Seldom when people reminisce on their favorite video game characters do they mention Rayman. Taking a backseat with Earthworm Jim and Ristar in the realm of forgotten video game characters, Rayman needed a revision. When “Rayman: Origins” brought Rayman to the second dimension in 2011, it was a breath of fresh air. While most 2-D side-scrollers are mostly relegated to the downloadable space and rarely released at retail, Rayman took a chance and captivated audiences with an eclectic soundtrack and a bright and vivid art style. Does the sequel “Rayman: Legends,” released on Sept. 3, deserve your attention?
That answer really comes down to how much you enjoy 2-D side-scrollers. The plot is fairly simplistic. While Rayman and his pals have been sleeping for 100 years, the Bubble Dreamer’s — who is channeling Cheshire from Alice in Wonderland — nightmares have been running amok and thrusting the world into chaos. Rayman and his friends go off for a collection of rip-roaring levels to save their world. There’s no princess that needs saving, and you’ll forget about the plot half the time, but it does provide a nice framework for the levels, which are some of the best 2-D levels seen in a video game.
It’s difficult to describe just why these levels are so much fun to play through. Each one is filled with colorful and wildly imaginative imagery with exaggerated caricatures. Levels range from standard forest levels to Ancient Greece. There is even a level that is rhythmically paced to the song “Black Betty” by Ram Jam. Each level has this attention to detail that many games, even your big-budget action games, lack.
There are 120 levels in “Rayman: Legends,” including 40 remastered levels from “Rayman: Origins.” Each level can be played with four friends for couch co-op and five players on the Wii U version of the game. This is an extreme test of friendship and coordination, as the screen gets very busy with all the different enemies and hazards that impede your progress. It can be frustrating when one of your teammates runs off while you’re exploring the level and kills you, as a result of the game not wanting the players to be separated. Most of the time the system works, and it can be incredibly satisfying to complete a challenging level. I would, however, regret not mentioning the lack of online co-op with a friend living in another state or across the country. It’s incredibly frustrating that a 2013 video game does not have online co-op, because it limits the game’s replay value.
Boss fights in “Rayman: Legends” are as creative and interesting as the levels themselves, but sometimes it is difficult to know what the game wants you to do. For example: You’re running through a medieval castle and a dragon, with a wicked underbite, starts attacking you. Does the game want you to attack it back, or are you meant to wait for his attacks to be over with? This can result in many a maddening death. Luckily the game doesn’t keep a death counter or number of lives, so you’re free to fail as often as your heart desires.
“Rayman: Legends” only cares about how many Teensies, adorable blue creatures with an oversized nose, and Lums, adorable yellow creatures who serve as coins, you collect. The amounts are tallied at the end of each level and you can unlock new levels, creatures, artwork, “Rayman: Origins” levels, costumes and scratch cards. There is always something being unlocked at the end of every level which creates a wonderful sense of progression and discovery as you’re entranced as to what the next goodie you’ll unlock is.
“Rayman: Legends” will take the average player roughly 20 hours to complete, give or take a few hours, given its two-dimensional side-scroller dexterity and endurance. It’s a wonderful game to come home to after a hard day at work or school, to play a few levels and then feel energized. Wonderfully stimulating and imaginative, it deserves the attention of anyone who has been chomping for a game that isn’t a shooter or action game or a serious character drama piece.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @ImaMeatPopsicle