by Josh Vollmer
Platformer refers to a game whose play is conducted mostly in the form of navigating levels and overcoming obstacles, such as moving platforms, by running, jumping or use of any other physical abilities made available to the player. The genre is quite flexible. Platformers can be 2D or 3D, they can be easily accessible like the Mario franchise or tough as nails difficult like Super Meat Boy. Often there are other game play styles mixed in as well, whether it’s shooter elements as seen in Contra or Mega Man, beat em up action a la Battletoads or Ninja Gaiden, a focus on adventuring and exploration as found in Metroid and Castlevania II, or even puzzle solving elements in the way of Braid or The Lost Vikings. Many titles also contain collectables for players to seek out, giving players a reason to run through a level multiple times, lending instant replayability. The inherent versatility in platform games is likely the reason the genre dominated throughout the 1980s and ’90s, and was responsible for more top earning blockbusters than any other game style until the advent of the first person shooter. Despite falling to near obscurity in the time since, platforming has seen a resurgence in the last few years with the popularity of games like New Super Mario Brothers and indie titles like Bit.Trip Runner and Limbo. Ubisoft is looking to capitalize on that popularity by bringing back the armless, legless, and neckless protagonist Rayman in Rayman Legends, a direct sequel to the 2011 critical hit Rayman Origins.
Rayman Legends is considered a pure platformer, meaning that there is little to no focus on exploration, puzzle solving, or real combat of any kind. There are bad guys, and although he has no arms or legs, luckily Rayman has hands and feet he can use to punch, kick and jump on opponents to take them out. That’s not where the focus is however, as baddies are relatively sparse and usually go down with one hit. The real challenge in the game is almost entirely derived from navigating the levels themselves and finding all the collectables within. As in Rayman Origins, your primary objective is to save Teensies, little blue-skinned, beady-eyed creatures. There are ten per level, and you’ll need to grab as many as possible on your way through to open successive levels and progress through the game. There are also Lums, flying luminescent balls with hands and faces that are used as a kind of currency in the game, unlocking other playable heroes. Collect enough Lums in a level and you’ll win a lucky ticket that you can scratch off to win more Lums, collectable creatures to display in your gallery, or even bonus levels based on areas from Rayman Origins.
As in Rayman Origins, Rayman Legends makes use of the Ubi Art Framework engine, a unique engine that allows the development team to easily construct and animate what are essentially freehand created assets in the game, lending the whole affair a gorgeously rendered, hand-drawn look. This, along with the brightly colored and detailed backgrounds and environments, breathes true life into the 2D perspective game world Rayman and his myriad of sidekicks and fellow heroes find themselves in. A lengthy roster of said sidekicks is available, and are all playable once unlocked in either single player, or in the up-to-4 player cooperative multiplayer mode. Multiplayer is strictly offline, but will let you and your friends run and jump your way through dastardly traps, and punch and kick your way past huge bosses together. Aside from the regular levels, you can also try your hand at a top score on several challenge maps, including a new daily challenge every 24 hours if your console is hooked up to the interwebs. Suffice it to say, there is plenty here to keep completionists coming back for more.
Originally conceived as a WiiU exclusive, Rayman Legends was instead released on multiple platforms at launch, including WiiU, Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and Playstation Vita. It has now also been released for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One consoles alongside a newly reduced price point, making the game a great pickup at a budget conscious cost. Recommended if you like Rayman Origins, New Super Mario Brothers, or moderately challenging tests of your running and jumping prowess. Ask for Rayman Legends at your local Slackers today.