Rayman emerges as king of the platformers.
I'm a platformer junkie. My first gaming experience was Super Mario Bros. and Super Meat Boy has earned a place in my top 10 favourite games of all time. When it comes to running, jumping and collecting stuff, I know what I like.
And boy do I like Rayman Legends.
Rayman Legends is constantly throwing new ideas at you, keeping you guessing over the 12 or so hours of gameplay on hand. Just when I thought I found my favourite stage, the game takes a surprising twist and I fall in love again. You want a super fast, death is chasing you level? How about a Splinter Cell inspired stealth mission? A rhythm jumping game that plays our a magical mariachi version of Eye of the Tiger? Each and every level of Rayman Legends feels fresh and exciting, and the developers stay away from recycling the same gameplay too often.
For the first time in his long history, Rayman is better than Mario.
Some of the most memorable sections of the game are the boss fights, each one creating a memorable and sometime hilarious fight. Despite fitting into the "hit the boss three times and you win" category, when you finally take down a gigantic luchador in a three round fight, you feel like you have accomplished something. These aren't boss fights for the sake of it. These are full of charm and wonder.
Good news for Wii U and PS Vita owners, Rayman Legends is best played on your platforms. Several stages actually hand over the platforming controls to Murph, Rayman's trusty sidekick and the AI takes over. You then use the touchscreen to clear a path, move platforms, cut ropes and even tickle gigantic monsters until they burst with laughter so your hero can take them out. These sections of the game are an absolute blast, and it's nice to see the developers make use of the technology. For those playing on other platforms, all you get are some button prompts. Keep in mind, this game did start out as a Wii U exclusive.
These sections become insanely fun when playing with friends. Instead of your AI companion you will be trolling helping your friends navigate some of the most exciting stages in the game. Rayman Legends is wholeheartedly a coop game, and while the action can become a little chaotic (especially with 5 players on the Wii U version), it manages to feel less frustrating than New Super Mario Bros.
When you finish the campaign the game isn't over. Ubisoft are throwing daily and weekly challenges into the mix, allowing you to hone your skills, challenge your friends, and see where you rank in your country or the world. I've already lost hours of my life to these addictive tests of skill, and I expect it will hold my attention for sometime to come.
If that isn't enough to win you over, the developers have included a huge chunk of levels from Rayman Origins as unlocks during the campaign, so you are effectively getting two games for the price of one.
While the gameplay is absolutely sublime, the art style and audio design are among the best of the generation. The silky smooth animation and hand-drawn aesthetic flows perfect, creating a fast moving and gorgeous game. The soundtrack is utterly amazing, especially on the rhythm levels.
Now let's discuss the one and only issue I have with Rayman Legends. Each stage has a series of Teensies, alien beings, that you are trying to rescue. Legends does the same thing every platformer has done since Super Mario 64, and hates you from certain stages until you have collected enough Teensies to progress. My initial plan was to rush through the stages for this review, and come back for a second playthrough and find everything I missed. Unfortunately I found myself going back time and time again to replay levels to find Teensies and progress through the campaign. I know I'm nitpicking here, but I wish the game would just let you play through at your own pace.
The Final verdict
For the first time in his long history, Rayman is better than Mario. Rayman Legends is constantly trying new ideas, and more importantly, pulling then off with poise. Not only is this one of the best looking games around, it is perhaps the best platformer I've played since Super Mario Galaxy. Every man, woman, child and dog should get their hands on this game as soon as possible, and experience one of the most satisfying games of this generation.