When I was a kid, I was a fairly talented artist. Give me a pack of crayons and a sheet of paper and I would doodle away like a possessed demon child. But for the life of me, I could never draw limbs. Each time I drew a person, they would have an incredibly detailed face and torso... but then these wiry, gangly arms and legs that looked like spaghetti strings. Yes, these deformed limbs would be capped off with perfectly drawn hands and feet; but it was like the Mona Lisa having a stick-figure body. Arms and legs were like my Kryptonite.
I reckon the legendary Michel Ancel, the creator of Rayman, had exactly this same problem. But rather than give up, he created a beloved cartoon character from his possible artistic weakness. Since Rayman first appeared back in 1995, he has appeared in around a dozen titles and has amassed a huge fanbase in both the cartoon world and in that of video gaming. Yet it has been in Rayman’s more recent outings that we feel he has really found his disjointed little feet.
Released last year, Rayman Origins was one of the best platforming games we’ve had the pleasure of playing on both the Vita and PS3. Rayman Legends continues on with a similar formula; keeping the polished controls and innovative multiplayer gameplay mechanics that were so cherished in Origins, but also offering significant improvements along the way that fans of the series will appreciate.
Although, before we talk about the gameplay, we have to talk about the graphics. Rayman Legends is a visual extravaganza that takes your eye-balls on an acid-trip of epic proportions. The entire game is rendered with an intimate hand-drawn art style that glistens and pops with technicolor vitality. It’s not just the backgrounds and environments that sparkle, every single zany character and enchanting sprite is animated in a beautifully fluid manner too. Playing Rayman Legends is literally like watching a piece of art spring into life.
Thankfully, Rayman Legends is not just about eye-candy. While the game draws you in visually, it equally captivates as one of the most crisp, innovative platformers since LittleBigPlanet. The whimsical plot sees Rayman and his oddball posse of chums waking up after a hibernating nap to discover that a terrifying threat is, once again, about to destroy The Glade of Dreams. In order to rid their once peaceful home of this nightmare and rescue tiny innocent creatures known as the Teensies, they must battle legendary creatures across a variety of wild, wonderful lands - including medieval realms, worlds made out of candy, and even the land of the dead.
On top of this, Rayman Legends also introduces an interesting musical twist to the action at certain stages in the game. While this might sound cheesy, the outcome is possibly one of the game’s main highlights and results in players having to dash at full speed - while jumping, punching, and smashing their way through obstacles - all in time to the music. The time limit is the length of the track and hooning through a level at full-tilt whilst a crazy cover of ‘Black Betty’ is being cranked out is an exhilarating experience.
Like Origins, Rayman Legends continues the multiplayer co-operative madness by letting up to four players leap around on screen at any one time. But Legends has a much greater emphasis on team-play than its previous outing, giving serious consideration to each individual character and their own unique abilities. The game also implements a variety of clever puzzle-solving challenges that force players to work together - usually revolving around moving platforms, switches, and hazardous obstacles that require a change in strategy.
Considering how fun the four-player co-op mode is, it is startling to us that Rayman Legends doesn’t allow for any online multiplayer. Instead all of the action has to be local, shared on the couch in front of the one television. It’s not the end of the world, as it’s a fun game that can bring friends and family together - but it is an omission that is bewildering by today’s standards.
Rayman Legends offers a surprisingly diverse 12+ hours of gameplay - an admirable feat for a platformer of this type. Even more impressive was how each level, or chapter, managed to exceed the previous one in terms of gameplay depth and in theme, with each one building into a delightful frenzy that will keep gamers hooked. You’ll find yourself playing for hours just to see what wacky, colourful universe you’ll unlock next.
Adding to this, Rayman Legends also includes a ‘Back to Origins’ mode which allows players to relive the levels from the previous Origins game - but with extra new features throughout. It won’t interest anyone who has already played Origins, but it’s an inviting bonus for those new to the franchise. If this is you, now is a great time to try this delightful platform adventure.