My introduction to the Rayman franchise was relatively recent. My first real taste, on the 3DS, was pretty good; I wasn’t floored, but I did enjoy it, and I understood why people liked the franchise so much. My next taste was on the Vita; a heaping spoonful of Rayman Origins really wowed my gaming taste buds, and it’s a title that I occasionally return to. Now, Ubisoft has given me my just desserts with a bowlful of Rayman Legends. Let me tell you; if I was to declare what the definitive platforming experience for the Wii U is at this point in time, I would compel you to order yourself Rayman Legends.
The game begins with the world’s longest nap. Rayman and his friends have been sawing logs while evil has been seizing the opportunity to seize Teensies. Rayman and company must charge to the rescue, braving all kinds of strange environments and dealing with all manner of nightmarish creatures to rescue the little big-nosed blue folk. What follows is an awesome romp through a glorious 2D adventure that is short on story but packed with blissful platforming goodness.
Level design is top-notch and fun – with a dash of the insidious. While not impossible, it’s hard to meet all of the requirements to maximize your score on the first pass. The obvious path through every level is just that, which effectively hides a lot of goodies (sometimes in plain sight). Even though the concept is fairly basic (ie: running and jumping), getting bored is not an option, here, as there are well over a hundred levels chocked-full of variety, making this a fun game to get through – and unless you are some kind of wizard, you will have to run through at least one level at least twice to meet all of the requirements for absolute completion (especially collecting all of those Lums). Pacing is absolutely perfect; new gimmicks are introduced at a more than manageable pace, allowing the player to acclimatize without too many stumbles (related to surprises, anyway).
Suspending disbelief is a job here in Rayman’s world.
At certain moments during game-play, control moves away from the typical stick-and button controls in favour of the touch-pad and motion-based aspects of the Game-Pad. Murfy, one of your pals, gets the spotlight in these instances, manipulating the levels themselves and adding a new dimension to play. During the Murfy levels, you can use the Game-Pad to bug enemies, shift platforms and move large pieces of what’s on-screen, breaking up the norm in a way that cleverly increases immersion. If there was any modicum of monotony, the Murfy sections definitely kick them to the curb. I was very happy with the touch-screen controls, too; for the most part, the control interface was responsive and easy to use.
The love that has been poured into the presentation of the game is obvious from the first frame. If you’re not sucked into the wacky world of Rayman from the intro sequence, then this game is probably not for you. Gorgeous visuals run amok; brilliant animation set in lush environments will give you eye-gasms. Off-the wall 3D bosses add to the insanity, combining form and function by keeping you on your toes (they can attack from any direction). The lively music and cartoonish sound effects accompany the eye candy perfectly, especially in some of the rhythm-based play sequences that shake things up. While the presentation is incredible, what I find astounding is the sheer variety between the levels. In many platforming games, progressing through the campaign results in more of the same – but not with Rayman Legends. What is even cooler is that this beauty is not confined to your television. Rayman Legends can be taken off-screen via the Game-Pad, just in case someone is heartless enough to deny you one of the best reasons to sit on your couch.
Speaking of your couch; if you’re willing to share it, you had best make sure that it can seat many, as the Wii U version that I have been playing supports up to five players for local multi-player goodness (putting it one above Legends on all other platforms). The drop-in/drop-out mechanic works well for party play, as the action never lags or stutters during these moments. While taking on the Murfy sections can be fun as a singleton, having friends along for the ride just makes everything better. The single-player version of events is usually a bit of a wrestling match between human control of the Game-Pad and the AI taking care of the on-screen NPC – which can sometimes lead to a not-so-good ending. With friends around, one would hope that there would be more intelligence behind on-screen characters.
The fact that Globox seems to have a Dong Chim attack is all kinds of awesome.
And even after the single-player campaign and multi-player modes, there are a few extras in the way of the Invaded levels. Invaded takes some of the levels and remixes them, throwing off the player’s mojo by introducing different baddies, hampering the speed run that must be accomplished. It’s a great way to squeeze some more value out of levels that are already really well designed. In addition to Invaded levels, a number of Origins levels are included, letting you re-live the previous adventure to some extent (the difficulty seems to be somewhat tamer than the last go-around).
Up until now, offerings for the Wii U have been hit and miss. There are either fantastic titles (Pikmin 3), or games steeped in mediocrity (Rabbids Land). Rayman Legends is like a big syringe full of awesomesauce that Ubisoft jammed right into the Wii U’s arm to inject some incredible platforming goodness into the console For sheer entertainment value. There is also a huge amount of replay value thanks to multi-player mode and all of the collectibles that await you in the game. No matter how you slice it, Rayman Legends on the Wii U is truly Legendary!