It wasn't so long ago that the 2D platform game was the biggest thing in gaming. Every publisher wanted their own hop-skip-jumping mascot, and our screens were flooded with a parade of anthropomorphic animals and unlikely heroes, all careening around in the wake of Mario and Sonic. Today, the upper branches of the blockbuster tree are reserved for shooters and stealth games where headshots and neck snaps are the currency of choice. Only Nintendo keeps flying the flag for the joys of an old-fashioned platform game.
Only Nintendo? Well, not quite. Ubisoft, home of such brutal classics as Splinter Cell and Assassin's Creed, has also kept the old ways alive, first with 2011's Rayman Origins and now with Rayman Legends, a game so achingly lovely that it should have a certain tubby plumber looking over his shoulder.
Jump To It
This isn't a game overly burdened with story - there are bad guys causing trouble in Rayman's otherwise peaceful land - and nor is it the sort of game where you'll need to read the manual before getting stuck in. Run from left to right (and occasionally the other way), freeing little bobble-nosed gonks known as Teensies and collecting smiley-faced Lums. Jump over stuff, don't get squished, splatted or impaled, and you'll do just fine.
No, where Rayman Legends makes its mark is in how stunningly well its all been put together. This is a game that has a level of care and polish that puts too many other games to shame. The control is crisp and responsive. The levels are ingeniously designed, testing your reactions and accuracy while constantly giving your brain something to do as well. It's tough, but never unfair, resulting in the sort of heart-in-mouth victories that make gaming special. It makes you work for every bit of progress, but rewards you with a buzz that few other titles can match.
Spoiled For Choice
It's also an incredibly generous game, a real rarity at a time when most titles can't resist making you pay extra for more stuff. Here, you not only get dozens of main story levels - each rising in difficulty in a graceful arc that tugs you ever onwards - but also an insane amount of extras, some of which are unlocked by fun scratchcards earned for collecting Lums.
There are 40 levels from Rayman Origins to win and defeat. There are bonus musical levels, where your jumps are choreographed to weird cover versions of tracks like Black Betty and Eye of the Tiger. There are special "invaded" levels which remix previously beaten stages, playing them backwards with new enemies. There's a little football mini-game, and a room full of collectable creatures who all generate Lums daily to keep your total high. You also get daily and weekly community challenges, based on speed runs and distance objectives, that are incredibly moreish.
Rayman Legends is everything you want from a platform game, in other words. It has content enough to last for months, and continually introduces fun new ideas and gameplay styles without losing sight of its core. The only downside is the introduction of secondary character Murfy, who must be controlled with an additional button press to get past obstacles in certain levels. In the Wii U version, he makes perfect sense - another player controls him directly with the touchscreen and its a wonderful co-op idea. On the other consoles, in single player, it's a little distracting.
If that's the worst thing you can say about a new platformer then that's a pretty impressive achievement. If you're looking for a change in pace from the usual blockbuster bloodshed, while still challenging yourself with truly hardcore game design, than Rayman Legends is an absolute must-have.
- Beautifully balanced platforming action
- Absolutely stuffed with content
- Gorgeous graphics and amazing music
- No online multiplayer
- Murfy levels work best on Wii U
- Might be too tough for younger kids