Rayman Legends Review
It only took a few minutes for me to fall in love with Rayman Legends. The opening cinematic is gorgeous, colorful, surreal, wacky, and mesmerizing, and after watching it I knew that as long as the gameplay was good I'd be hooked. A few moments later and it was obvious that the gameplay was something special as well. We have a real gem here, and a game that no one who has even a passing interest in platformers should miss.
The story is not the game's strong suit, but that's OK. You don't need any motivation to dive into Rayman Legends' worlds other than the pure joy that comes from exploring them and soaking everything in. As far as the story goes, basically nightmares have come to life and imprisoned the Teensies and it's your job to rescue them. That's really all you need to know - jump and punch your way through the levels looking for poor Teensies in cages to free.
Those levels feature hand drawn backgrounds that are works of art and are populated with characters that are as full of life and smoothly animated as anything in a quality animated film. The audio is impressive, from the varied and wonderful score to the clever and amusing sound effects - I particularly enjoyed the sound of a crowd saying "ooooo" every time I found a secret area.
While the levels show an amazing amount of variety and imagination (as do the nightmare creatures that populate them) that variety isn't all window dressing; each level comes with its own unique challenges and variations on gameplay. The game also does a great job of ramping up the difficulty the deeper you get into it, but it never gets to the point of being too difficult. The controls are tight and responsive, so when you do die it's because you've made a mistake and not because of laggy control response or poor edge detection.
You're scored on each level based on the number of Teensies that you've rescued and how many Lum, flying balls of light that serve as the game's currency, you've collected. The final tally determines whether you earn gold, silver, or bronze for the level, so there's motivation to return to levels to find and rescue every last Teensie and/or to earn the top rating.
Complete your first level in the game and things get, well, a little confusing. The only real issue with Rayman Legends is that navigating your way between the game's levels and modes isn't very intuitive and takes a little time to figure out. The game doesn't want to force you to play your way through a series of levels in a linear progression, which is perfectly fine and in fact preferential, but a collection of rooms filled with portraits that serve as portals isn't an inherently intuitive way to find your way around the game. You'll be able to eventually figure it all out, but it seems that "cute and quirky" were the prime factors behind the design of the interface rather than ease of navigation.
As for those other modes, there's the wildly chaotic and entertaining Kung Foot which puts two to four players into a soccer match (one player can 'practice', but this is a mode made for multiplayer play) in which the goals are placed on either end of the screen on raised platforms. The goal, of course, is to score more goals than the other team using the wide array of jumping moves and attacks from the platforming portion of the game. Half of the fun comes from the fact that you can use these moves on an opponent as well as the ball.
There's also a weekly challenge mode which has you run a gauntlet of mini levels against the clock. I love that as you're running through the challenge levels you'll see the ghosts of the players closest to you in the worldwide leaderboards running along with you. It ratchets up the feeling that you are indeed competing against other players, while also giving you a chance to learn from the mistakes of others or to learn some new techniques.
In addition to the Kung Foot mode, the game also includes multiplayer play through full co-op support in all of its platform levels. Two player co-op is a blast, but once you add the third and fourth players things can be chaotic to the point where it's difficult to tell what's going on and even who's who.
I really don't want to end this review on a minor down point, so I feel that I should reiterate that Rayman Legends is one of the most enjoyable 2D platform games that I've ever played. Level design, controls, graphics, music, sound effects, the developers nailed all of it. 'Legends' is a superlative that this game rightly deserves.
Final Rating: 95%. It is indeed a legendary game.