Rayman Origins was easily one of the most underrated releases of 2011. A game that deserved much more praise and sales than it actually got, this pixel-perfect platformer revitalised Ubisoft?s limbless hero in a classy and beautifully animated way. So when I learned that a sequel was announced for the Wii U, in the form of Rayman Legends, I cried a happy tear.
Then proceeded to play through an exceptionally difficult death run - jumping and smashing obstacles to the rhythm of a rocking soundtrack - without losing a life. That?s skills earned by mastering Rayman Origins
? Land of the Livid Dead, that is. Maybe some day, I shall teach others my skill, for such rhythm platforming action may come in handy for real-life situations. Like CPR or something.
For those of you that were awesome enough to engage in Rayman Origins
, you?ll be walking (or running, tongue flapping in the air and all) through familiar territory as far as gameplay is concerned. Controlling the floppy-haired wonder over chasms, hovering down drops and avoiding bombs, and smashing crates is as slick as you remember. Although the demo I played only featured Rayman, you can bet your bottom that his rag-tag band of friends will be present for co-op play too.
The big twist, however, is that one person can get involved in a totally different type of co-operative play, thanks to the Wii U?s GamePad. Using the stylus and interacting with the touch screen, GamePad users will assume the role of Murphy - that little flying green frog thing that always ends up harassing Rayman - and assist others by interacting with the environment.
For the most part, it means cutting vines so that your platforming buddies can swing across dangers, raising platforms for safe passage, accessing out-of-reach levers so that your mates can progress and uncovering parts of the scenery which may lead to bonuses or secret rooms. In the first area - a swampy, grassy overworld - Rayman could jump on top of a googly-eyed hill, which would then raise after being poked in the eyes with the stylus on the GamePad.
Such co-operative madness is required in some of the secret rooms that I encountered. One room was split in two, with Rayman on one side and a sea of blob-like creatures on the other - the aim was for the stylus-bearer to swipe all these blobs across a narrow gap at the top of the room so that Rayman could collect them all within a strict time limit. No idea what the reward for that is - I can lick Land of the Livid Dead, but I can?t catch blobs. Typical.
Another room shows off Ubisoft?s utter genius in level design - a labyrinth that needs to be rotated by the GamePad player while the platformer attempts to avoid all kinds of deadly spikes to reach a reward at the very end. I also managed to uncover a special room that nobody else seemed to have found - brush away some leaves on a boardwalk and Rayman can smash through some rotten planks to access... Michel Ancel?s ghost.
No, he?s not dead, silly. It appears that in Rayman Legends
, players can leave silhouetted recordings of their characters leaping about a room, and challenge their friends to try and catch them within a time limit. It?s a nice little curiosity, but I don?t suppose that feature will be getting used that often. Unless Ubisoft somehow finds a way of making the whole thing rather addictive.
As the name of the game suggests, Rayman Legends
throws you into some rather crazy fantasy-themed worlds. You start off in a forest, before fighting off pirates on boardwalks and traversing through lava-filled cauldron rooms in a castle. After a race to avoid a toasty death from one of many cartoony dragons (which Murphy can take care of using the GamePad touchscreen), you need to dash through a non-stop stage, jumping to the time of the music and attacking flying grannies in a graveyard setting.
What?s great about this is, that final segment does not depend on the skill of the GamePad user to ensure success. Murphy?s role in this mad stage is simply to tap on gongs that will reveal lines of collectible fairies - which work in helping the runner understand where he has to go.
After playing through these stages, I believe that Ubisoft has done a rather fantastic job in introducing indirect co-operative play in Rayman Legends
. The demo I experienced couldn?t be played without a GamePad assist, but I?m told that the final game will allow for players to run solo. It could well be one of the key reasons to grab a Wii U on launch. Keep an eye out for it.