The lights are on
Rayman Legends. The sequel to the much acclaimed and utterly
masochistic Rayman Origins. Formerly a Wii-U exclusive, now freely
available to everyone except 3DS and Wii gamers. Is it worthy of being
called a legend? Is it even worth buying? Has Michal Ancel finally done
Almost, and it kills me to say that.
This review is for the PC version of the game with bonus comparisons to the PS3 and PS Vita demos.
I love this game. I want you to know that, because my gosh does it pain me to say there are some issues that are big enough that I honestly am taking this game out of my running for GOTY. Rayman Legends, much like the above god-creature thing that created the realm Rayman resides in, is bloated and full of both bad and good ideas tossed around at random with little concern for filtering any ideas it has.
For once, there's some genuine attempts at narrative, for about the first five minutes or so. Rayman and co. are back to sleeping, and it's up to Murphy to awaken them to stop the evil Lividstones (now pirates and mauraders) from taking away all the Teensies. There's also a subplot in relation to Barabara and her fellow princesses (ten in total) and how they're trying to rescue their kingdoms, but the game isn't too concerned with it. Which is disappointing, because what little voice acting is present REALLY works. I could see these characters being the cast of a TV show, and while clearly a deep narrative couldn't be had, we could at least enjoy a funny one. I appreciate the silent approach they're taking with the reboot, but I get the feeling that this could be another Beyond Good & Evil sort of unique narrative that just does its own thing instead of following tried and true stereotypes that every other game does.
Still, all the things that made Rayman Origins a great game are all here. The tight platforming is finally made universally solid with the removal of context heavy sections and a focus instead on response time and player skill. While Origins worked great on PC, some sections were clearly built with a controller in mind and weren't built to compensate. This time around, it's a great fit no matter what platform you play it.I also got to try it on PS Vita and PS3 via demos, and there's really only one control gripe.
Some people have had problems using Murphy, the little frog guy, when not using either the PS Vita or Wii-U. I rarely if ever had a problem with using him, since it's a simple button tap and the context sensitivity is great. It'd be nice to see him respond to more prompts, and using him on your own is genuinely more intuitive, but as platform-specific modifications go, it fits most systems fairly well. Using him on the Vita actually felt smoother and more exact than my previous experience with a pre-release demo at Target for the Wii-U version.
Besides this, Rayman Legends handles like a great platformer, as smooth as Super Meat Boy but far easier to grasp at an early state. The new gameplay mechanics are introduced slowly for newcomers and alternatives for some sections are given, but if you're an old pro you will find yourself already unlocking all ten Teensies hidden throughout each level every time with little worry; especially now that there are mid-level checkpoints. The inclusion of these new checkpoints is subtle and if you don't die, you probably won't notice them, but if you're prone to failure, you'll be glad they're finally included. Now you don't need to complete an entire third of a level before your progress is genuinely remembered.
There are some later levels that have no checkpoints at all, but thankfully most of them are short and the ones that aren't can be skipped, although completionists like me have to cut our teeth to unrealistic amounts at some late-game unlocked levels. Similarly, the difficulty curve is handled far more gracefully. I breezed through the first two worlds in almost a single day, while later levels increasingly got more challenging. When the focus is on fun instead of testing the player, they're still quite enjoyable, and when they aren't... well thankfully you don't have to worry about them so much.
And really, you shouldn't expect to get everything your first time through. Unlike last time, there are over seven hundred Teensies you need to rescue. Not only do they span five new campaigns, but you also get roughly forty to sixty levels from Rayman Origins, updated to fit the new gameplay mechanics. This brings me to a weird complaint though -- as much as I hated some Origins levels for being a pain in the ass, that was part of what made them compelling. In stark contrast, some of the most stressful, insane levels from Origins are now so easy that unless you've never played a platformer before, you can probably see yourself through. One level in particular that I spent maybe half a day trying to beat because of control issues now is so slow paced and relaxed that it almost felt hollow.
It's not something I should have to say, but the team at Ubisoft behind this one really need to work out where to balance the game. The Back to Origins levels, as mentioned, are strangely easy considering you have to sometimes player harder levels to unlock a Lucky Ticket that can unlock them. Meanwhile, some levels, such as the Livid Dead Party campaign, are so masochistically designed they can be downright unplayable and yet never really feel like they have to be, merely that the design team chose to make them harder. This makes me go back to the Super Meat Boy comparison, as there's a big difference. Team Meat built a set core of rules and stuck to them. Rayman Legends primarily does this, but has a habit of upping the difficulty in stupid ways to try to make it harder. Removing checkpoints, making it harder to see (no, seriously), and making a wall of death chase you aren't really what I'd call good design decisions.
Still, it's clear that where it counts, the game design has improved, such as boss fights. Now instead of being totally contrived, opaque, and frustrating, they are built AROUND the game mechanics. No longer are you trying to guess how you're supposed to fight something -- it's the same as any other enemy, it just might present a threat at a certain point so you should duck, grab, or somehow move away from the boss. The final fight in particular is just genius in that you literally have to pick apart the boss piece by piece using your attacks. The pattern-like behavior of the bosses may aggravate a few people, but trust me, it was WAY worse in Origins.
That said, there's a new alternative to the chest chasing levels that either will annoy or endear you, Invasion levels. I haven't played many of them as these are specific speed run variants that are set in the same theme as other levels but are trumped up to be much harder and have no checkpoints. You literally are expected to ace each one in under 40 seconds if you expect to get every Teensie at the end, so it might not be in your best interest to start running through them immediately. Not that the game thinks that, since it likes to remind you every ten seconds you unlocked something new.
It takes up more than half the menu screen..
It might not be a voice over, it might not be an annoying chirp, but whenever you go to the main menu, the game loves to remind you of all the things you've unlocked -- with no way to remove the notices without going to each level and playing it. You can't delete them or hide them, they are always there. For someone a bit OCD like myself, this annoying, not helpful. Not that this is the worst part of the post-campaign content.
No, the worst part is that on the PC version, we have (at the time of this writing) NO SUPPORT from Ubisoft to participate in any of the online features. This is kind of a big deal as this is where all the new content is supposed to come from through endless runner multiplayer challenges. The fact that over a week since release and we haven't even heard a single word about how Ubisoft will be dealing with it, while everyone bemoans the Vita version lacking Invasion levels (even though I'm amazed that was the only thing cut due to the Vita gamestick's size limitations) is just a tad bit insulting. Requiring PC gamers to use U-Play in addition to Steam was bad enough, but this just adds to the list of slights Ubisoft has given PC gaming. I guess we should at least be happy it released on the same day as the console releases. Except that's something that shouldn't be a plus to begin with.
However, my biggest complaint has to be leveled at newcomer, Barabara, and her many princess companions. Now, I tried to overlook this in Origins because the same problem I had there was kind of countered by the fact that, for the Nymphs, it sort of fit, I guess? But no, this time they're going too far for my tastes. Barabara and the majority of her fellow princesses are dressed up scantily and often with their breasts looking like they are ready to tear their tops apart. I don't care if the game isn't about being mature, it could at least ACT like it was made by mature human beings. This is just stupid, unnecessary pandering.
This was necessary? Does this look like Dead or Alive 5?
Two of the princesses actually cover up, but some are so scantily clad that, when they die and turn into a bubble like everyone else, YOU CAN SEE THEIR UNDERWEAR! I don't care if you find this funny or titilating, Ubisoft -- it's tasteless from where I'm sitting. It's handled with absolutely no tact and I even found out they try similar jokes with Globox and Rayman at the highest unlocks, revealing "naked" versions of them with fig leafs over their crotches.
I'm not a prude. I even am one of those people who thinks developers should be a bit more risky when debating on whether to touch on uncomfortable subject matter. But there's a big difference between an adult fantasy/sci-fi RPG and a platformer which is primarily aimed at an audience who is old enough that this pandering should creep them out and another audience that's highly impressionable.
Think about the message you're sending, Ancel. You're saying "oh sure, you can be a spy, but you have to wear a tubetop and pants so tight you can feel your feet getting cold from the lack of bloodflow". Barabara and her friends are otherwise some of the most diverse and proud female characters around. You've got African princesses, Hispanic princesses, Irish Princesses, and they aren't just royalty, some of them are spies or warriors, and they've got great personality to match! Why waste that entire effort of characterization on some twelve year old's idea of humor.
Really, this is what brought down the experience for me. Barbara was my favorite character and I spent roughly 90% of my time with her. She's a really promising character and arguably fits the game even moreso than Rayman since she's actually in sync with the new worlds while he just sort of awkwardly never changes. It's a major disappointment. Unlike the other criticisms I can give it, this is something most people will encounter. I even kind of thought about, if I had a daughter, would I want this kind of stupid sexual idealization slapped in her face? Would I really consider this a justified creative decision?
I wish I could say the music video levels, the core campaign, the creature gallery you can unlock, or anything else rebuked this stupidity away from your mind, but nothing can. Combined with the various continued oversights and design issues, Rayman's reboot run just keeps holding itself back from being truly great. If the team would just stop making such stupid decisions they'd have a 10/10 experience, but instead they choose to just keep smashing their heads into a wall. As such, Rayman Legends gets an 8.25/10 for outstanding effort in face of utter stupidities. I honestly would expect more from the man who created Jade.
Cheers,Paradigm the Fallen
It's times like these that just make me want to sigh for a very, very long time...
Trivia: Right up there with Bioshock Infinite, this was one of my hardest reviews to write.