In 2011, Director Michel Ancel and his team at Ubisoft Montpellier decided to use a Phoenix Down on one of their most beloved 2D platformer IPs: Rayman. Rayman Origins, while not selling as well initially, showed undeniable promise in future projects with the series. The game was gorgeous, had tight controls, and was fun with friends. It suffered the want for more content outside of the 5 worlds, and it also didn't support online multiplayer. When the Wii U was announced, Rayman Legends was offered up as a direct sequel to Origins and was to be a Wii U exclusive, utilizing the Upad in clever ways. However, Ubisoft thought it would be best to release the game on multiple platforms, and so despite it being gold and ready for launch in March, it was pushed back until September with the promise of adding more content. They were not kidding; Rayman Legends has content seeping out of all pores, and it's brimming with polish.
A century has passed with Rayman, his best friend Globox, and the Teensies sleeping through it. The hookah toking Bubble Dreamer had nightmares that escaped into the world and captured 10 princesses along with 700 Teensies to rescue from the Dark Teensies. Let's get this out of the way - this isn't a game for its narrative, and yet it's charming to follow along with the wonderful animated segments. It's definitely more about the journey. The game takes you across 6 worlds, each with its own style, and each hosting approximately 10 levels per world. Levels contain special rewards called lucky tickets that are interactive scratch cards on the Wii U gamepad that can potentially unlock remastered levels from Rayman Origins. There are an additional 5 worlds from Origins, with 8 levels in each.
The gameplay is almost entirely like what was shown in Rayman Origins. There's just more to love, and that's exactly the kind of evolution you could hope for. It would be hard to fix controls that were already near perfect, and yet Ubisoft Montpellier somehow managed to do that. With the Wii U gamepad, players can take control of Murfy "“ a tiny critter that aides in all of the puzzles and can assist in combat, platforms, and hidden Lums (currency) or hidden Teensies. With the tap of the touch screen, players shift from whichever player they were in control of, and take control of Murfy which is played entirely through the gamepad. Using the motion controls in the Upad, you can tilt the controller to solve puzzles of various challenges as you go through the game's 120 missions. Touch screen controls are absolutely accurate, and work with ease.
As mentioned before, the game is crammed with content, to a point where it's almost daunting. There are 120 levels, 40 of which are bonus levels from Rayman Origins. There are classic platforming levels where you scour each map in search of 10 hidden Teensies, levels where you and Murfy cooperate and navigate a map for 3 Teensies, and a hilarious mode where you jump to the rhythm of classic songs like Black Betty redone with vocals from the game's cast. On top of all that, there are daily and weekly challenges that you can compete with other people's times and ghosts online and it features Mario and Luigi. This mode is essentially carried over from the free Rayman Challenge App that Wii U owners got to experience as a way of apologizing for the game's delay. With your lucky tickets earned in each level, you can scratch to unlock the Rayman Origins levels as mentioned before, and also things like extra Teensies, additional Lums or creatures that award you with daily Lums. To add to all of this, you are also given a wealth of bonus costumes, feature Mario and Luigi themed costumes and even costumes from Ubisoft's upcoming Assassin's Creed IV: The Black Flag. It's like Ubisoft heard the complaints regarding content in Rayman and said "Oh yeah? Challenge accepted."
Interestingly enough, one of the best inclusions I've played with so far is a mode call Kung Foot, which is a soccer game between you and a buddy locally. We thought this would be a filler type of mini-game but even this is incredibly addicting to play. Players compete against one another in a no rules quick match of soccer.
The only major gripe with this game is one that carries over from the last - the omission of online play. To be fair, it's great to have a game that really pushes that social experience of playing locally with a group of buddies and having a riot. It would have just been great to add that extra layer. The daily and weekly challenges are a solid way to compete against people online but having that ability to jump in and play with one of your friends online would have set this game beyond the stardom it's already achieved.
Visually, this game is stunning. The UbiArt Framework first shown with Origins has expanded its abilities to include 3D gameplay elements, especially regarding boss fights. The artists have done an incredible job crafting each level of each world to have its own unique feel. No two levels feel the same, and with the quantity of levels that this game boasts, that says something about having both quality and quantity. Characters and character animations are simple in their hand drawn design, but look gorgeous in motion. Everything looks crisp and colourful. The sound designs for the music based stages deserve a standing ovation; it took Rayman Origins' platforming concept and innovate it into equal parts fun and hilarious. Across all console platforms, the game is virtually indistinguishable, with all versions running at 1080p and 60 frames per second. Where the Wii U stands tall is in its gamepad integration. Using Murfy on the gamepad feels most natural in comparison to its fussier controls on the 360 controllers or Dual Shock 3. It may be preference but watching each version utilize Murfy makes it clear why this game was built around the Wii U first.
Rayman is once again king of the platforming genre with Ubisoft's latest instalment, Rayman Legends. If you own any platform, it's worthy of a purchase. If you own a Wii U, rest assured you aren't getting a botched port; the Wii U version is the definitive version if only for its clever and innovative gamepad uses. But no matter the console, this game is truly remarkable on all fronts. It's packed with things to do, levels to clear, and challenges to overcome; and all of it can be played and replayed for hours on end.
|Gorgeous art design and mixture of 2D Sprites on 3D levels.|
|Fantastic use of the Wii U game pad.|
|Stuffed to the brim with content.|
|Still no online multiplayer.|
|Black Betty is now stuck in my head.|
|That it was delayed so long.|