Firstly I’ll just say that if you don’t feel like reading a lot of word spam go buy it right now… it’s just amazing. Best game from 2013 that I never played and it would easily come quite close to the top of my 10 favourites for the year. If you love platform style games or are after an excellent remake of a classic then you won’t be disappointed. If you don’t like platformers well, maybe you should try one that is just designed to perfection.
It’s not going to compete with your major releases in terms of appeal or wow factor but, I don’t think it has to. It stands apart from that while also being purely above everything else around it. It does what it aimed to to absolute perfection while also incorporating a lot of interesting elements into it that rather than competing with the design, highlight and extend on the enjoyment.
The level design is just amazing. You get a good mix of various locales that change dramatically from jungles, to castles and places from 20000 leagues under the sea and all these environments are just stunning. Beautiful painted backdrops with an eye for detail as well as many interactable components in the foreground. I never got bored traversing these environments.
The design of the platforming and combat is done remarkable well too. The placement of items for you to use seem to blend flawlessly into the environment. A platform of bamboo within the jungle to jump across, floating platforms and other odd tools. Sometimes, with key changes to the scenario the environment becomes the platforming tool itself like with floating islands bumping into each other or when the world is crumbling around you.
They also mix up the design of these by introducing new mechanics and gameplay for certain scenarios. They are interspersed throughout, enough that the basic platform style of gameplay remains fresh but just giving a new experience and an interesting break. With some of these the gameplay turns into some sort of side-scrolling shooter. It’s a fun diversion.
I love how they also didn’t equate difficulty with absolute precision either. Throughout the course of the game it always seems to give you enough time to react and enough space that you’re not jumping and landing on a dime. There is a good amount of leeway around these actions to avoid the needless frustration while also providing enough challenge. That is an insanely tough thing to get right yet, they have accomplished it effortlessly.
The enemies throughout are pretty easy as well, serving more as roadblocks in a way or even just another challenge of the environment rather than a nuisance. They are all pretty much the same patterns of behaviour with cosmetic changes to suit the current theme. I like this aspect as it blends another threat well into the core controls of the game while keeping the base understanding simple.
The controls themselves are incredibly tight and simple. You have three main skills: run, jump and attack and while some are used in combination they are extremely fluid and intuitive to use. It’s very easy to get into the game because of this, trying out those first levels and then it gradual increases the coordination and difficulty of the levels and their need for these controls. It’s enough that you constantly feel like you are making progress, getting better and faster with your movements but never enough to truly overwhelm as you know the controls and are more perfecting their use gradually. Even in the times where I was getting insanely frustrated, and there were many, I always thought like I could conquer the challenge ahead as it wasn’t asking me to do or know anything I wasn’t capable of without practice.
The progression elements are paced very well too. Most of the areas will have certain restrictions in order to play them but only as a way of ensuring the player is ready. You can unlock areas as you are going through a story, each in turn and watching as the challenge goes up. There is also a cost to some of these places earned by saving the inhabitants. This unlock cost requires you to have knowledge of a certain amount of mechanics and coordination beforehand which also prepares you for what is to come.
These little guys are what will keep you coming back to certain areas and require some more advanced and exploratory play in order to collect. Some will be away in separate areas, through an unseen crack, down a little gully or sometimes they will be in plain view but require a little problem solving to get too. It’s a little Easter egg hunt to get them all.
In terms of progression it’s about unlocking each and every part of the game, exploring new worlds and civilizations and while a lot of this can be done just by exploring the other areas for each point some of them are locked by a certain amount of challenge.
Each major themed area will have a boss fight to overcome but from what I’ve seen they more serve to finalise your time in an area. They also have distinct changes in the usual flow and controls on the game that instead of being about coordination are about understanding the boss movements but the thing is, these movements are easy to understand. They are rather short encounters with minimal phases and with a difficulty level that would rarely overwhelm.
After the Boss fight they also have a more timed encounter with the mechanic requiring constant movement. It’s surprising just how much space and time they give you with these while also make them have that tension. There is usually something that requires constant movement behind you; the world crumbling or a dragon chasing you. These elements slowly catch up with slow movement but will also keep up with your pace with keeping a certain distance behind. These are more about precision but the usual save points are there throughout that keep your progress in case you should make a mistake.
The part I love about these little timed scenarios is just how well they’ve incorporated music into the level design. The play out with a musical overtone that always seems oddly familiar but with a cute twist. Sometimes it seems like each little jump, hit or flourish has a corresponding cue in the music. Your flowing back and forth with it and as you start becoming aware of each music cue to its mechanic you begin to know what is to come. They are a marvellous affair.
After that a lot of your time comes down to perfecting your play within a lot of these scenarios. Through completing these you unlock more and more but, at a certain point you also unlock a scratch it card for each which give you a chance to unlock other collectables.
From these you often get a pet that will eventually fill out a separate little hallway area. It reminded me very much of playing the original Plants vs Zombies where you had a greenhouse full of plants to tend to. Here there is no maintenance mechanics but they do give you a daily stipend of coin every day which, by accumulating you are able to get new characters and costumes to play as.
Just getting a couple of these collectible outfits began my urge to gather more. They don’t change the game at all but are just fun to have with some great costumes pieces. I actually ended up completing some of the major challenges just to get more of these, especially those for the female character. On the last costume unlock Level I think I spent at least an hour replaying it, over and over which took longer as there was no save points with the entire level having to be a perfect execution. It was insane but at the end I actually felt like I had achieved something and had fully tested my skill level within this game.
Lastly I just want to say how much I loved the animations for.. everything. The movements are all so fluid, the facial expression are varied and give the characters a lot of personality that suits their actions or the feel of the encounter and the reaction with these are perfect. I also just love those little victory dances, they’re just so jubilant that the happiness kind of infects you when you succeed, you get happy because they’re happy.
There are just so many wonderful elements here that are so perfectly a part of the game. Little components like the loading screens have a wonderful aesthetic but also some interactable elements. Even after going on for so long here there are still parts of the game I haven’t even scratched on yet. There are daily and weekly challenge leaderboards to compete on for rewards, silly little mini-games, new missions popping up all the time, unlocking levels from the past game and so much more.
Rayman legends really is just the perfect platforming package