I’ve played Ubisoft’s stellar “Rayman Legends” on Nintendo Wii U, PS Vita, PS3, and, now, PS4, and it retains that foundational power of the best platformers in that one can play the same level over and over again with little gameplay or visual variation and still enjoy it. And so reviewing the newly-upgraded PS4 version of what I now consider one of the four or five best platformers of this decade feels a bit unusual. It was great then, it’s still great. If you’re like me and you always thought it was great, you will do so again and enjoy playing it with upgraded graphics and Dualshock 4 capabilities. If you’ve never played it, you are officially out of excuses. Yes, I too am depressed at the fact that the four best games that you could buy right now for your PlayStation 4 are all also available on the PS3—“Battlefield 4,” “Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag,” “Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition,” and, now, “Rayman Legends”—but we’re still waiting for that essential PS4-exclusive. Until then, I’ll keep recommending that you pick up remastered 2013 hits instead of jumping into the pool with the 2014 disappointments.
“Rayman Legends” started life as a Nintendo Wii U exclusive. In fact, that’s how I first played it; at a preview event for the new Nintendo console, where they used this Ubisoft Montpelier game to show off the functionality of the second screen, which one could use co-operatively to help Rayman on his journey. As most gamers know, that iteration of the game proved to be a non-starter, as sales of the console and a few of its games led Ubisoft to release the title multi-platform in August. Each version of “Rayman Legends” seemed to play with the dynamics of the game, using the touch screen on the PS Vita and enhancing the graphics and audio for the PS3.
Which brings us to the PS4, the version that will clearly be the peak for this game until it’s restored and remastered for the PS5 in a decade. Somewhat disappointingly, I’ll be honest, the game is basically identical. One can use the touch pad on the Dualshock 4 to scratch off the lottery tickets that amass collectibles and open levels from “Rayman Origins” within this title but the structure of the game is otherwise identical. I would have LOVED even just, say, a dozen new levels. Imagine PS4-exclusive levels to enhance what was already a great title? It would have earned “Rayman Legends” another star, brought it to an even wider audience, and even forced those who had saved every last Teensie back in August to come back to complete the game again. While “Rayman Legends” has undeniably great replay value—it’s what separated it to a position on our ten best of 2013—something more than mediocre touch pad functionality could have allowed this remaster to really stand out.
How does it look? Just great. The levels have attained a 3D quality with the PS4 graphics engine, approaching Hollywood cartoon-caliber animation. My 4-year-old son loves to watch me play “Rayman Legends” like it’s another Saturday morning offering and the visual polish on the PS4 version makes the graphical presentation even more impressive. This is a GORGEOUS game, one that all platformer developers should play. You know those issues that hamper your enjoyment of other platformers due to weak visuals? Bad camera angles that force you to fall; lack of depth that makes jumping impossible; inconsistent combat because of 2D scrolling weaknesses? None of that is here. None. There are a few levels that feel kind of perfunctory, I’ll admit that fact, but 80-90% of “Rayman Legends” simply works.
What’s next for the PS4? We’ve seen great games remastered for it now with this title, “Tomb Raider,” etc. We’ve also seen some games, like “Injustice” or “LEGO Marvel Super Heroes”, that were essentially unaltered by the transition and could have probably stayed back in the PS3 era. Is it possible that the studios spending time to upgrade and remaster 2013 hits for a 2014 audience are holding the console back, latching it to a system that we all hope we will soon be able to discard in favor of the future. I love these games and clearly adore “Rayman Legends” but I do feel like we’re starting to live in a world of repeats. A time when we’re watching last year’s movies on Blu-ray with new HD upgrades and maybe even deleted scenes when we really want to see something new. I’d give up all of my multi-platform experiences with “Rayman Legends” for just a few new levels.