Eurogamer Expo 2012: Rayman Legends hands-on
If many a relationship was broken last year by backstabbing co-op shenanigans in Rayman Origins, then the frequency of unfriends on Facebook might just see another spike come November 30th. Rayman’s back, and this time the introduction of the Wii U Gamepad allows for an extra level of creativity to your platforming betrayals: Slice a rope whilst Rayman dangles over some lava, slam a wall of spikes into the ground as he passes underneath or move a platform slightly out of reach after he’s already committed to a fateful leap across a chasm. It’s pretty safe to say that Rayman Legends retains all the goofy, slapstick, good-humoured spirit that characterises Michel Ancel’s little limbless hero.
My time with the Rayman Legends Wii U demo at Eurogamer Expo was a short but sweet slice of what promises to be one of the most creative uses of the Wii U Gamepad’s touchscreen at launch. I played co-operatively using the Gamepad whilst a tall dark-bearded stranger took control of Globox with the Wii U Pro Controller, and I think it’s safe to say he wasn’t about to send me a friend request afterwards.
Our demo began in a simple forested area, one filled with skinny goblin goons and cages of lums. Gameplay with the Wii U Pro Controller is classic Rayman platforming, and its fluid responsiveness will feel instantly familiar and comfortable to anyone who’s played Origins. Playing on the Wii U Gamepad however is a whole different kettle of Electoons.
You finger movements on the touchscreen are represented on the TV by Murphy, a flying frog like creature whom you use to interact with Rayman’s world. He can slice ropes, pick up enemies and move platforms, and these are just a few of the basic functions that allow you to augment the standard platforming gameplay. More complex uses employ the Gamepad’s delightfully precise gyroscope in order to rotate gigantic wheels housing internal treacherous platforming puzzles the full 360 degrees to allow your co-operative partner’s safe passage. Or use a foreground, Angry Birds style catapult to fire flaming boulders at fat flying dragons chasing Rayman and company.
Each of these interactions was remarkably intuitive considering that there was very little guidance as to what I could do, which is all because Rayman Legends encourages you to fiddle around with its possibilities. Every screen is saturated with such a degree of unnecessary touchscreen interactivity – slice down blades of grass, pluck vegetables from the ground or poke an animated mountain in its misshapen, bloodshot eyes until it stands up, revealing a bonus stage – that it invites playful experimentation.
The less trivial forms of touchpad interactivity are actually so integral to progression that there were some points in which my now annoyed co-operative partner couldn’t progress without me. I asked the Nintendo representative helping us whether or not you would still have access to all of these features if you were playing by yourself, to which she cautiously replied “I’m pretty sure you do.”
Therein lays my only concern with Legends. This will undoubtedly be a platformer of the highest quality, one absolutely smothered in the kind of googly-eyed goofiness that makes Rayman such an endearing and loveable character. But if I was playing by myself and had to utilise both the touch-screen and standard controls at the same time, I can only imagine it would turn into an awfully cumbersome experience.
I only point this out as a potential issue, one that will be unquestionably surrounded by a cavalcade of positives: Legends retains the same sumptuous Saturday morning matinee cartoon visuals that made Origins one of 2011’s most gorgeous titles, and the small addition of a few 3D painterly cell-shaded objects and animals manage the impossible and make Legends an even more luxuriant game than its predecessor. Also the level design flows like a smooth creative rap artist, mixing up beats effortlessly and throwing in the occasional leftfield hook to keep things fresh.
It’s fair to say that Rayman Legends was a convincing showcase for Nintendo’s push toward asynchronous multiplayer, one with bountiful charm. I just hope it doesn’t make playing by yourself a fiddly chore if the uncertain PR lady’s answer turns out to be correct.