There are too few great platforming games for the Xbox 360. This is not a genre we associate with modern gaming, but likely with our childhoods if you grew up gaming in the 90′s — an age when 2-D platformers lead the gaming industry (Mario, Sonic, Donkey Kong). Thanks to games like Rayman Origins (released 2011) and its now-released successor Rayman Legends, the 2-D platforming genre still has a heartbeat in 2013, a very healthy, vibrant heartbeat. Rayman Legends is an extremely delightful game. It is addicting, nostalgic, bizarre, and loaded with surprises and content.
The adventure begins with Rayman and his buddies being awaken after a long nap. Nightmarish creatures have spread across the world and naturally our heroes have to go out and save it. Nightmarish is used loosely here as Rayman Legends is as cartoonish as a game gets. The fire-breathing dragons are chubby, hulking monsters can be defeated with tickling, and many enemies are comic-relief in themselves. They’ll be “bonked” away with punches. Rayman himself will pop like a balloon when he dies. The overall zaniness gives this game its own personality and uniqueness.
Levels in Rayman Legends are colorful and rich in detail. There are forest and castle and underwater environments, all of which look great and aren’t quite like those you’ve seen in other 2-D platformers. Some levels feel Dr. Seuss-inspired — they are bizarre in the best way possible. One of the worlds you explore is food-themed where you’ll be jumping on hot dogs and donuts, sliding on butter, traversing the insides of watermelons, and chewing through cake to advance. Other levels have you navigating through mazes, dashing across crumbling buildings, and gliding through gauntlets of enemies. It’s hard not to smile while playing through.
The music is also a treat. It varies between fast-paced and zany to slow and peaceful. The music always suits the ambiance of the level you’re playing. There’s also musical levels where the tune and beat is perfectly synced with your movements as you dash through. One level has you running and jumping to the beat of Eye of the Tiger, which is even more awesome than it sounds.
If you’ve played Rayman games before, you should find yourself in familiar grounds. You’ll be running and jumping and punching your way through well-varied levels. You have Rayman’s helicopter ability to feather your fall — on windy levels this can be used to fly. You can also slam the ground, charge your punches to further their range, and use Murfy, your fly buddy, to interact with the environment by hitting switches and moving objects. It’s not enough to just explain these abilities; you have to play Rayman Legends to see just how cleverly they are implemented and just how elaborate and ridiculous the levels can get. Ubisoft doesn’t seem to run out of good ideas and pleasant surprises with their level design.
Rayman Legends finds a happy balance between fun-and-easy and seriously challenging. Many of the levels are a breeze to get through, but there are a lot of secondary objectives like collecting gold coins and finding caged teensies, some of whom are trapped in hidden bonus stages. Finding and freeing them all won’t be a simple task. Checkpoints within levels are subtle and often so you won’t be getting too frustrated. When you die you’ll spawn in an instant, which is really refreshing. There are 5 themed worlds and each one ends with a boss fight that is appropriately difficult, not to mention epic.
You might unlock and beat the 5 worlds pretty quickly, but that doesn’t mean you’re done. You’ll unlock many bonus levels and musical levels, which might become your favorites. There’s lots of extra characters and character skins and Rayman Origins levels. That’s right. 40 levels from Rayman Origins have been remade, adding a huge amount of content to the game. There’s also “Invaded” versions of the main game’s levels, which increase difficulty with new enemies and obstacles. There might be more content here than you’re willing to do, and that’s a very good thing.
The sheer amount of positive reinforcement is ridiculous. You’ll be congratulated every time you rescue a teensie. There’s confetti and dancing when you beat levels. Scratching golden tickets to win unlocks is stupidly fun. Again, it’s hard not to smile. This game is rewarding, kid-friendly, and perfect for the gamer with a short attention-span.
The only real drawback to Rayman Legends is its multiplayer. There is no online play. 2-4 players can play through levels locally on one Xbox. Part of me likes this because it reminds me of the era before online gaming, where multiplayer required you to gather your friends and family and play on one TV. It’s another nostalgic element — maybe that’s the point? In any case, having online multiplayer would have been better than not having it. Local co-op play is fun but can get a little hectic as the camera has to work around multiple players. There’s also a competitive game called Kung Foot, which is basically soccer. You use the attack button to shoot balls in goals while also guarding your own.
The fantastic, lengthy 2-D platformer is not dead thanks to Rayman Legends. It is a refreshing, original, and nostalgic experience that needs to be played. There are more levels than you’re probably willing to play, and each one of them is unique with its own obstacles and surprises. The level design is seriously brilliant. You’ll be using the four main abilities in such clever, unexpected ways. If you enjoy platforming games, you need to buy or rent Rayman Legends. There’s just too much fun to be had.