Monday, January 20, 2014

Rayman Legends Review

Alright, here it is. The last thing I have to review before I can officially close 2013. No more. Done. I can actually get a bit of a break from reviews for a few weeks. But in retrospect, I'm kind of happy that Rayman Legends is the last thing of 2013 I'm reviewing. In a nutshell, this game pretty much sums up what 2013 was all about. Hype and expectation, riddled with controversy, but overall was a really good product. What do I mean by all of that? Well when it was first announced, Legends was going to be a Wii U exclusive game. It was originally going to be released in February, but was pushed back by seven months in order to make ports for other consoles, because Ubisoft didn't think that being a Wii U exclusive would justify the cost of production. Fans raged about having to wait over half a year to play it, made even worse by the fact it was releasing against Grand Theft Auto V, also known as a game you NEVER RELEASE ANYTHING AGAINST. It didn't sell a lot, but it was still a fabulous game for those who were patient enough to wait.

As I'm sure most of your know (and if not poke here to see what you should know), I gave this game my honorable mention for the best games of 2013. My rational wasn't that this game was really damned close to perfection, but more because I didn't actually finish it. A bit premature mind you, but as a whole, I still justify making it my honorable mention. It's a solid game that doesn't do anything to greatly expand the Rayman series, but it instead polishes the series to being a master class 2D platformer. In other words, it's really good, but nothing you haven't seen before.

That's by no means a bad statement mind you. I really enjoyed the original Rayman Origins quite a bit. I thought that it was a refreshing 2D platformer with great visuals, controls, and a lot of collectibles to keep people playing for hours after the game is completed. Legends does the same thing, but on a much bigger scale. The main goal of the game is to complete five different worlds modeled after different settings and collected Teensies, who are creatures captured by the evil Dark Magicians. You can easily beat the game by collecting less than half of the Teensies, but to unlock even harder worlds, you'll need to rescue over 300 of the 400 total Teensies.

I never knew Tribbles could be so violent
So there's a lot of Teensies to collect, so the game has longevity. Well not only is there the main game itself, but Legends also includes half of the stages from the original Rayman Origins, effectively doubling your playtime. It's two games for the price of one! You also get weekly and daily challenges, unlockable characters, and online leader-boards that urges you to go back and get the highest score possible in the least amount of time. But even though it sports so many features, why do I think it's just very good and not on my Top 5 list?

In one phrase; quantity doesn't equal quality.

This game boasts a lot of features, modes, characters, and can occupy players for days, but the most glaring problem is that none of the stages are that interesting. Each level has around 8 stages in it, not including boss fights and music challenges, but none of them feel really memorable. They just feel like obligatory levels that give the game a lot of content, but none of it sticks with you. There's so much to do that not one thing sticks with the player. Origins was a singular adventure that had you going to 9 worlds, and that's all. There weren't any extra modes in the game, it was just focused on providing great level design with great music. 

Speaking of music, I can say that Legends has a phenomenal soundtrack. I would even say it's one of the best soundtracks in recent memory! Every song fits the mood a level is going for (even if the level design isn't as up to snuff), and is the best part of the game. The best feature that the game offers are music levels, which are levels where you have to complete a level to the beat of a song. Every jump, attack, slide, and movement is all to the rhythm of a song, and where you're running in a desert attacking enemies in best to a mariachi version of "Eye of the Tiger", it's impossible to not fall in love with the game. 

ACTUAL GAMEPLAY!!! It's so.... beautiful...
Special mention has to be made of the graphics as well, which are breathtakingly detailed. Every screen of the game looks unbelievable, and are unlike anything I've seen in a while. This goes to prove my point that having raw processing power does not mean that you have better graphics. As long as you have a great aesthetic and style, your graphics will look fantastic. I'd rather take this game's visuals over Killzone: Shadow Fall any day of the week they're that good. 

But honestly, that's all the overwhelming praise I have. I love the music and the visuals, but the actual game itself is just okay for me. It's not a home run, but it hits the ball and manages to make it to third base. It's really, really, really good, but the problems are too glaring for me to ignore. I enjoyed my time with Rayman Legends, but after completing the game, I didn't feel the need to go and unlock the secret levels. That'd require me to force my way through levels that I don't enjoy and are there just to pad out the time. I know a lot of people may disagree with me on that sentiment, but again, I really do like this game. It just goes to show how much level design matter in a 2D platformer. 

Rayman Legends expands on the groundwork the original Origins made, while taking a few steps back. If a 3rd game in the series is made, if it has the level design of the original and the aesthetic of Legends, then we very well may have a strong contender for Game of the Year. Instead, we have a really good game that has very noticeable flaws, but I still liked it regardless. I'll look back on Legends with fond memories, but I'll look back fondly at the art and music than the gameplay. That's why Rayman Legends manages to squeak by with a 4 out of 5. 

And now, a well deserved break. I'll see you all in February with The Lego Movie!

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