By Damian Cavanagh
Sometimes life is tough.
It’s tough being the runt of a litter. It’s tough being the short, scrawny guy in physical education class. It’s tough being a middle child. It can also be tough to be a well-rounded platform game in a market flooded with RPGs, MMOs, FPS franchises and enough sport simulations to fill Madison Square Garden... or at least the first few rows, anyway. But amongst all of that, Rayman Legends shines through with nary a whimper.
Ubisoft couldn’t be anything less than ecstatic with Rayman Legends. The way it plays, the way it sounds, the way it looks, are all truly fantastic. They’ve taken a name that’s been overshadowed lately by his Rabbid cohorts and put together a platformer that will test even the most seasoned of gamers. The difficulty gradient is near perfect. The entry levels are a great base in which to get a feel for the game. Before too long, as the action gets quicker, you will be faced with the need to give each level another go over to chalk up a 100% completion mark. Although some levels may seem a bit repetitive, overall there is enough variation to keep players coming back to soldier on towards the end of the game.
When played on the Wii U, Rayman Legends offers two styles of play. Traditional side scrolling action using the thumb sticks on the GamePad (or Wii U Pro Controller) is served at the beginning of the game, quickly followed by some touchscreen play, involving a character named Murphy. In single player mode, Murphy will be used to hit switches, move platforms and raise and lower obstacles, as the main protagonist makes his way throughout the level. This is some frantically paced action, sure to see players forced to learn sequences and replay levels. With up to five people able to join in using Wii Remotes, all involved multiplayer mode must be a able to create a cohesive and critical sense of timing to achieve success. Not only can Murphy clear paths and manipulate structures, but he can also interact with objects in the foreground and background, just for fun. Swatting spiders and chasing mice won’t get you points but it may just score some laughs.
Along the course of the game, further characters can be unlocked for you to use. It’s not just Rayman himself, but a whole host of others could be at your disposal. Within the group you are sure to find a few little nods and salutes to some well known figures. The storyline is very minimal, but it certainly doesn’t take away from how Rayman Legends presents itself. Also unlockable via scratch cards (awarded for collecting enough Lums during a level) are levels from Rayman Origins. This, of course pads the game out nicely, providing some real value for money.
To keep you coming back for more, Rayman Legends supplies us with Challenges, both daily and weekly. Structured around count and time limit type levels, scores will be posted up for all to see, pitting you against friends and the rest of the world. Rankings are awarded and the in-game currency Lums, are handed over at the end of each challenge period. Ghosts of other online players will appear when competing in challenges, setting the bar and pushing you harder toward being number one.
If you and your co-op players find yourselves getting stuck and frustrated, Kung Foot is a great little time waster. It’s you, two goals and a ball. It’s a great way to take a breather from the main game. Perfecting your goal scoring skills will provide an advantage in the main game as you will need to partake in some rescuing via a kicked ball. Did it really need to be included? No. Is it a bit of hectic madness, spurring on everyone’s competitive side and just plain old, outright fun? Hell yes.
When played on the Wii U, Rayman Legends is one of the very few games that truly utilises the Wii U GamePad the way it should be; incorporating the touch screen extremely well and offering off TV play. The GamePad controls are quite simple and not hard to master. Using the touch screen allows the first player to progress as either Rayman (or other selected character) or Murphy, when the situation presents itself. The Wii U stylus will be of little use while playing as Murphy as taking it in and out of its slot when transitioning is rather fiddly. It’s all fingers from here. Players two through five will use Wii Remotes held horizontally and work co-operatively, unless playing Kung Foot. Nintendo has done well to incorporate 5 players as once, allowing Rayman to quite possibly fall into the category of "party game." It certainly does well with large families.
The accompanying soundtrack to Rayman Legends really adds an adventurous flavour to the game. Starting with a medieval tune, the soundtrack takes some major turns, depending on the scenario. It takes no more than an hour of game play to have humming or whistling these catchy tunes. This kind of score deserves an award.
While I could sing the praises of Rayman Legends for another ten paragraphs, there is one oversight that has me quite bemused: there is only one save slot. Being a title that has been rated G by the Australian Classification Board, one would think that it would appeal to families as a whole and not just lone gamers. It was terribly painful to find that the younger occupants of my household, who enjoy Rayman Legends as much as I do, decided to start a new game instead of continuing where I had left off. Hours upon hours of review gaming was lost at the touch of a button. This could have and should have been avoidable. Any other negatives towards Rayman Legends would come down to one’s personal tastes. This save issue is the only glaring factor that brings this title away from being the perfect game.
This long awaited title is truly one of the games of the year, but may struggle to gain recognition against other popular franchises. One upside (and a downside from certain points of view) is the fact that it is no longer a Wii U exclusive. Not good for Nintendo, but great for Ubisoft and overall coverage. With the positives of certainly outweighing the negatives by an absolute landslide, Rayman Legends should find its place in every discerning gamers library.