The Musical Box #27: Game Music Level Design

The Musical Box features 30 articles focusing on game music production and implementation. Edition #27: Rayman Origins

I haven’t been a huge follower of the Rayman franchise since the first one came out in 1995, but I played Rayman Origins in 2011 and I truly think it was one of the best and most innovative (not to mention incredibly beautiful) platformers of this generation. Ubisoft received a lot of positive feedback regarding this game and a sequel was inevitable. Rayman Legends, released in 2013, raises the aesthetic bar even higher, and there is one special use of music that is simply phenomenal, which we’ll learn about here.

Game: Rayman Legends
Released: 2013
Platform: PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, Vita, PC, and 3DS
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Composers: Christophe Héral, Billy Martin

The Set-Up

Normally, the music is composed to match the theme and feel of a certain stage, but this is not the case in Rayman Legends. It appears that the stage itself was designed to match the music! As soon as the stage begins, the music starts to play and one needs to run as fast as possible and overcome the obstacles by jumping, destroying objects, and performing other actions. If the player doesn’t run at full speed, the game is over.

This is very clever, because it ensures that what the player is doing is synchronized with the music. If the player could run at different speeds during the stage, the synchronization wouldn’t be possible, unless the tempo of the music was changed. But achieving great results with tempo changes is not very simple. You can read more on this subject in editions 15 and 10.

One aspect of Rayman Legends that really stands out is the way you can feel that every single obstacle/item in a level is carefully placed to enhance the feeling of the song. The player hears a strong cymbal attack after destroying a breakable wall or even a fast guitar solo that is timed to the collection of items in the level. The level of creativity, fluidity and synchronicity is very impressive.

The Moment

Check out the level “Castle Rock” in the video below. This is also the level available in the demo version of Rayman Legends, which can be downloaded for free.

The Impact

Ubisot Montpellier must be praised for their boldness in creating a title like this. The gameplay is not only challenging, it’s provocative. It forces players to think about platforming in a way they never have before. Music-wise, the developers shifted the paradigm entirely. Music is almost always a servant of gameplay, but in the case of Rayman Legends, they walk hand in hand and create a beautiful, innovative, and rare game experience.

What about you? Do you think this is an evolution of level design combined with music or this approach is too limiting?

Special thanks: Gilliard Lopes, Rafael Kuhnen, Fernando Secco, and Sandro Tomasetti.

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