Rayman Legends Hands-on (WiiU)

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When Rayman Origins was finally released in 2011 after a lengthy development period I got to play what I felt was one of my dream games – in my review of Michel Ancel’s latest title I said it was a game “that combines the speed and precision of the best Sonic games with the ingenuity and flow of a classic Mario adventure” and that it was “fit to bursting with sights and sounds of utter delight and spellbinding charm to spare.”

On release, however, and as reviews continued to rave, there was a lot of talk about how Rayman Origins sold rather poorly and there was a lot of doubt over the future of the series. The announcement of Rayman Legends for Nintendo’s upcoming home console, the Wii U, changed all of that and I was personally blindsided by the reveal. Even though I thoroughly enjoyed Origins, Legends seemed like a simple continuation of the disembodied character’s latest adventures so I was a little less excited about it than I should have been.

When I got to actually play Rayman Legends at E3 recently, that all changed. Mostly.

Rayman Legends Screenshot 1

Lisa and I were able to play a few different levels of Rayman Legends on Wii U co-operatively as we took turns using the Wii U GamePad and the Wii U tablet to take control of different aspects of the action. While Rayman Origins featured four-player co-operative (and in some cases, competitive) multiplayer where players would help each other navigate the high-speed, manic 2D platforming levels, Rayman Legends goes a few steps further in this regard.

Four-player couch co-op play is back in Legends and allows everyone picks up a WiiMote or Wii U GamePad to jump in, but a fifth player is able to use the Wii U tablet to take control of an all-new character to the Rayman universe, Murphy, a flying… ‘creature’ that mostly resembles a fly in movement, but a lovable ogre in appearance. Murphy’s sole purpose is to interact with the environment to make other players’ lives more easy (or difficult) by slicing through grass to reveal hidden extras and extending platforms for others to traverse.

Rayman Legends Screenshot 2

Rayman Origins’ multi-layered levels also return and in the section we played, Murphy was able to slingshot players into the background to help them continue the adventure. Grabbing enemies to stun them (to allow other players to beat them up), removing obstacles, hitting switches and increasing the value of pick-ups is all in a day’s work for Murphy!

What I would call ‘innovative’ use of the Wii U tablet came a little later in the Rayman Legends demo as I rotated the tilt-sensitive controller left and right to rotate in-game obstacles around in a circle, such as a spiked platform, that Lisa had to navigate over. Timing and in-person player co-ordination is definitely required to get through a few of these tricky areas – if a player jumps too soon or runs to far, or Murphy rotates obstacles too quickly or too slowly, you’re going to end up in the spikes.

Rayman Legends Screenshot 3

The unique use of the Wii U tablet in Rayman Legends was further demonstrated during a particularly intense and secretive platforming section. Lisa was still controlling Rayman, but as Murphy, I was tasked with sliding out a series of platforms for her to jump onto. The twist, however, is that it’s only revealed on the tablet’s screen which platforms are the right ones to use to navigate over the hot, hungry lava below, so Lisa was dependant on my abilities to get across.

If we thought any of that was tricky or intense, however, when we happened upon a secret (completely optional) level our standards for ‘difficulty’ were soon reset. I once again needed to rotate an object, only this object was the entire navigable level filled with spikes and areas of safety, too. Working together, I had to carefully rotate this level around to make the safe areas accessible, while poor ‘ole Rayman had to carefully jump from place to place to get to the end. We didn’t make it.

Rayman Legends Screenshot 4

Not all of the secret levels will be this dire, however, and one bonus area we discovered asked us to collect as many little creatures as we could in the space of a few seconds – on the tablet, I was frantically flicking the creatures over to the left of the screen, while Lisa manically jumped about grabbing them. This was a whole lot more easy going than the level full of spikes, but, again, we didn’t make it. I need to work on my screen flicking skills.

The coup de gr