Rayman Legends Review: Legendary Silliness
While the controls might imply that Legends is a straightforward platformer, the level design will quickly dispel any such notions. Each of the five worlds — inspired by myths and legends both historical and contemporary — has a central gimmick, such as changing characters’ size by jumping through magical trumpets, or pseudo-sneaking your way around security cameras in a high-tech base, but even these tricks are seldom repeated the same way two levels in a row.
While there are plenty of traditional platforming challenges, each world really pushes its thematic concept as far as it will go. The fifth world, based on Greek myth, covers everything from dodging thunderbolts in front of sunny Mount Olympus to navigating a trap-filled minotaur labyrinth, and even outrunning a living tsunami of monsters through the fiery underworld. While some tricks are re-used from Origins, Legends seldom repeats itself.
Where the game does fall into a familiar rhythm is, oddly, often where it shines strongest. Each world is capped off by a satisfyingly dramatic (but not overly-challenging) boss battle, followed by a musical victory lap of sorts. The six much-touted musical stages, most of which have been spoiled via trailers, are simply a joy to play. They’re largely a matter of jumping and attacking when visual cues pass you by, but getting “in the zone” and pulling off every move to the beat is both helpful and satisfying. The music in these stages itself ranges from silly (a mariachi kazoo rendition of “Eye of the Tiger”) to some rock classics performed with great gusto and occasional gibberish lyrics. The music stages also get their own encore of sorts post-game, with a series of 8-bit renditions becoming playable, each accompanied by some sort of retro-styled visual distortion to make things harder.
It’s not just the musical stages that make clever use of the soundtrack, either. A lot of levels have dynamic music, changing from scene to scene, room to room, or even synched to various setpiece events, and the soundtrack is never less than catchy. Legends also has quite a lot to chew on outside of the regular levels, including “invasion” stages — short, high-intensity speedruns based on earlier levels overrun with new monsters — and a special room set aside for daily and weekly challenges, where your results will earn you a reward in Lums (the standard currency of the game, used to unlock more character skins) based on your relative position on the leaderboard.
The challenges themselves are nicely varied too, ranging from high-precision obstacle courses to endless survival runs and a few pure speed challenges, giving you a high-risk goal to reach in the absolute shortest time possible.
One of the biggest differences between Origins and Legends is a shift of focus in pacing. Legends is a game that wants to be savored, while the optimal path through Origins was often a hell-for-leather mad dash to the finish line, emphasized by time-trial targets and the musical Lum Kings. These collectibles temporarily multiplied the value of any Lums collected, emphasizing hitting a racing line and clearing everything as fast as possible. Gone are those in Legends, replaced by moving chains of Lums that only give the full reward if picked up in a precise order. The result is that if you want to cash in on all the best end-of-level rewards, you’ll have to slow down, admire the scenery and try and hit each chain at your own pace.
Another element encouraging players to slow their roll is the Teensies, who replace the Electoons of Origins. In each regular level, there are 10 of them hidden around; a few in plain sight, but often just slightly off the beaten path or hidden by a foreground bush or similar obstruction.
Each world also has a King and Queen to rescue, hidden in their own special challenge rooms, and these might take a bit of exploring to find. While progression through each world is mostly tied to level completion, general progression through the game is based on the number of Teensies you’ve saved, meaning that you’re highly encouraged to scour each level for every last one.
The more intricate, scavenger-hunt-oriented level design of Legends does come at a cost. Origins was praised for its speedrunning potential, with the Lum Kings and time-trial medals providing ample encouragement to rush through everything with practiced precision, repeating stages until you hit that perfect racing line, and there’s definitely less focus on that here. It’s a little disappointing that there are no speed targets to hit in the main levels of each world, but the online leaderboards do cover the invasion stages and the daily/weekly challenges. Ubisoft missed a trick in not letting players share ghosts and compete across all levels, but it’s only a small omission.