"Rayman Origins" was one of the most under appreciated (but far from underrated) platforming titles of this past generation. From tight game mechanics to its drop dead gorgeous art direction, many gamers simply missed out on Ubisoft's contribution to platforming bliss.
Luckily, the people over at Ubisoft Montpellier were given the green light for a sequel: "Rayman Legends." Originally intended to be released as a Wii U exclusive last February, the game was intentionally delayed in order to make it a multi-platform release. Bitter feelings from Nintendo fans aside, the delay has brought the title to all available platforms while raising and important question from fans; "was it worth the wait?"
On first play through, the answer to that may be based on the platform you're playing on. As mentioned, this title was built (and ready to ship) as a Wii U exclusive. Because of this, key features, levels and mechanics were designed around the use of the Wii U gamepad, uses that set a bar at just how well the gamepad can be utilized in both a single and multiplayer experience. That's not a blanket statement, either. The developers over at Montepellier have manage to surpass even Nintendo in regards to hardware utilization with Rayman Legends.
Sadly though, because of these Wii U exclusive features, what are brilliant sections of touch and motion based levels turn into boring, drab QTE sequences on all other platforms. It's not a fault of the hardware or developers; it’s just simply the effect of a late in development port.
But since this IS the Wii U version, let’s talk about some of those gamepad features. From off screen play to controlling the Murphy character via touch pad (both in single and multiplayer mode), the gamepad adds a level of depth and complexity that changes the dynamic of how platformers can and should be played. The running sequences that require players to open up sections of the map with Murphy while another player makes their way through obstacles are absolutely brilliant.
Outside of these Wii U specific levels though, the game remains true to its intended form on all other platforms. Whether playing on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC or Vita, Rayman Legends offers brilliant level design, gorgeous visuals and absolutely fantastic music-based running stages. The latter more often than not raises the question; "has Ubisoft just out did Nintendo at their own game?"
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though, as the game does have its faults. For one, those looking for a deep, story driven experience need look elsewhere; this game is designed around pure player enjoyment; if you want a story, go read a book.
Character design is questionable as well, not necessarily in the visual department, but speaking in terms of in-game functionality. It's assumed this is done in order to balance level and game design accordingly, but a little variation in the character's abilities could have added a nice learning curve for the more dedicated player. If anything, the lack of depth in character specific abilities over simplifies the experience, leaving the players character choice based on aesthetics alone.
Simplicity is not a bad thing though, and in many ways “Rayman Legends” fixes the core issues players have come to discover with the other major platformer on the console: The New Super Mario Bros. series. The removal of a "life" counter plus the ability to run through friendly on-screen characters make this a much more enjoyable, casual experience for platforming fans, especially in a multiplayer setting.
That simplicity comes with its faults though. As fluid as these levels can be, the design is not as "tight" as the good ole' plumbers. Because of this, the more hard core "speed run" platforming fans may find the lack of depth a little off-putting. That's not to say you can't speed run in Rayman Legends, as there are levels and challenges specifically designed to do so. The difference is the level of satisfaction you get from performing one in comparison to the other.
Regardless though, these faults are catering to the minority and, in all honesty, pulled for the sake of objectivity. At its core, Rayman Legends is an absolute master piece that can stand with the best the genre has to offer both past and present. From the beautiful backdrops, hilarious animations and glorious melodies, Rayman Legends surpasses the bar Rayman Origins has set and raises it to an unprecedented level.
So, was it worth the wait? That question can undoubtedly be answered with a "yes." At its worst "Rayman Legends" is a truly blissful platforming experience. At its best, "Rayman Legends" surpasses even Nintendo when it comes down to pure, unquestionable platforming glory. Truly legendary, indeed.
Positives - Beautiful in every sense of the word. Worth while Gamepad applications. Multiplayer platforming done right.
Negatives – Core mechanics could be deeper. Non-Wii U versions suffer.
Should you buy? - Yes, Rayman Legends is one of the best titles on the Wii U and the best platforming title on other platforms.