Screw the introduction, I’m just gonna ramble for a few sentences this week. Rayman Origins was one of the best games of 2011. Nay, one of the greatest games of all time. I say that with no regrets, no second thoughts, this is proven fact, justified true belief. It was awesome. It was like a breath of fresh air that blew over your face for the entirety of an eight-hour game. The controls were divine, the environments were spectacular, and if you got some friends, it turned what was originally a blast into 50 cubic feet of C4. Coming off of a six-month delay for a multi-platform release (which by the way is probably the smartest thing Ubisoft has ever done), can Rayman Legends be as much fun as its predecessor? (Spoiler Alert: Yes.)---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Story and Characters: What, you honestly think there’s a story in this game? Psh, you wish convoluting was that easy. The teensies are in a bad place. Go through all the worlds and rescue them. There, story finished. Oh, fine, there are a new line of characters, but for the sake of gameplay, they’re only cosmetically different. Almost all of the characters from the previous game have returned doing the exactly same thing they did last time, and the movements are still hilariously exaggerated and frivolous.-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Gameplay: But you know what? Who gives a crap about the story? We’ve got a game to play! About 90% of the gameplay is the same as Origins which, as I previously mentioned, was utterly brilliant. And that’s perfectly fine. If it ain’t broke, don’t break it. You run and jump through the levels just as you’d run and jump through any of the levels, but unlike Origins, you don’t have to unlock abilities by progressing through the game. You can fly, swim, wall run, and use the size-changing mechanic that carried over from Origins. The new gameplay mechanic is the ability to control Rayman’s little green friend Murfy. First off, just to clarify, this review is of the Xbox 360 version of Rayman Legends. I’ve played the Wii U version, in which you control Murfy by swiping the touchscreen, and on other system, Murfy flies automatically to the hazards and a single button press tells him what to do. Now we could debate which control scheme is better, but I prefer the 360/PS3 scheme because you don’t have to take your hand away from the face buttons in order to command Murfy. Also present in the Wii U version, provided that you’re playing by yourself, are segments in which you are forced to control Murfy as the CPU-controlled character trundles leisurely through that part of the level. Aside from wrenching the control away from the player, these segments are very slow and hazardously pace-breaking. Murfy is used to move platforms, attack certain enemies, as well as eliminating other hazards. Regardless of which control scheme you’re using, this function takes a little getting used to. After playing through each world and fighting the final bosses, a specific aspect that was significantly improved from Origins, we’re introduced to another new gameplay mechanic: the musical levels. These specific levels are built around the music that plays during them, jumps and punches and such are designed around the beat while the collectible Lums make up the majority of the melodies. Its unfortunate that there’s so few of them in the game, because they are all very fun and I would love to see this concept expanded upon in the future. Just like Origins, the playstyles change gradually from time to time. Aside form the aforementioned musical levels, one of the worlds also prominently features stealth. Thankfully, you don’t have to change your speed of play to adequately complete these levels. It’s a very basic stealth formula, avoiding lights and lasers and defeating enemies just as you would in any other level. There’s also a few select levels where Rayman and his friends are transformed into ducks, and aside from being the most adorable thing all year, it only slows you down by about 33% and removes your charge attack, so its not a problem. The enemies and stage design also vary depending on the world. It starts out with the classic witches from Origins in the jungle world. Then a race of toad people invade a swampland in the second world. Skeletons and luchadores appear in the third world, made strictly out of carnivorous cake and other foods. Robotic enemies stalk you underwater and during the stealth segments in World 4. Finally, demons invade a mock-up of Ancient Greece in the final world. Another new gameplay aspect turns the game into much more of a collect-a-thon. There are 10 Teensies in each level, which are collected to unlock more levels. Lums are totaled and used to unlock more characters. Each level has an “Invasion” version, replacing the speed cups from Origins, in which 3 more Teensies can be unlocked. Every level has a lucky ticket which is used to unlock more things, including the newest addition: creatures. 50 small animals can be unlocked and are on display in the level select area.They serve no purpose outside of being really fun to mercilessly beat the living crap out of. There are also daily and weekly challenges, allowing you to compete with other players from around the world to see who can beat certain levels the fastest or survive the longest on BIT Trip style running maps. Finally, there is a brand new “Kung Foot” gamemode. It’s a strictly local competitive multiplayer made, which was clearly designed around the Wii U as even on the other console versions of the game there are 6 available player slots even the Xbox 360 and PS3 can only support 4 at a time. That aside, it’s one of the most enjoyable multiplayer experiences of the past few years. It is literally just soccer on a 2-D plane that controls no different from the rest of the game, but now two teams compete to kick/punch a soccer ball into the opposite goal. Seriously though, Rayman Legends is a better soccer game than soccer games. Its incredibly fast-paced and certainly a highlight of the game provided you’ve got at least one friend around.---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Audio/Visual: This game looks FABULOUS. Ubisoft has upped the ante with the UbiArt Framework engine and it continues to amaze. Environments are full of detail and backgrounds brim with activity. The character animations, while highly exaggerated, are also highly fluid and visible. It seems that art assets and models are much more shaded and have more color gradients than the purely 2-D characters of Origins. Both look brilliant on their own and the art style makes this game a joy to behold. The sound design, as well, is utterly fabulous. From classic running stages to boss fights to stealth segments, the music fits the mood perfectly. Also during the music levels buts that’s kinda obvious. Sound effects also add a lot to the game as enemies squeal and growl at the sight of the player. Player characters bounce around being insanely happy just as they were in Origins. The SFX factor is pushed to the max in Kung Foot, as a crowd of Toads and Witches roar and a mysterious announcer emphatically screams “GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAL!!!!!!!” to accompany every barrage of fireworks and confetti. In short, its as much fun for the eyes and the ears and it is for the heart and the head.----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Conclusion: Stunning. Utterly fantastic. Words cannot truly express how much I am in love with this game right now. Its pure bliss from beginning and proof that even as hammy of a publisher as Ubisoft can craft something magical provided they show it the care it deserves. No game is perfect, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Rayman Legends is the closest we’ll get this year.---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Next Time on DownPlay Reviews: Killer is Dead OR Splinter Cell: Blacklist (still not sure yet) Thank you for your time. Sincerely, DownPlay Reviews.