Rayman Legends / Rayman Legends: Definitive Edition

A game by Ubisoft Montpellier for PC, PS4, PS3, Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, and Switch, originally released in 2013, with the Definitive Edition released in 2017.
While many gamers may recognize the Rayman name from the Rayman Raving Rabbids series, the limbless hero has been around quite a bit longer than that, originally appearing in a 2D platformer known simply as Rayman in 1995, at a time when mainstream 2D gaming was about to go into a decade-long hibernation. The game was developed by Ubisoft Montpellier and was a pretty decent (and pretty tough) platformer that separated itself from other genre entries with its gorgeous visuals, smooth animations, and excellent soundtrack, made possible by a new generation of CD-based hardware.

Rayman also has the honor of being one of the few 2D franchises to make a smooth transition into 3D. Rayman 2 represented some of the best 3D platforming of the day, giving genre forerunner Super Mario 64 a run for its money. Another sequel, Rayman 3, was developed by the Ubisoft Shanghai team. While it wasn’t as mechanically solid as its predecessor, it retained much of its charm, including some very funny and strange comments from John Leguizamo who provided the voice of Globox (seriously, he has idle dialogue where he stands around talking about how he wishes he could have babies).

Ubisoft Montpellier intended to revisit the series with a new platforming entry, but after experimenting with the motion controls of the recently unveiled Wii system, they decided to develop Rayman Raving Rabbids instead. Rayman himself was sidelined in favor of the maniacally daft Rabbids, and platforming was removed in favor of minigames. The Rabbids series continued with the Rayman prefix for quite some time before eventually dropping the Rayman name altogether with the 2009 release, Rabbids Go Home, making it appear that Rayman had been entirely supplanted by red-eyed space bunnies.

However, in 2011 Ubisoft Montpellier went back to its roots, not only bringing Rayman back as the star of his own game, but creating an entirely new 2D entry in the series with Rayman Origins. As with the original release, the studio sought to separate it from other games on the market with strong visuals and animations, and a unique soundtrack. The studio used an internally-developed tool known as the UbiArt Framework, which made it easier for artists to create and animate detailed characters and objects, creating a game that could run in high resolutions at 60 frames per second.

Rayman Legends is the follow-up to that game, and once again sees Rayman and friends charging through detailed worlds filled with colorful enemies. The game takes place 100 years after the last, as Rayman and his friends lie sleeping in the woods. In the meantime, dark forces have once again overrun the land. Their friend Murfy wakes them up (by smacking them out of a tree) and lets them know what has been happening. Apparently, 10 princesses have been abducted by a nefarious villain, and hundreds of Teensies (magical long-nosed blue creatures) have been captured as well. Rayman must journey through dozens of levels, rescuing imprisoned Teensies, completing challenges, defeating bosses, and freeing each of the princesses (who then become playable characters).

Rayman and his friends have fairly standard platforming moveset, although each has different representations for their abilities. For instance, Rayman can punch and kick, while Globox slaps, and the Teensies use magic. However, each of these moves accomplishes the same function.

The characters have 3x variable height jumps, which is much higher than that of a traditional platformer, making them a bit floaty. This does slow the pace somewhat, but the design supports the focus on exploration and collection rather than high-speed precision platforming. While there is no double jump, pressing and holding the JUMP button in midair will allow the character to slowly glide to the ground, making it easier to cross large gaps and line up platform landings. Rayman uses his trademark “hairlicopter” to slow his descent, while Globox flaps his arms madly with a silly animation… In fact, most of Globox’s animations are humorously overexaggerated – very much befitting the oddball character – including a dash move that has his tongue dopily trailing out of the side of his mouth.

Each character has a 4 hit combo, and players can hold down the PUNCH button to charge up a heavy melee attack. Most enemies are killed quickly, so this move is generally more effective for its increased range rather than its power, and it also allows players to rescue kidnapped Teensies that are slightly out of reach. Players are able to punch while in the air or while hanging, and they may perform a smash attack by jumping and pressing DOWN while punching, allowing them to take out enemies below them or break through certain platforms. Players may also punch upward or downward by holding in those directions while punching. Upward punches are often used to free Teensies from floating cages, while downward punches can be used to uproot buried enemies.

Buried enemies are no direct threat, but killing them increases your lum count, which affects your end of level ranking and certain unlockables. Also, you will occasionally discover pink enemies buried in the ground that grant hearts to the players, and hearts can also be gained by breaking open vials. Once discovered, a heart floats behind the character and allows him to take one additional hit before being killed.

In addition to jumping and attacking, players also have a dash that lets them move quickly, and this can be combined with the PUNCH button to unleash a spinning attack. Players may also wall jump, wall slide, and grab ledges. Interestingly, each of the characters is also a competent swimmer. Many of the early levels have water between the platforms rather than bottomless pits, allowing characters to recover from missed platform jumps. Additionally, collectibles and captured Teensies are often tucked away beneath the surface, further rewarding players for diving in and searching the watery depths. Most enemies can’t swim, however, leading to some humorous situations, such as enemies that walk on stilts to keep themselves out of the water, but you can swim under them and break their stilts, causing them to fall in and drown. Later levels feature huge underwater areas where Rayman and his friends can swim freely while collecting, combatting enemies, and even stealthily avoiding environmental hazards.

Multiplayer action is most easily compared to the likes of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, where characters work their way through levels in offline co-op. If a character is killed or falls off the edge of the screen, he will return in a player-controlled bubble that can be popped by another active player to bring the character back into the action. If all of the characters die, however, they must return to the most recent checkpoint.

That said, there is a major design difference between Rayman Legends and NSMBWii, which makes the multiplayer action far more enjoyable. Namely, players may occupy the same space at the same time. This prevents characters from accidentally (or purposely) knocking each other off of ledges, interfering with each other’s jumps, or otherwise thwarting other players’ attempts to get through the level and deal with enemies.

Players can only interact in a couple of ways. First, they can punch each other. However, characters can’t kill one another by punching unless they send a character into an enemy or environmental hazard. At that point, the player will simply reappear in a bubble with no additional penalty (instead of the antiquated 1UP system employed in NSMBWii), meaning that there is very little consequence for causing harm to another player, helping to alleviate multiplayer frustrations.

The other way in which players can interact is by standing on each other’s heads. This may sound like a contradiction, given that characters pass right through each other when they occupy the same space. However, in Rayman Legends, players actually have a control that allows them to decide to assist another player, rather than always letting characters stand on each other. By pressing UP, the character will hold his hands up, allowing another character to use him as a platform. This simple change fixes a problem in the design of most multiplayer platformers where players are constantly at odds with one another when attempting to perform simultaneous jumps and other complex maneuvers in tight quarters.

A great deal of the game’s design focuses on providing ways for players have a bit of friendly competition without penalizing them. For instance, when collecting lums, a separate meter tracks the total number collected by each player, encouraging players to dash after them and collect as many as possible. At the end of the level, however, all of the lums are totaled up together for the final ranking. In the loading screens between levels, a silhouette shows all of the playable characters walking from left to right, with a heart vial floating just ahead of them. These transition screens are interactive, and players have a few seconds to attempt to break the vial – thus granting them with an extra hit of damage – before the level loads. However, the low penalty for failure in the levels themselves prevents this from becoming a hindrance for any one player, and friendly players may allow a less-skilled partner go to after the vial on their own.

Multiplayer is drop-in, drop-out, with players leaving the game automatically after a few seconds of not pressing a button, and new players can drop in at any time during a level.

There is a tremendous variety in the levels, both aesthetically and mechanically. Players will explore swamps, ride air currents, dash ahead of walls of fire, poke tentacled monstrosities in the eye, and fight the occasional dragon. New obstacles are introduced in each level, and entirely new gameplay pops up from world to world.

For instance, the second world introduces a desert theme. But rather than simply swapping out grass tiles for sand, the game uses the properties of the sand to create unique situations, with buildings sinking into the sand while you attempt to jump your way up through them, and even toppling over while you dash madly away. The angles of the buildings change as they tip over, and structures fall down on top of each other, leaving gaps for you to pass through as you attempt to avoid being crushed.

Another level has you making your way through stacks of cakes and following paths that have been eaten through by spiked centipedes. Here, you’ll also jump up through rising walls of vegetables, use guacamole to stop fireballs, run away from a rampaging monster, and occasionally find yourself transformed into a duck.

Some new objects change your basic mechanics, including a horn that causes you to shrink down, allowing you to walk across chains instead of hanging from them, and even being able to walk through the insides of apples and watermelons. The game also features several high-speed chase sequences and even shooter-style levels where you toss fists while platforming and riding air currents. Sometimes the environment itself is your enemy, with moving wall traps and entire sections of land that rise up to crush you.

Numerous levels make use of a character known as Murfy, who can be used to pull levers, slide platforms, rotate objects, cut ropes, and impact certain enemies. Some versions of the game give a player direct control over this character via a touch interface (more on the platform differences below), while others allow any player to control his actions with the touch of a single button. Either way, these levels offer a new dynamic, by allowing players to impact the environment in a number of ways while still attempting to complete the main objectives.

Players are not only working to complete the levels, but to collect lums and rescue Teensies along the way, which in turn unlocks new levels and challenges. Most of the exploration-based worlds have 10 Teensies to find, eight of which are spread throughout the level, and two of which are found behind hidden doors that lead to environmental puzzles (with a humorous “ooooh!” sound playing when you find them). An indicator at the top of the screen shows the total number of Teensies to be rescued, as well as their order of appearance, giving you a bit of an idea as to where they may be in the environment, and letting you know when you missed one. Mixed in with these exploration-based levels are speed-based levels where you only have to rescue three Teensies – although these are generally in tough-to-reach spots – while also avoiding a wall of fire moving up from behind you.

Rescuing Teensies is the primary method by which progress is made, as new worlds and princess rescue missions are locked until the requisite number of Teensies are rescued. This allows thorough explorers to open up several areas in succession, and these can then be played in any order. The door to the final world requires 400 Teensies to unlock, although there are 700 to collect in total across the game’s 100+ levels, which includes the main game, Origins levels (more on these in a bit), and Invasion levels.

Completing levels opens up “Invasion Level” variants that let you revisit previous areas for a time-based challenge. Invasion levels give you 60 seconds to make it from the start of the level to the finish, and these runs are more challenging than the regular levels. In addition, they have been “invaded” by enemies from other levels to make the run even more difficult. To make things more challenging, there are 3 Teensies to be rescued, each of whom is strapped to a rocket. The longer it takes you to get to the end, the fewer Teensies will remain to be rescued. This encourages players to replay the levels to get the best time. In some invasion levels, you’ll also have to outrun a Dark Rayman character that will kill you if you touch him.

The penultimate level in each world is a boss fight, which starts you with a challenging platforming sequence, usually showcasing the boss along the way, followed by the battle itself.

Defeating also the boss unlocks the world’s final level, which is music-based. These levels recall some of the rhythm action antics of the Raving Rabbids games, with beat-heavy popular and classical music. However, rather than simply matching timed button presses, your character must dash and slide quickly through a platforming environment while performing jumps and other moves with the correct timing in order to survive. The music is themed around what’s going on in the level, such as having a guitar slide line up with Rayman sliding down the length of a chain. These levels are over quickly, and there’s really little point to them other than providing enjoyment to the player.

In addition to the numerous unlockables, each world also rewards the player with a number of different trophies based on the number of Teensies rescued and the number of lums collected. Lums are gained by killing enemies, grabbing and holding golden coins, rescuing Teensies, breaking objects, and of course simply collecting them. However, there is also a chain bonus system in place that allows players to get additional lums by collecting them in the proper order. At the start of each row of lums is a single purple lum. Grabbing it turns the next lum purple, and so on. Purple lums are worth 2x, which means that a string of 5 lums can actually yield a total of 10 if they are collected in order. This gives players another reason to revisit previously completed levels, and offers an added challenge to more skilled players.

Collecting lums allows you to unlock new skins for your basic characters (Rayman, Globox, and Teensie), providing 17 unlockable forms, in addition to the 10 rescued princesses. Players may swap out their heroes in the Heroes Gallery between levels.

Based on the number of lums collected in each level, players can also earn scratch-off tickets, which yield additional lums and Teensies, as well as unlocking one of 60 different creatures (which, in turn, yield bonus lums on a daily basis).

More importantly, Lucky Tickets occasionally reward the player by unlocking alternate “Back to Origins” levels, which lets you revisit areas from Rayman Origins. The Origins levels have been tweaked and enhanced, so they’re not identical to their original counterparts, and your goal is to grab lums and rescue Teensies here as well. There are 40 levels across five worlds in “Back to Origins”, offering a great deal of new – and entirely optional – content for players looking to get a bit more out of the experience.

In addition to the offline co-op in the main campaign, there is a small minigame called Kung Foot that allows players to compete with each other to score as many goals as possible. In addition, there are a number of asynchronous online challenges that allow players to compete for high scores, do speed runs, or to collect as many things as possible. Some challenges just have you moving from scene to scene, while others have you descending into a spike-lined pit or climbing a tower, and there are also challenges where Murfy can be used to move platforms, cut ropes, etc.

There are normal and hard daily challenges, as well as normal and hard weekly challenges. Only the basic daily challenge is open at the start but the others open as you complete the main game. Completing a level shows your ranking – although someone else may come along and one-up you later – and you can see your position on the leaderboard for each challenge. Players are rewarded with a bronze, silver, or gold cup based on their ranking, and there is a special diamond cup for the player who manages to hold onto the top spot.

The Ubi Art Framework is used to wonderful effect here, creating worlds even more beautiful and detailed than those found in Rayman Origins. Characters, enemies, and backgrounds are highly detailed and feature loads of smooth animations. As in many games with detailed animations, the character has a “turning around” animation which means that you can’t instantly change directions. This has little effect on the largely explorative gamely, and characters have a traditional inertia driven slide when changing directions while dashing. Strangely, a small number of enemies (namely, the dragons) and bosses are rendered in full 3D, while everything else is strictly 2D.

Rayman Legends was originally announced as a Wii U title, and it was one of the earliest games to show off the use of the Wii U touchscreen interface. Later, additional platforms were added, and it was decided to push the Wii U release date back to coincide with the other versions. All versions of the game feature essentially the same content, with a few exceptions. The PS3, Xbox 360, and PC versions allow for 4P simultaneous offline play, while the Wii U offers 5P, and the Vita offers 2P. The touchscreen controls on the Wii U and Vita allow players to take control of Murfy directly to flip switches, move objects in the environment, and clear paths (while the main playable character is taken over by AI), whereas the other versions relegate this control to a single button which can be activated by any of the players. Lastly, the Vita version released without the inclusion of the Invasion levels due to limited development time, although the developer included them at a later date via a patch.

Rayman Legends was developed by Ubisoft Montpellier, the studio behind the bulk of the games in the Rayman series and a number of the Rabbids spinoffs, as well as the series return to (non-Rabbids) 2D with Rayman Origins. The studio is also known for the cult hit Beyond Good & Evil. In addition, they developed the surprisingly solid (and bulkily named) Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie, as well as From Dust, Michael Jackson The Experience, another movie-based title, The Adventures of Tintin: The Game, and the Wii U launch title ZombiU.