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Rayman Legends Review

Rayman's newest adventure proves that looks aren't everything... unfortunately.

Review by Jeremy Parish, .

When Ubisoft delayed Rayman Legends from spring to fall, I figured the upside would be that we'd receive a better, more polished end product. So why does this game feel like such a random, slapdash pile of interesting ideas in desperate need of more development time?

Make no mistake, Legends gives you plenty to love. The game looks absolutely gorgeous, for starters. While it runs on the same UbiArt framework that powered Rayman Origins, the overall aesthetic incorporates a more natural, painterly style that helps make everything come off as less of a cheap Flash game... though it does bear an unfortunate similarity to those overly precious Virgin America safety instruction videos (the matador doesn't know how to use a seatbelt -- how zany!). Liveliness permeates every moment of the action, and even the inaction. And Legends excels at wild ideas and imagination.

But in many ways, that unbridled sense of creativity serves as the source of Legends' problems. It's constantly throwing new concepts and mechanics into the mix, but there's no discipline to it, no restraint. New ways to play pop up constantly, with the rules guiding the action often changing from level to level. Yet the game rarely takes the time to roll out new additions properly, instead just plopping them down in front of you. Infinite lives and generous checkpoints allow you to blunder through each new addition, but the introduction of every new element feels completely arbitrary and poorly thought-out.

No, this isn't a mock-up. The game actually looks like this in motion.

Rayman Legends gives the impression of a game whose designers had a lot of fun making it; it's suffused with a genuine exuberance that you rarely see in projects from major publishers. But what I don't get from Legends is any impression that the designers ever stopped having fun long enough to figure out how this mishmash of ideas should fit together properly. There's a lot of "Sure, throw this in, why not?" but not much in the way of, "Does this work? Is this a good idea?"

When Legends' ideas work, they do work brilliantly. Without question, the highlight of the game comes in the form of the musical bonus stages you unlock at the end of each world. Essentially just "endless runner"-style minigames, these levels also double as rhythm games, with the music perfectly synced to every action you take. Jump, slide, swing, stomp, smash: Played properly, these stages become a breakneck musical performance, more theatre than game, but wholly satisfying.

The problem is that Legends' ideas don't always work; on the contrary, they frequently fall flat on their face. The musical bonus levels aren't the only area where the game resembles an endless runner, and the further you advance into Legends' stages the more often platforming finesse gives way to high-speed chases that largely play themselves. These can be amusing -- witness the lumbering beast that eventually stumbles into a pool of magma and gives a Terminator-style thumbs-up as he disappears into the flames -- but more often than not they degenerate into the low-stakes trial-and-error philosophy that defines so much of the game.

And then there's Murfy, where the game bottoms out. Since Legends was originally designed for Wii U, Ubisoft naturally felt compelled to add some platform-specific features to the game. What they settled on was a series of iOS-style stages featuring an autonomous character named Murfy. I can't begin to describe exactly how much I hate these stages. They're clumsy, unimaginative, and generally not fun. Worse, Murfy's levels represent nearly half the game's content. You can't properly complete the game without slogging through most of them, and it utterly destroys the experience.

You like trial-and-error design and rote memorization, right?

Murfy's levels follow in the spirit of games like Lemmings or the recent Mario Vs. Donkey Kong titles, with a self-sufficient character completing the stages of his own volition. Your task as his little flying buddy is to use the touch screen to cut ropes, tap monsters to stun them, move platforms, and basically clear a path for him. Unlike the rest of the game, Murfy's stages tend to feature too little variety, constantly retreading the same material and challenges over and over again. They're often infuriatingly clumsy, especially any time they bring the GamePad's accelerometer into play.

In fairness, Murfy's stages only suffer this problem on Wii U; on other platforms (save Vita), they play out as normal stages crammed with quick-time events, with the player forced to simply pressing a button at specific moments to allow him to advance. It's an improvement, but a nuisance all the same.

The whole of the Rayman Legends experience can be summed up in an early stage called "What the Duck?": At the beginning of the level, Rayman is transformed into a duck. This radically changes the nature of the game's controls, forcing you to learn to play in a completely different way than usual. But the entire duck mechanic is completely thrown out the window almost immediately as the level changes into nothing more than another Murfy stage. Playing as a duck could have been interesting had the developers been willing to to commit to it, but they weren't. Instead, it amounts to just another half-baked gimmick of no consequence.

The constant intrusion of both Murfy's stages and the constant running segments gives Rayman Legends the feel of a game whose designers really wanted to make a mobile app but were stuck creating a proper packaged retail product. This sensation is reinforced by the constant intrusion of pop-up notifications alerting you to the game's endless succession of unlockables and bonuses. Unlockable goodies are hardly new to games, but Legends constantly throws them at you and nags you about their presence. Individually, these are trivial nuisances at worst, but they add up quickly.

To be fair, I think most people will be completely fine with Rayman Legends' erratic personality. I can see where the lush artwork and eager spirit of inventiveness could make up for problems like those wretched Murfy stages and level design in which mastery boils down to brute force repetition. Ask yourself, what do you want from a game like this? Personally, I gravitate toward crisp controls, smart design, and rewarding challenges -- features frustratingly absent from Rayman's latest adventure.

I really wanted to like Rayman Legends -- but all the pretty art and good intentions in the world don't make a great game without a touch of restraint. Legends doesn't lack for neat ideas, but it needs more polish to be truly entertaining. And I certainly wouldn't complain if someone dropped the hard disk containing Murfy's stage data onto a bulk eraser.

2.5 /5

Rayman Legends Review Jeremy Parish Rayman's newest adventure proves that looks aren't everything... unfortunately. 2013-09-03T08:00:00-04:00 2.5 5

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Comments 23

  • Avatar for twopenny #1 twopenny 4 years ago
    I'll be the first to admit that I'm terrible at videogames--I anticipate and accept failure--but I stop having fun when I don't understand the reasons for that failure. This was a problem for Rayman Origins, absolutely, and I often had to put the game down for long stretches of time to recharge. Don't get me wrong, I love it to tiny bits, but it often feels like the something of an abusive relationship.

    It's disappointing to hear that these new levels aren't as tight as they could be, given the delays and all that, too. And what madness led them to develop unique features for just one level--given how long those levels generally are... that's madness, I say!

    I'll probably end up suffering through Legends because it's just too damned beautiful and I'm weak; at least now I'll keep my expectations in check.

    Time to drown my sorrows in some Super Meat Boy.
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  • Avatar for denis09 #2 denis09 4 years ago
    I'm curious too see if Legends is really worthy of this much trashing, or if the review was written on a bad day.
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  • Avatar for denis09 #3 denis09 4 years ago
    Deleted September 2013 by denis09
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  • Avatar for Thusian #4 Thusian 4 years ago
    Did you play the Wii U version Co-op at all? I heard Jose at IGN say that the Murphy stages are actually fun with a human playing both sides of the equation. I wonder then if its a case of a game tuned for two players all the time suffering due to the need to plug in a way to play it single player. My wife and I have played the challenge app a bunch together and we plan to play the entirety of the game co-op so I wonder if my experience will be different given I can communicate my plans to a person.
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  • Avatar for Maphis #5 Maphis 4 years ago
    I got this over the weekend and I can absolutely attest to the Murphy levels being tedious. When played with friends they're fun, as you can communicate with the other players and get them to check out secrets and find teensies, with the AI however they move incredibly slowly and if you miss a secret, well, you'd better kill them and start over.
    It got to the point where when playing alone I was actively grimacing when I saw the next level featured Murphy. I loved Origins and grabbed every single collectable and beat all the time trials, I doubt I'll do the same for this one just because of these stages.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #6 jeremy.parish 4 years ago
    @denis09 I actually wrote the review a week ago but held off on publishing it so I could go to PAX, clear my head, and come back to get a fresh perspective. Turns out I still hated playing Legends.
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  • Avatar for rodrigodesousatrinda #7 rodrigodesousatrinda 4 years ago
    Wow, this surprises me. I haven't downloaded the game yet, but I had a great time when playing the challenge app for Wii U and the demo. Jeremy, what about co-op play with Murphy on Wii U? Have you tried it? The stages I've played so far were fun, but I don't know about the full package. Also, can you play with the quick time events from other consoles on Wii U?

    Thanks! That's a controversial, but good review :)Edited September 2013 by rodrigodesousatrinda
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  • Avatar for docexe #8 docexe 4 years ago
    @Thusian I played a demo of Rayman Legends on a store a month or so ago, and the Murfy stage available was genuinely horrid in single player, mostly because the AI of the CPU controlled character is incredibly bad. The thing is I can see how these stages would actually be really fun if played in co-op, and a few other previews and reviews I have read seems to attest to that. But even if that is the case, honestly this is a design oversight on Ubisoft’s part: Stages and features that were designed specifically with co-op in mind should NOT be available in single player mode, neither the single player campaign should force you to traverse them in order to complete the game.

    I don’t doubt my brother and me would have a blast with Rayman Legends, as we enjoyed other co-op platform games like New Super Mario Bros. Wii and DKC Returns. The problem will be with people who don’t have anyone else to play locally.
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  • Avatar for touchofkiel #9 touchofkiel 4 years ago
    Not entirely surprised. People fawned over Rayman Origins because it was competent, but mostly because it was gorgeous. It didn't change things up as much as it sounds Legends does - you had some atrocious swimming levels, dull boss fights, and memorizing-necessary sidescrolling shooter levels. But for the most part, it was content to add little abilities - like changing size - that never really amounted to much.

    But it was never particularly compelling for me. This review could pretty much apply to Origins as much as Legends, I think. I tried both the console and Vita version of Origins - I could only be bothered to play it on Vita. I suppose it went down much easier in smaller bites.
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  • Avatar for jeremy.parish #10 jeremy.parish 4 years ago
    Yeah, unfortunately, I've only been able to try co-op at press events. It's not as terrible as soloing it, but it's not particularly good, either. So, I had to slog through a ton of Murfy stages on my own in order to review this. There's still one last world I have yet to unlock because its entry price requires you not only complete all the basic levels, but all the Murfy levels as well... and unless you complete those perfectly, you also need to play through a bunch of the unlockable Origins stages (which you acquire by random luck through lottery tickets).
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  • Avatar for Thusian #11 Thusian 4 years ago
    @jeremy.parish fair nuff, we can agree to disagree on the not particularly good for the co-op. I think@docexe had a fair idea saying it should be a separate mode might have addressed it somewhat, but it is what it is. As for not having someone to play with, I married the Player one to my Player two so I never have to worry about that again.Edited September 2013 by Thusian
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  • Avatar for Thusian #12 Thusian 4 years ago
    @jeremy.parish fair nuff, we can agree to disagree on the not particularly good for the co-op. I think@docexe had a fair idea saying it should be a separate mode might have addressed it somewhat, but it is what it is. Cheers.
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  • Avatar for madhair60 #13 madhair60 4 years ago
    I'm finding it an absolute blast, personally (PC version). Good review nonetheless, especially the points about "What the Duck?" which was one of the weaker stages.
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  • Avatar for jmroo #14 jmroo 4 years ago
    My wife "plays" New Super Mario Bros. with me, but by "plays" I mean she goes in the bubble and stays there the whole time to create an illusion of playing the game with me.
    We've played the Legends demo on multiple occasions and she goes starry-eyed and giggly at how she can actually contribute to the game. We found out pretty quickly that the Murphy stages take quite a bit of practice and a connection between the players to get good at them and get through them quickly. Perhaps the main problem with the Murphy stages is they should just be viewed as a multiplayer mode, and then their value begins to shine.Edited September 2013 by jmroo
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  • Avatar for curryking3 #15 curryking3 4 years ago
    I get the impression of incoherence from Rayman Legends as well.

    But I really can't tell whether that is just due to the offbeat style of the art or something else.

    Looking forward to playing this though.
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  • Avatar for Captain-Gonru #16 Captain-Gonru 4 years ago
    The reviews for this have been all over the place. Having only played the demo and Challenge app on Wii U, my reaction has been "meh", for what that's worth.
    I will say that I didn't hate the Murfy levels in the same way that Jeremy and some of the other posters did. True, the AI needs a bit of guidance, but the secret areas can still all be reached.
    But, that's why you read a few different reviews first. "One man's waste is another man's soap."
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  • Avatar for LizaH #17 LizaH 4 years ago
    Such a Horrible review, aside from the fact that you're undermining many of the game's improvements and merits, you're actually criticizing it for having too much variety, oh Please, one of the main reasons why people get bored from video games is because of a lack of variety, yet when a game has a lot of variety, you bash that? I've seen many mixed reviews for Rayman Legends, but at least the reviewers gave reasonable and valid points as to why they didn't like the game, I haven't been on this site for a couple days and I can see why so many people are leaving, I think I'll just move to a site that knows how to actually review games.
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  • Avatar for Sorenator #18 Sorenator 4 years ago
    @LizaH I agree, such a crappy review, although I think there may be too much variety, it's still remarkably fun anyways, and I think this so called twit of a "reveiwer" should be fired. it's one thing to present your opinions, but to be present your (crappy) opinions as fact and ignore everything else is just stupid.
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  • Avatar for EnderTZero #19 EnderTZero 4 years ago
    @LizaH It sounds like you're not looking at the game as a contained product, something more like a mobile game or a minigame collection where the goal is to make sure people don't get bored. This isn't a timewaster, it's a product in a narrative medium and it needs to be a complete experience that shows authorial direction as well as having space for emergent and experimental material.

    Its job isn't to keep you occupied or entertained, it's supposed to share something with you, and if the narrative (and by narrative I mean something a lot bigger than just 'story') it's trying to share keeps changing without purpose, it deserves a middle-of-the-road review. Plus, speed platforming where you just need to know when to hit jump and for how long gets pretty old when it isn't used sparingly.
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  • Avatar for denis09 #20 denis09 4 years ago
    @jeremy.parish Oh well, my first five hours with this has provided some of the finest platforming fun since SMG for me. The gamepad sections border on frustration every now and then, but so far are mostly good fun too (single player for me so far).
    I do value an outlier review though, it's much too frequent to see reviews clustering unnaturally wrt scores and opinions. Gaming journalism needs to be more honest, and not going with the stream is a plus in my book, regardless if I disagree on the opinion or not.
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  • Avatar for pieman7997 #21 pieman7997 4 years ago
    Here's the thing reviews aren't mixed on this game. You're the only mixed review on it. Look at the metacritic! Legends hasn't scored below an 8.5 except here.
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  • Avatar for jerrylynn05 #22 jerrylynn05 3 years ago
    Best played on the Wii U! It will make you want to buy a Wii U!
    I want to point out what a Fantastic game Rayman Legends is for the Wii U!
    This game will make you want to buy the Wii U as the gameplay on the game pad is well worth it!

    Now to you sir, Jeremy Parish. Are you sure that you are fit for your job? This is the most negative review on a game that works and works well for all ages.
    Did you crawl from under a rock? Fall out of bed and hit your head?
    Just asking cause this is the most "crap ton" of a review I have ever seen!
    Maybe your website is under contract with PS or Xbox and try to lower the Wii U sales but this is the most one sided POS review I have ever seen!

    Stop trying to give the Wii U and Rayman Legends a bad name. This game is 100 times better than any Mario game. It's even better than Super Mario 3D world.
    Oh and the Wii U has the most triple A titles out there at this present time with more to come.

    I think you're in the wrong kind of work for the fact that you can't even give a decent review to a game that should have been in the running for game of the year last year.
    Find another job. Good day sir.
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  • Avatar for equalsign #23 equalsign 2 years ago
    @jerrylynn05

    Jeremy Parish has been in the games journalism industry for a very long time. He's well respected as a reviewer and editor. Not everyone has to like the same games as you. The quality of a review isn't determined by its standard deviations from the metacritic mean.

    I think it's bizarre to say that he might be trying to lower Wii U sales by reviewing Rayman Legends poorly. The game had a simultaneous multi-platform release.

    I spent hours trying to enjoy Rayman Origins, but ultimately it wasn't for me. I thought I might enjoy Legends, but after reading this review I knew I wouldn't enjoy it either. The faults he saw in Legends were the same ones that prevented me from having fun in Origins.

    However, Jeremy Parish gave Hyrule Warriors a "so-so" review and score. I read his review and realized that I would enjoy it more than he did. His review sold me on a game he didn't even really like. I think that says something very positive about the quality of Jeremy's reviews and writing.Edited February 2015 by equalsign
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  • Avatar for Sherwoodforest #24 Sherwoodforest 2 years ago
    What a horrible review. You completely overbloat any criticisms you have (Practically all of which are positive aspects you've twisted into your own criticisms. Too much variety? Really?), while entirely ignoring everything else about the game. "crisp controls, smart design, and rewarding challenges -- features frustratingly absent from Rayman's latest adventure." I find it amazing how everything you stated the game lacks, the game is a abundant with, and anyone else will tell you such. Especially the part about the controls. You might be the first person I've ever seen say Rayman Legends lacks crisp controls - It is one of the most fluidly controlling Platformers ever made.

    Also what a dumb thing to say in the opening "That helps everything come off less like a cheap flash game". So basically any flat 2D Artstyle is like "A flash game"?

    Frankly I think much of your unjustified criticism comes from your own failures within the game, evident by how you describe the areas which supposedly "Play themselves" (The running areas) as being Trial-and-Error. Except what was actually the case is that you sat back thinking it would play itself for you, only to get smacked in the face for not paying attention. Most of the running areas I actually breezed through on my own intuition.

    The only real criticism you've got is the Murfy levels, which only applies to the Wii U version, on the other versions they're actually great. But what's awful is that you outright lied stating they take up almost half the game. Did you even finish the game? If you did you surely would've talked about the final living dead party world.
    @equalsign

    To be honest, Origins and Legends are actually extremely different outside of how they control. They are very different in how the levels are designed and they overall flow. So much so I could honestly imagine someone not so much liking Origins but loving Legends. I personally love them both for completely different reasons.
    @EnderTZero

    Legends is a contained product. And looking at it as such it is an undeniably excellent platformer. The constant variety is not so much a problem as it is an inconsistency, and at the end of the day most of what you're doing in platforming is jumping, and it remains as such in the speed platforming. The fact of the matter is the speed platforming in the game is excellently designed and unparalleled by other platformers.Edited 7 times. Last edited September 2015 by Sherwoodforest
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