Ubisoft returned their limbless platforming hero to a two-dimensional universe in Rayman Origins and two years later the publisher has largely repeated the same perfect blend of action, timing, and loony animation for Rayman Legends. Globox, the Teensies, and even a handful of new heroes will get assistance from Murfy, a fairy originally introduced in Rayman 2, throughout the game.
Despite copious amounts of stellar gameplay on hand in Legends (including the entirety of Rayman Origins in unlockable form), Murfy’s inclusion on any platform other than Nintendo’s Wii U will probably feel like a big sore thumb and one Rayman’s winning formula didn’t need to begin with.
While Wii U owners should certainly check out Anthony Severino’s review on GameRevolution, this review will strictly discuss the PlayStation 3 version of Rayman Legends which misses out on all of Ubisoft’s touch-screen and asynchronous gameplay. In the Wii U version, one player can control Rayman (or a different hero of their choice) while another player controls Murfy with the GamePad’s touch screen. None of that is present in Rayman Legends on PlayStation 3. Where the smart tricks and Lemmings-like asynchronous multiplayer on Wii U pushes players to communicate and work together to pass difficult platforming challenges, PS3 gamers just get to mash Circle.
Every rope that needs to be cut, every switch that needs to be flipped, every rotating platform, all of these operate with a quick press of the Circle button. It’s not that this solution to Ubisoft’s multiplatform multiplication of Rayman Legends is difficult or needless, but that these mechanics are a great deal dumber and therefore less rewarding on PlayStation. Like it or not, you’ll never shake the feeling that Murfy’s creepy and unending grin was meant for another platform.
Regardless of this fact, Rayman Legends does an excellent job of returning to fluid, varied platforming gameplay without letting Murfy get in the way. Finding a rhythm in Legends is even easier than it was in Origins given how buttery smooth every frame of animation moves and reacts to your input. Ubisoft’s Ubiart engine stretches and scales, breathes and waits when you put the controller down, and outperforms many of the medium’s best 3D action games with regard to frame-by-frame insanity.
The music-driven stages exemplify this best, returning players to the mad-dash mentality of Origins’ treasure chest levels. Every jump, punch, swing, and collectible goodie adds to the level’s soundtrack, until you enter a zone of platforming zen. Luckily, players who found enlightenment within Origins will find the same peace in Legends, as a lot of small touches carry over Rayman’s well executed difficulty curve.
Every stage becomes more challenging than the last, but because of Ubisoft’s generous checkpoint system, there’s no harm in trying over and over again. You simply reappear at the start of a sequence with any heart items you may have had seconds prior, and give that one platform or hidden area a second chance. Discovering every hidden treasure in Legends will take players tons of time, offering excellent replayability whether you’re retreading a level with cooperative partners or solo once more.
That said, it’s also disappointing that Ubisoft doesn’t support online multiplayer in Legends (as was the case in Origins). I had hoped that online co-op would make it into the sequel, but as it stands you’ll have to have friends on the couch with you to enjoy multiplayer. If you can get some friends and spare controllers, there’s hours of entertainment in attempting to scale the mountain with three others by your side, even if the camera zooms out too far and you lose a sherpa on the way.
While I can’t fault Ubisoft for wanting to bring Legends to as many gamers as possible, it’s clear that the PlayStation 3 version of the game is inferior to the Wii U version. With Rayman Origins, I was on the other side of the fence. I awaited the non-Nintendo version of the game eagerly and certainly anyone who has seen Rayman’s 2D adventures in HD would agree that the Wii’s standard definition output couldn’t do Ubisoft’s art justice.
But now the shoe is on the other foot, and it’s the Wii U version that reigns supreme. That’s not to say that Rayman Legends isn’t worth playing on PS3 as it’s one of the best platformers you’ll find on the system and more feature-complete than you thought possible.
I just wish there was a more elegant solution for touch-screen gameplay that simply doesn’t translate to platforms other than Wii U, where Legends was conceptualized and built first. If you loved Origins, there’s even more to love here, and if you haven’t had a chance to play Rayman’s return to 2D, there’s no excuse for missing out on Rayman Legends.