I recently got a chance to go hands-on with Rayman Legends and I have to say that the game is looking like it will be more impressive than Rayman Origins. I know, that’s a pretty bold statement. Origins was possibly the best game of 2011, a contender for GOTY last year.
But Legends improves upon Origins in some very important ways. They could have copied and pasted Origins, slapped a two on the title and called it a day and I don’t think many of us would complain with the superb level design and beautiful art style of Origins.
Rayman Legends fixes the tiny flaws that Origins possessed and adds stuff you didn’t even know you wanted. The mosquito levels are out. They’ve been replaced by musical stages that are less of a challenge (enemies don’t pose as big of a threat) but require precise timing to complete.
The stage I played is one that Ubisoft has been demoing a lot, the Black Betty stage. It features, as you guessed, the classic “Black Betty” song covered by those adorable voices you heard in Rayman Origins. Yes, it’s going to kill you with cuteness.
This stage saw me running through the level, avoiding bottomless pits, punching enemies, all while moving forward constantly. Each enemy and jump is lined up to take place to the beat of the song, so it helps to give you a rhythm to your actions. I don’t know if you could complete the level without looking at the screen, but the song certainly does help you get your timing down.
The game features the same four player co-op you remember from Origins but has the asymmetric gameplay Nintendo loves to talk about when it comes to the Wii U. One player uses a Wii remote (or Pro Controller) while the other plays as Murphy and uses the Game Pad’s touch screen to tickle enemies (yes, tickle) and open containers of lums for the player controlling Rayman and the gang.
Murphy is a blast to play as, and helping another player is much more fun than you would have expected. It’s a great co-op feature for younger gamers in your family who have poor timing or older family members who don’t have fast hand movement or can’t figure out any game controller.
While playing the game solo, you will sometimes lose control of Rayman and be forced to control Murphy exclusively. The game puts Rayman under it’s control, and you’re tasked with protecting the limbless hero from certain doom. It’s quasi-on rails, but it isn’t nearly as bad as you would think.
These parts of the game almost work like a puzzle as you try to protect Rayman from being attacked, cut down platforms for him to walk on, or rotate a large circular object filled with spikes while not letting Rayman touch those spikes. Saying these Murphy-only portions of single-player are puzzles is the best way I can communicate how they play. It’s fun, and I never found myself wishing I didn’t have to play as Murphy temporarily.
If you thought the game was gorgeous on other platforms, Legends is clearly a step above Origins. Characters are now full 3D models, and that helps them stand out from the environment. While playing Rayman Origins I often lost track of my character during 4 player sessions because the 2D characters would get lost in the shuffle and merge with the stage art as far as my eyes could tell.
Legends doesn’t have this issue since the characters are all 3D models, making them stand out much more. The art style is still the most amazing thing you’ve ever seen, and it does look superior to Rayman Origins. That said, the gap in visuals doesn’t look too large, and I did play it on a HDTV closer to 46-inches while standing very, very close to the television. Maybe you wouldn’t notice the upgrade in visuals from your couch, but I certainly did.
In motion the game is a masterpiece as far as visuals go, just like Origins. Gameplay is largely the same except the tiresome (but at times fun) mosquito levels have been swapped out for more puzzle-filled Murphy levels. The addition of frantic, race to the finish musical levels are a great touch as well.
All in all Rayman Legends seems to be fixing the very few problems that Origins had. The game is coming out during Q1 2013 and I can’t wait to have it in my hands. It may be a bit early to say this but I think it is a challenger for GOTY 2013 much like Origins was GOTY material before it.