There are certain people, you for example, who get to choose what they want to do with their lives. And, whether we realise it or not, most of us choose to dedicate our time to the pursuit of happiness.
But here’s the thing, the secret to true, everlasting happiness is… just be happy. Just have a positive attitude and an appreciation of the little things. Take joy in the beauty of life. Now, that doesn’t sound very dramatic or exciting, but happiness was never a mythical creature to be caught and tamed. There is no gold at the end of the rainbow. You cannot feel more happy than you already do. The pursuit of happiness is kind of dumb. Life is about the journey, not the destination (because, let’s be frank here, the only destination in life is death). And yet we can’t help ourselves, we keep jumping through hoops, because we feel like happiness can only really be measured by our achievements and possessions.Videogames encapsulate this conundrum brilliantly. Most of them involve players completing goals in order to progress, with the ultimate reward being completion of the game. However, it is the time spent actually playing the game that is really valuable, not the ecstatic joy of beating it. If you ever find yourself playing a game just to finish it, then you may as well stop, because that game has failed you.
Understanding the balance between gratification through achievements and enjoyment of the experience is something many videogames struggle with, and each genre of game deals with the problem differently.
Rayman Legends is a multiplayer, side-scrolling platformer, and about as linear as you can get. The objective is to run, jump, glide, slide, swim and smack your way through each level. You just have to keep on moving forwards, onwards and upwards. And that’s about it.
It’s also a huge, glimmering explosion of unfiltered joy.
Of course this shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has played Rayman Origins, the stunning 2011 reboot of the Rayman franchise. Origins is a perfect blend of beautiful visuals and weird, funky music, held together by masterful level design and a bold and confident aesthetic.
‘Retro’ games are very popular at the moment, especially in the independent scene, partly due to nostalgia but probably mostly because 16-bit platformers are comparatively easy to make. French developer Ubisoft Montpellier went in the other direction. With Rayman Origins and Legends they have taken the classic 2D platform game and updated it for a modern audience.
Everything about Legends is meticulously thought through, ensuring that the maximum amount of pleasure beams out of the game and into your eyes, ears and brain. It practically bends over backwards just to please you, but it’s so smooth and seamless you won’t even notice.
Much like Origins, the story of Rayman Legends is pretty much non-existent. Rayman and his cowardly sidekick Globox are strange, hedonistic creatures who live in an imaginary world created by The Bubble Dreamer. In Origins, Rayman and his friends accidentally incur the wrath of an old granny from the land of the dead, who spreads chaos into the world, and gives The Bubble Dreamer nightmares (anything The Bubble Dreamer imagines comes into existence). In Legends, Rayman has been asleep for a century or so, and the villains have taken the time to gather their strength and strike again.
The ‘Hub World’ (areas that connect different levels in the game) is an art gallery, with each painting a portal into a new environment to play in. There’s also a bunch of extras, such as unlockable characters, inventive challenge modes and even areas from Rayman Origins. Legends is much bigger than its predecessor, with over 120 levels, each one bursting with imagination and charm. Speeding through each level, often while it crumbles around you, is exhilarating, especially when you settle into a rhythm that’s in harmony with the brilliant, beautiful music.
A notable improvement is the depiction of the princesses, who are all playable characters (once you unlock them). In Origins, the fairy princesses were bizarrely eroticised, in a way that felt totally out of place with the rest of the game, whereas in Legends you actually get to play as an axe-wielding barbarian princess, and it’s awesome.
Rayman Legends is a celebration of art and music, presented with a childlike fixation on pleasure for pleasure’s sake (it’s unmistakably French). Everything about it is bright, bold and joyful, from the epic, over the top musical levels to the ingeniously designed characters and creatures.
The game is best played with at least one other person, so you can help and hinder each other in equal measure, as you revive your friend from death only to accidentally kill them again. While playing on your own will still be fun, you’ll spend at least half the time wishing you could share the brilliance of the game with someone else.
At its core Rayman Legends is about going with the flow, fitting into the rhythm of life and enjoying a sustained happiness, rather than worrying too much about specific goals and achievements. It makes the journey itself an unrelenting pleasure. Legends is carefully designed chaos, that strives for that most noble of ideals: play for the sake of play, and nothing more.