In an industry of brownish, greyish action titles, Rayman Legends stands out like an exotic flower in a nuclear wasteland. It’s a bizarre little flower that keeps changing colors and smells (for better and for worse) and makes strange quacking noises from time to time. It’s weird and every bit as unusual as it sounds, but it is still the most beautiful and interesting thing around. It’s charming, whimsical and always finds new ways to surprise and delight to no end. Setting the weird analogies aside, Rayman Legends takes you on a wonderful journey you’ll never want to see the end of.

Legends picks up approximately one hundred years after the events of the previous game, Rayman Origins. The limbless hero and his blue friends have been making good use of these years of peace by taking a long, long nap. Suddenly they are awakened by Murfy, a flying green creature, who informs them the Glade of Dreams has been invaded by nightmares and all the princesses and teensies of the land have been kidnapped. So Rayman, Globox and the two teensies travel to five different worlds, each with its own set of visually stunning levels, to rescue everyone and to put a stop to the dark teensies and their nightmares. As far as epic stories go, this one isn’t too deep or meaningful; but it doesn’t need to be. As always, this Rayman game isn’t about rescuing princesses or saving the world – it’s about fun.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember that last time I smiled while playing a video game. I’m not talking about just having a good time; a lot of video games are enjoyable in their own way, but Rayman Legends actually made me smile, and even laugh, often. It’s hard not to succumb to its endearing characters and visual style as you run, jump, glide, swim and punch your way through the various levels, or when you get turned into a duck by an evil wizard, or run for your life as a giant luchador eats everything behind you. This sheer variety in gameplay and level design always keeps you on your toes. You never know what the game is going to throw at you in the next level and that constant surprise and wonder is exactly what makes Legends so easy to enjoy, both with good friends or by yourself.

Playing alone and playing with a group of friends result in different kinds of enjoyment. Playing through the game alone (or with one other friend as Murfy on the Wii U) lets you slow down and appreciate the artistic design and amazing soundtrack of each individual level. It’s also the best way to thoroughly scour the level for hidden collectables and secrets. Finding them unlocks lum-spitting creatures for your petting zoo, more playable heroes and even levels from Rayman Origins. So if you’re the methodical type, you can invite some friends over to play, have some fun, and afterwards go back to comb through each level to find everything there is to find.

Playing with friends usually ends up in chaotic mess, in which everyone just punches everyone else and hilarity ensues. Legends also has a few multiplayer-oriented modes, like online challenges and a football (or “soccer” if you don’t know what a foot is) match between the players. They are nice to try a few times, especially if you’re the competitive type, but are mostly unnecessary since the whole game can be one big co-op challenge.

Surrounding all this chaotic entertainment are truly awe-inspiring visuals and musical score. Every world Rayman travels to has a unique style of its own: one is inspired by Mexican folklore while another by Greek mythology. The difference is not just in the visuals though; the soundtrack is constantly changing and shifting along the way, sometimes creating a sense of urgency and at other times a sense of almost surreal wonder. The best levels in the game manage to combine the painting-like art and charming renditions of familiar songs to create a race of beauty and rhythm. Imagine running through a crumbling castle with “Black Betty” playing in the background, every jump and kick coincides perfectly with the beat of the drums. It’s an almost magical experience, and one you’ll want to re-live again and again.

Rayman Legends is fun in the purest sense of the word; even the most difficult parts are never frustrating, because the game never lets you forget just how beautiful and charming it is. Going on this magical journey alone or with friends is always rewarding and delightful in so many different ways it’s impossible to count them all. Be it the amazing music levels, the varied boss fights or the imaginative level design, Legends is probably the best 2D platformer I’ve played in years, and definitely the most fun I’ve had in front of a screen all summer.

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