Rayman Legends
Rayman Legends

A fine-tuned spectacle

'Rayman Legends' is one of the most mechanically rewarding and beautiful games available today

Rayman Legends, which released in India last week, is, in many regards, the same game as Rayman Origins, which came out in 2011. That isn’t a complaint but a compliment, as Rayman Origins was one of the most beautiful and enjoyable games of its time.

In an era where grey and brown 3D graphics dominate, Rayman Origins pulled us into a beautiful cartoon world, with vibrant colours and cheerful upbeat music. At a time when every second game gives you a gun and asks you to shoot at anything that moves, Rayman Origins delivered a beautifully refined 2D platform game, which was brilliantly designed to keep you moving and gently guide you in the right direction instead of filling the screen with obnoxious prompts.

Rayman Legends was originally supposed to be an exclusive title for Nintendo’s Wii U console, but it got delayed and eventually turned into a multi-platform release. We played the game on a PlayStation 3, and it’s safe to say that Rayman Legends is every bit as enjoyable, mechanically rewarding, and simply put, beautiful, as its predecessor.

Rayman Legends plays much the same as Rayman Origins; the framing device of the story is literally that you’re jumping in and out of paintings, exploring their worlds and rescuing your friends. The actual story is as pointless as it has ever been in Rayman games, but that’s really just because Rayman is a retro game in the way that so many “pixel art retro games" that are being made now are not; Mario’s story never made sense but tight controls and excellent gameplay are more than sufficient to make up for any shortcomings in storytelling.

You can choose between different heroes—mysterious knights, princesses armed with swords and axes and magic hats that let them float slowly down from great heights, or the eponymous hero, Rayman, who has detachable hands he can throw a short distance to hit enemies, and uses helicopter hair to float. As with Rayman Origins, Rayman Legends has you running across levels, with a lot of split-second timing. In a way, the game is incredibly difficult—there are times when you need to jump or punch or turn before you can even see the obstacle on screen, or the hidden secret area. But the level design is very clever, and if you’re just trying to get from the start to the finish of each level, even a beginner will be able to manage. The game encourages you to replay sections, and collect more Lums, little creatures which unlock more levels and heroes over time. As you get better, you’ll find hidden areas and end up dying repeatedly to rescue a trapped ally.

And the levels are full of things that will kill you. Spikes, lava, enemies, giant swinging axes, ghosts and giant monsters all fill the various levels, and a glancing contact is enough to kill you (you can pick up one floating heart at a time, that lets you take an extra hit) but thankfully, dying is not such a big deal. Instead, you just pick up a little before from where you left off, encouraging you to try just one more time to get a perfectly timed jump.

Death is also the only way to avoid some traps that you can’t have foreseen—you need to die, restart and then dodge before the danger is even visible, which does feel a little cheap, but the game is so fluid and fast paced that it’s easy to just go with it.

Overall, the gameplay works beautifully, and aesthetically, Rayman Legends is a delight. It’s beautiful to look at and the music is also perfectly chosen. It’s not the sort of game that will look impressive compared to the giant explosions of a Call of Duty, but while it looks childish, it expects gamers to actually enjoy a challenge instead of asking to be spoonfed. For that reason alone, it’s worth treasuring.

Rayman Legends is available now on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 for 2,499.

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