Having started in 1995 back on the PlayStation, and then arriving on a multitude of other platforms after, it’s pretty safe to say that most of you have heard of Michel Ancel’s Rayman games. After his triumphant return (after his short excursion to 3D combined with a period of going awol while Rabbids took over) to the realm of two dimensions with the fantastic Rayman Origins, Rayman Legends looks like it’s set to be just as promising an offering.
Being the fifth main entry into the series, this Wii U gem is being developed by Ubisoft Montpellier, the same team behind Origins. Allowing for five player co-op – four on Wiimotes and one on the Wii U GamePad – Rayman’s world has never felt quite so alive. First things first though, and maybe something I just want to get off my chest, but due to the fact that only one player can use the Wii U GamePad to play means that arguments in the household could surely ensue. I say this because I myself was sidelined to the Wii remote while the most intriguing thing about Rayman Legends is what’s going on, on that screen in your hands. Of course, due to the professionalism surrounding me, and TGH’s almighty reputation, I took it on the chin and picked up the all to familiar Wii remote. This also explains why I died a few thousand times in the play-through because I was staring at the guy with the pad, watching how much fun he was having and seeing how it changed and interacted with the game.
I’ll get to what goes on with the GamePad later, for now though I was placed in the shoes of Rayman’s best friend Globox. Playing with the Wiimote is essentially like playing more of Origins, which is no bad thing. Level design is vibrant and sharp, gameplay is frantic and fun, and for the most part you have absolutely no clue as to what’s going on as you hurtle through levels at breakneck speed. It’s during these moments – and those rather frequent ones that lead me to be trapped in a bubble after dying – that you realise that teamwork is paramount to aiding you through each level, and you really need to rely on your mate Murphy – otherwise known as that lucky sod with the GamePad.
On the GamePad screen is an interactive overview of the level. It’s here the illusive being that’s known as Murphy resides, working his wonders on traps, levers and anything that could hinder your progression. While you’ll be a part of the team and the game, your focus is on keeping everyone alive over reaching the end of a level and collecting everything you can. One example of Murphy’s handy skills came about when we were faced with some dangerous platforming – quite literally as some platforms could kill you, while others were safe. It’s here that Murphy’s touchscreen skills came in handy by pointing out the right ones to jump on.
Another example of teamwork could be seen when we progressed into a section of the demo where the GamePad had to be physically rotated to help roll us around the level, meaning we could see and avoid oncoming obstacles like spikes and grabbing metal rings. Interestingly the GamePad also interacts with ‘musical levels’. These levels are fast moving and frantic fun, requiring a lot of focus and well timed jumps to progress – it’s here that Murphy’s quick reactions really help the rest of the team move forward, as if it wasn’t for him then they’d all be scuppered.
The addition of the new Wii U hardware is just brillant as it brings about entirely new ways to enjoy the game. It’s hard to tell how enjoyable it’ll be when you aren’t playing in a frantic multiplayer group, but I’m assuming it won’t be dull in any way. I think it’s safe to say that if you loved Rayman in any guise then you’ll adore Legends, if you were blown away by Origins then you can expect to be knocked off your feet once again, it’s just really rather fantastic. Michel Ancel’s limbless hero is back in a big way, and we couldn’t be happier.