Rayman Legends : Level design analysis Part 1

Introduction

Rayman Legends is a well known platformer game that was released in 2013. The game features 6 unique worlds, each has its own backstory and personality. Each world has a particular theme that has an effect on the game mechanics. I’ve just finished the first world and decided that I’ll write about the level I liked most in each world, and analyze its level design.

“How to shoot your dragons”

The first world is called : “Teensies in trouble”. The player is supposed to free as much “Teensies” as he possibly can to get the highest score. The player can finish the level without rescuing all the Teensies though. As the name of the level suggests, this level’s theme is all about dragons and fire. The way I’ll analyze this level, is by posting different screenshots with my own comment on it. Although I won’t talk about each part in design, as I will talk about what I find is most interesting. All the screenshots are from a YouTube walkthrough by Rangris Gaming. You can watch the walkthrough from here.

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Picture 1

This is one of the first moments in the level. This part serves as an introduction to the level. It emphasizes the theme the player has already known from the name of the level. The player can the see the fire below him to make sure this level is all about dragons and fire. The way this is done is pretty clever, as the fire doesn’t serve any other purpose. It’s not a challenging fire, as the fire can’t hurt the player in a unique way. The only way the fire can hurt the player is if he falls, which already would kill him even if fire didn’t exist. The player has the opportunity to get the extra life, which indicates that the player will be challenged soon, so he must concentrate.

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Picture 2

The skeletons are put in this place to inform the player that fast reflexes are needed in this level, more than precision.

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Picture 3

This part also emphasizes the theme of the level. The enemy is just like other enemies, there is no special move or attack for him. This change of skin is just for the theme’s sake. This isn’t just it though. I like this part as it has another purpose. The player will need to attack this enemy and stop running. This prevents the player from sliding down. As the player waits for the attack animation to end, the camera will move so that the player knows what’s the right thing to do. Let’s call this from now on “The concept of delay”.

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Picture 4

The player is introduced to the fire that can really hurt him. The player is now presented with 2 choices, a safe one and a challenging one. He can either slide along the chains and ignore the gold coin at the top, or he can try to jump and catch it. As this is the first time for the player to jump in a place that contains fire, he might get hit by it. That’s why the designers introduced the extra life earlier at the start. This is perfect planning and hinting at what awaits the player.

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Picture 5

This part is neither challenging or fun, it’s only purpose is to inform the player that Murphy will be helping him throughout this level.

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Picture 6

This is once again, a safe way to introduce a new game idea. The player is told to move the platform, so he is unlikely to fall on the spikes. Skeletons also exists to give the player a moment to notice the spikes instead of falling on them. “The concept of delay” once again.

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This part seems repetitive at the first glance. Repetition is something designers should try to avoid, specially if it happens in a very small time interval. So why did they make such bad decision? Well, that’s what’s brilliant about it. The designers want the players to ask the same question. The designers want to reward those who ask questions and try to explore. If the player try to go to the left side, he’ll be rewarded with a secret passage that let him free a hidden Teensy.

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These pink and yellow creatures are called Lums. They serve a main purpose throughout the whole game, which is to tell the player where to go and how. As an example, in this part it tells the player how he should jump to get all those Lums. If the player fails, it’s no big deal. Seconds later, the player is presented with the same sequence, but this time it’s fire that can hurt him. It’s no longer an option. Thanks to Lums, the player should’ve learned it. Again, safe way to learn a game idea.

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Picture 11

The designer is once again putting hints for the player. In this part, the platform in the middle is already up in the right place. The player should ask why is the platform movable, why isn’t it fixed? Well, the player doesn’t have to think more. All the designer wants is for the player just to ask simple questions to reward them. If the player just move the platform, he’ll find a hidden Teensy downwards that he can rescue.

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Once again, the player is presented with a very simple puzzle that looks like it isn’t the right place for it. It’s so simple to figure out after what the player has been through. This is just a hint for a secret passage. This doesn’t just make the player feel good about being rewarded, it adds replay value to the game.

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Picture 14

This is the hidden passage from the last image. There isn’t much to say about this part except that it’s really fun. What makes it enjoyable is the fact that it requires both precision and fast reactions. This rarely occurs in the game, as it’s either about precision or fast reflexes.

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Picture 15

This part is just put for the sake of Rayman Legends feeling. It’s a filler, as it offers no new challenge. The decision of the filler is acceptable though, as tickling the enemy would remind the player that he’s playing Rayman Legends, a game that is more about fun than any other thing.

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Picture 16

This might look a little bit normal sequence, but in fact this part shows just why Rayman Legends is playable to kids. This part at first glance seems a little bit hard. The player would probably fall if he doesn’t react fast enough. This is what’s interesting though, if a kid is playing the game, he’d have two choices to make. He will either jump to fall on the platform, or move the platform to the end to fall on it. The fact that both reactions are acceptable, shows how forgiving the game is. The designers want the player just to react, whether he presses the “X” or the “O” buttons on PlayStation, doesn’t matter.

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Picture 17

This part is an example of how music can play a vital role in video games. When the player first enters this scene, music suddenly changes to a faster paced track. The player doesn’t even know that running fire exists, but he can predict it as it’s hinted by the sudden change in music.

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Picture 18

The running fire is now coming into the camera’s view. Although it’s still far from the player, it informs the player that he must concentrate as it’s a fast paced sequence.

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I’ve talked earlier about how the designers introduced the idea of moving the platform before crushing the skeletons, right? In this part, there is no skeletons, the player is supposed to have learned the mechanic, he should react fast and move the platform immediately. This is a test from the designers to the player. It tests both his reflexes skill and what he has learned so far.

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Picture 21

This part is similar to the one before it, the only difference is that now the player should move the platform to be under him, not the opposite. This wasn’t introduced earlier, so the designers added skeletons to give the player a moment to think before reacting.

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Picture 22

The designers add the tickling part again. This is understandable as it gives the player a break for a few seconds from the intense running fire sequence. Brakes are really important in games, but that’s a topic for another time.

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Picture 23

The player can notice that the music hasn’t changes yet, it’s still the same fast paced track. The player realizes at this moment, that this is still a fast paced sequence. The player learns that the towers can fall, by seeing them fall slowly in the beginning. The player can also see a dragon at the background, although it can’t harm the player, it indicates where the player should go.

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Picture 24

This part is really brilliant, and it’s one of my favorite when it comes to level design. The player has encountered the tickling part various times, and all these times it hasn’t been challenging at all. In this part though, with a very simple tweak, it became a hard challenge. The platform the player is standing on falls after several seconds just like the towers, so the player should react fast enough to tickle the enemy or he will fall to the lava. If the player jumps while he hasn’t tickled the enemy, he obviously dies.

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This is “The concept of delay” again. The skeletons doesn’t present any challenge to the player, it’s only purpose is to delay the player a few seconds. This delay saves the player from standing on the next tower, that is then hit by fire from the dragon. The player then waits until he kills the dragon by firing punches, then it’s safe to move to the next tower.

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Picture 27

And that’s it! The level is finished !

Please wait for the next post which will probably be about the level I liked most in the 2nd world, or about Horizon : Zero dawn.

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Author: Omar Hadhoud

A 19 years old Egyptian. Studying Computer and Communications Engineering(CCE) at Cairo University, trying to make his path for a game design career. Indie game developer at the moment. Usually you'll find me writing about games and how I see them as a designer.

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