Platformers are a genre I hold near and dear to my heart. From playing Spyro and Jak as a child, to shooting and jumping through Uncharted, there is nothing I enjoy more than a good hop from one floating island to the next. But in this new and scary generation that prides itself on blending genres, can a classic platformer stay on top? This is the question that Rayman Legends hopes to answer. It challenges the 2d game in many respects, showing new perspectives in its level design. But by the end, I found myself asking, is this a fun game? Ten years ago, the simple answer would be yes. Sadly, after being sucked in to dozens of new, more unconventional titles, this sort of gameplay feels old. Even more than that, the innovative new feature, clearly designed for the Wii U, brings no change to the PlayStation 3 version.
The Good Ol' Jump and Punch:
From the get-go, Rayman Legends throws you into a traditional romp. You can punch, jump, and becoming a gliding helicopter as Rayman; a standard fare to say the least. As you traverse each level, things change consistently, keeping the action fresh. By the end, you'll be running through stages with ridiculous and crazy traps and obstacles constantly challenging your traversing prowess. Switches need to be pressed, spikes need to be dodge, and most importantly, bosses need to be figured out. And the boss fights are phenomenal. Each one feels like a puzzle, a la' Shadow of the Colossus. For example, a boss named The Luchador requires careful timing and precision, only figured by studying his movements.
Also of note is co-op play, which seems to hold the optimal experience. Each level becomes a competition, with players viciously racing for the collectable orbs. If you played last year's Rayman Origins, this should all be familiar.
What isn't familiar is the inclusion of Murfy. Murfy is a flying bug that can help open doors and solve certain puzzles for you. Unfortunately, this feature was specifically made for the Wii U gamepad, adding intuitive touch motion. Since I was playing this on the PlayStation 3, it felt more like an unnecessary addition rather than a new trait.
For all its smart level design and great bosses, it feels old. The standard running, jumping affair just doesn't hold the same novelty it used to. The gameplay is still fast and fluid, it just doesn't find a foothold in the modern generation. Luckily, its visuals do.
That's Not All, Folks!:
When I turned on Legends, I felt like I was playing through a classic cartoon. The slapstick humor is extremely reminiscent of shows like Angry Beavers and The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show. Ubisoft Montpellier have done a fantastic job bring the game to life. And this, is what sets the game apart from other platformers. The vibrant colors, the whacky atmosphere (including one point where you are listening to a mariachi rendition of "Eye of the Tiger"). These little additions make the game feel magical, which is an achievement all its own.
Platformers are a loved but sometimes repetitive art. Rayman Legends is a competent example of the genre, but not one that belongs in the here and now. The art design is fantastic, bringing a vibrant colorful atmosphere rarely seen in games today. But the gameplay, while both challenging and intuitive, feels dated. Still, I would love to see more titles like this, but maybe something that seeks to change rather than perfect. As well, the addition of Murfy seems out of place. Perhaps the little fellow should stay dormant for awhile.