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"A Love Letter To..." is a series in which we cover games deserving of praise. Games that have that extra je ne sais quoi to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pile. We start the series off in no particular order with:

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Rayman Legends (Multiplatform)

At the end of summer 2013, Ubisoft released Rayman Legends, the sequel to the excellent Rayman Origins. At first glance not much is different between the two. In fact, Origins could easily moonlight for Legends in this series. So, why Legends then? Well, on top of the game itself, Legends includes 40 remastered levels from Origins, a fun multiplayer soccer minigame, and musical levels unlocked after every boss defeated. This is Origins Plus.

To gush solely over graphics in a game is to give praise to the low-hanging fruit. Plenty of games with incredible artwork - and hype - have come and gone, only to be forgotten relics after players moved past the visuals to expose the game's shortcomings. Fortunately for us, Legends has its gameplay and charm to match its artistic achievements.

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But have you seen those graphics?

Every corner is teeming with life and wonder. You are typically not left with much time to appreciate said wonder as you frantically race through the extremely tight level designs. The levels are set up in a way where you are likely to play through several times in order to find and collect hidden 'Teensies,' which in turn unlock later levels in the game. Some Teensies are tougher to spot than others, so explorers are encouraged to seek out all corners of the screen for rewards.

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At first the controls may seem a little loose to those coming from the likes of Celeste and Super Meat Boy, but when used appropriately they are essential to reaching what may seem unreachable. Whether it's a boost to a hidden area, or a dash through one of the many time-based levels, the movements are purposeful and deliberate. The game never uses the controls to cheat a player to artificial difficulty. The levels are laid out to master, plain as day.

On that note about levels....

Legends offers some variety other than straight left-to-right platforming. Sometimes you're racing upward to escape being engulfed by (super quick!) quicksand. Other times you're moving in the opposite direction to the finish line before time expires. The "20,000 Lums Under the Sea" areas are a series of level design home-runs.

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So, graphics? Check. Gameplay? Check. Level Design? Hella check. So what else is there? Well, the game is FUN. That's why we play, right? Unless you play for torture, and if that's the case you can find Demon Souls over here behind Door #3. Thanks for playing. Rayman Legends is a blast to play, whether solo, or multiplayer co-op. Witnessing some levels unravel before you at such a frantic pace is pure joy.

On that note about joy...

One of the aforementioned additions to the game over Origins are the music levels. These are levels where a song is played (more often than not is it a parody of a well-known song) and is set up in such a way where you play to the beat. They are too short. They are too easy. They are amazing, and there should be an entire game devoted solely to them. The music levels are a victory lap for Rayman Legends. So confident this game is in its ability to delight.

To access a music level, you are required to complete/unlock the thematic levels and defeat its penultimate boss level. They were clearly a selling point for Rayman Legends, as their demo consisted of one - titled "Castle Rock" - and the song is, well, you'll know it.


Let's be clear here. Some levels are difficult. Some time-based levels are very difficult. Frustration may find those of you who are completionists, as some Teensies require absolute level mastery. This is all to say the game knows what it is, and you know what to expect of it. Master muscle and pattern memory and the game is yours. Or don't. You can enjoy the game repeatedly to your skill level. You can play the mini game with friends. Tackle challenges. Or, unbelievably, go back to Origins within the game to play some 40 remastered levels. There's something for everyone to enjoy,

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To the platform lovers out there, I submit Rayman Legends.
 
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