Although Rayman has fronted at least a dozen best-selling titles since his debut in 1985, a large number of hardcore gamers vehemently despise the limbless cartoon star.
For some, it’s the forced, self-conscious wackiness of Rayman adventures that irks the most, with each quest driven by characters, challenges and worlds that are oddball and absurd, but nowhere near as funny as the developers think they are. For others, it’s the shameless pilfering of ideas and set-pieces from genre classics that’s unforgivable, and makes most Rayman games feel like plagiarising pretenders to the platforming throne that lack the soul of a vintage Mario or Sonic outing. And for others, Rayman games are irritating simply because their goofy sense of humour and zany visuals are so damned French.
But while a handful of curmudgeons will never embrace Ubisoft’s indefatigable platform-hopper, Rayman Legends is a challenging, diverse and irresistible adventure that’s sure to seduce many of the titular hero’s habitual haters.
Although Legends is a madcap platformer that doesn’t shatter the traditional Rayman mould, what’s most impressive is its startling variety of challenges. As you work your way through the adventure, each of the myriad stages feels exciting and completely different to the levels that preceded it, constantly spoiling players with new visual tricks and thrills as they run, jump, punch and swim their way to victory. Inventive boss battles, stealth segments, shooting sections and other beautifully designed challenges help keep the action fresh and make Legends an ever-shifting, endlessly-surprising experience, made more enticing as each stage is packed with secrets that reward those who take the time to slow down and explore the luscious worlds.
A gentle learning curve that embraces players of all ages, tight controls and ingenious pacing where short and long challenges are perfectly balanced also make Legends a joy from start to finish. And, to top it all off, you can opt to play through the whole single-player adventure co-operatively with three friends, or try your hand at a competitive 2D football game that’s silly, chaotic, wildly addictive and a perfect multiplayer alternative to the main game.
While Rayman Legends doesn’t attempt to reinvent one of videogaming’s most enduring genres, its striking level of polish make it a sharp reminder of why jumping games are so much fun, and promotes Ubisoft’s much-maligned hero to the pinnacle of platforming excellence.
Reviewed by David McComb