Best of the Bunch is a monthly column where I review my favorite game offered as part of PlayStation Plus. Even if a particular month’s offerings aren’t my cup of tea, my goal is to emphasize positive elements of the one game that will get you the most out of your subscription.
The idiom “don’t judge a book by its cover” is used to discourage those making snap judgments and applies to a variety of situations and mediums. I learned this month that it could also apply to video games. When I saw Rayman Legends included as part of the PlayStation Plus monthly offerings, I figured I would spend a few minutes with it and ultimately give up on it.
Before this month’s PS+ offerings, I had never played a Rayman game. Growing up I played classic platformers such as the one with the plumbers and that fast blue hog, but at some point, I outgrew these experiences. I found myself at a point where I thought I had seen everything platformers had to offer. After playing Rayman Legends on a whim for a few minutes, I quickly found just how wrong I was.
Rayman Legends’ concept is so incredibly simple that it dispels the notion that modern games need to have fundamentally innovative mechanics to be memorable.Rayman Legends is the antithesis of this. Emphatically so, its concept and gameplay are simple, yet the attention to crafting an artistically proficient world with classic platformer gameplay in mind is what makes it so profoundly excellent.
Like almost every aspect of Rayman Legends, its story is simple, even bordering on non-existence. The player must save Teensies, rescuable blue creatures scattered across levels, to unlock additional levels. I suppose the closest thing the game has to a campaign is its portraits which house the game’s levels. Each portrait has distinctly themed environments which are home to a handful of equally creatively distinct levels. Each portrait’s environment is defined by a completely original and varied art style ranging from a magical forest, to ancient Rome, and my personal favorite, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Each level further builds upon its theme which results in some of the most creative platforming of this console generation.
Levels feature a variety of different styles of gameplay which ensures the player’s skills are always challenged. Traditional levels allow a player to progress at their own pace, platforming, collecting items, and freeing enslaved Teensies. Then there are more hectic levels where the player is continually chased by a wall of flames/vines, forcing them to traverse environments while dodging traps quickly. There is indeed a magical sense of creativity oozing out of every aspect of Rayman Legends that rekindles the sense of wonder and carefree joy I experienced as a kid playing platformers. All obstacles can be surpassed with a well-timed jump or punch, but it’s the placement of these obstacles that add to the unknowing nature of levels. I never knew what to expect, and that kept me engaged and eager to learn how I would have to adapt my playstyle.
For example, nothing could prepare me for the absurd mastery of the Castle Rock level. No level is more indicative of the creativity of developer Ubisoft Montpellier than this. Breaking the game’s traditional soundtrack trend of lovely bubbly tunes that invoke 90s platformers, Castle Rock features a cover of “Black Betty” by Ram Jam. The gameplay style of this level has the player continually running across the tops of enemy shields in tune with the song. Relatively straightforward, but when the player jumps to clear their first obstacle, the real ingenuity of the level becomes clear. The player’s actions line up with the song’s guitar riffs, as the level’s hurdles have been designed with this in mind. Every one of the player’s actions coincides with the song in a way that makes it hypnotic, an intoxicating degree of adrenaline and badass rock n’ roll.
Rayman Legends is filled with countless memorable moments like Castle Rock, and I have not even come close to completing the overwhelming amount of content it offers. Scores of levels, a new co-op soccer mini-game, appropriately titled Kung-foot (soccer/ Kung-fu themed game mode), and an unfathomable number of collectibles. Even the game’s seemingly throwaway local multiplayer component is surprisingly inventive and adapts the core Rayman gameplay in a new, weird and surprisingly entertaining way. Then there’s the rewards system which includes new unlockable character models, extra in-game currency, or collectible creatures which periodically produce further monetary rewards. Frankly, Rayman Legend’s staggering totality of content can feel pretty overwhelming at first. I would recommend picking a portrait and playing a few levels before exploring the additional content.
I was completely unprepared for just how much I would enjoy Rayman Legends. In addition to it being a completionist’s dream come true, it also rekindles classic platformer staples while managing to avoid feeling outdated. It does this through its wildly refreshing creative level design and gorgeous visuals. Its bright and varied level and sound design take this simple gameplay concept and result in one of the most remarkable games of this console generation. Rayman Legends is an absolute joy to play and can be enjoyed by anyone with even an inkling of interest in video games.