some of the most consistent, solid execution in a world where most games require a patch on launch day. The new novelties keep the core campaign fresh, and importing over forty of Origins’ levels makes it a bargain for those who only can buy one of the two new Rayman games. It hits so many notes right that the few bad notes ring loud in contrast, but whether you can look past them will be the real decisive point. I can’t say that they’re deal breakers but I also can’t say that I’m comfortable with some of the decisions Ubisoft Montreal made.

The Good
  • The game’s art and aesthetics are breathtaking
  • Platforming controls are refined to a fine sheen, even on PC
  • Boss battles are finally fun and music levels provide their own unique challenge
The Bad
  • Some of Barbara’s alternate outfits make her look sexualized.
  • Tickets to scratch annoyingly hold content back from normal progression
  • Murphy is not optimized for what could have been a great feature on the PC version
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WarMasterDegan on January 18, 2014
Can't wait to play this with my wife.
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Hawke1 on November 26, 2013
Great review as always. I would've responded to the guy below, but you just about covered everything I could've said. With my lack of those emotion things you people always talk about, I usually wouldn't care about things like Barbaras outfits and usually when people do complain about something like that I get the urge to hit them in the head with a baseball bat (looking at you, over sensitive GTAV reviewers!). But you were reasonable about it, and perhaps more importantly, didn't go on and on about it. If all the worlds feminists were like you, the collective IQ of the world would jump 20 points.
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VoltDevilray on November 26, 2013
Only twenty points?
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Hawke1 on November 26, 2013
It's in my nature to go with the lowest possible estimate.
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VoltDevilray on November 27, 2013
That can't be the lowest.

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Hawke1 on November 27, 2013
The minimum probably is higher.
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Trenchmace on November 25, 2013
... I thought I'd make an account, OKAY?! Jeez, so judgmental...
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Paradigmthefallen on November 25, 2013
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eltel47 on November 25, 2013
Did you forget to put a trigger warning at the top of this review?I only ask because it looks as though it was written by a tumblr social justice warrior.2/10, very poor review, as a reviewer you have an obligation to remain objective, don't push your agenda into games reviews.
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Trenchmace on November 25, 2013
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Paradigmthefallen on November 25, 2013
It was two paragraphs? And I just wanted them to be smarter about the thing if they were gonna do it?

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Paradigmthefallen on November 25, 2013
Also "don't push your agenda"? I was stating my opinion. You have no idea what I do or don't believe. For all you know I'm an Atheist Anarchist.

div style="position: absolute; top: -1999px; left: -1988px;" id="stcpDiv"don't push your agendadiv style="position: absolute; top: -1999px; left: -1988px;" id="stcpDiv"don't push your agenda
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VoltDevilray on November 24, 2013
Great review, Legends really does look gorgeous.  
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