Rayman Legends had an…interesting development cycle, to say the least. After being announced solely for the Wii U (but not 100% confirmed as a hard exclusive), it turns out there were other platforms in the mix — other platforms that ended up delaying the original Wii U release for over half a year.
Fans were angry, developers were confused, a consolation challenge app was offered to Wii U fans, and now, we’re at a point where we can see whether or not the wait was worth it.
I’ll save you the trouble of finding out on your own: it was totally worth it.
While the gameplay in Legends remains relatively unchanged from its platforming roots, it’s the level selection where the game really shines. All in all I enjoyed Legends’ levels more than Origins due to the fast-paced nature of them. They’re more bite-sized and to the point, and as a result you feel more inclined to play them over and over to really find everything there is to offer.
Each set culminates in a final boss fight that’s brief and enjoyable, and an incredibly fun musical level. It’s these levels that show off the true talent of the game’s design team, as they are essentially endless runner sections timed perfectly to a beat with accompaniments to go along. Whether said accompaniments are the howling of monsters or a mariachi band depends on the stage, but I found myself playing a few of them over and over just to listen to the musical arraignments — they’re that good.
Visually, Legends employs a similar art style to Origins, but the details are so much more pronounced that it feels like a generational leap. Enemies have a bit more character to them, levels have their own distinct thematic feel, and the backgrounds and animations are absolutely gorgeous. The action is also incredibly fluid, with nary a framerate drop in sight — which helps on some of the game’s more difficult challenges.
Legends eschew a traditional world map for a gallery type setting, where players can enter each world individually and get a sneak peak of what’s to come on each level’s painting. It’s a setup I enjoyed much more than Origins’ presentation, mostly because it gives each stage more character, having its own setup and unique imprint on the world.
Of course, not all levels are created equal, and I’m talking specifically about the “Murfy” stages littered across the game. Murfy is the flying companion of Rayman, Globox, the Teensies, and newcomer Barbara, and he must be controlled entirely with the Wii U GamePad’s touchscreen (or the analog sticks on other platforms). While Murfy is a blast with more than a few players, you need to have someone who wants to play as him on the levels he’s required in. If you’re playing solo the AI takes over for you as you control the touchscreen, which feels like a waste of time, like the game is on auto-pilot.
It’s because of this forced interaction (all of which is a rather elementary use of the touch screen) that I feel like Murfy should have been a completely optional point of the game, relegated to bonus stages or other extras. Thankfully though if you are into manipulating things on the touch screen, it can be a really nice ancillary way to compliment the game. I can see younger children especially enjoying these sections if they lack the capacity to do some of the harder jumps in the game.
But despite his best efforts, Murfy didn’t turn me off from the game in general, as the vast majority of the levels do not require him in any fashion. In fact, I rarely came across a level in general I outright didn’t like — and there are a lot of them. In terms of extras, this is one of the most packed platformers I’ve ever played without feeling superfluous.
There are tons of creatures to collect, time trials and 100% collection rates to go for, weekly and daily challenges to tackle, and of course, there’s a large handful of original Rayman Origins stages included as a bonus. You could truly spend over 20 hours on one file and not complete everything that Legends has to offer, but most importantly, you’ll have fun doing it.
Barring the forced Murfy sections that had me longing to get back to the real action, Rayman Legends is a technical achievement in platforming. The level design is top notch, the art style is charming, and I had a giant grin on my face almost the entire time I was playing it. Just like Origins before it, Legends is a must-have for fans of the genre.
This review is based on a physical copy of the Wii U game Rayman Legends.