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Rayman Legends (Wii U) artwork

Rayman Legends (Wii U) review

"Rotund plumbers take note: this is how you do it! Rayman Legends is the new champ of simultaneous multiplayer platforming."

As the release date for Rayman Legends on Wii U drew nigh, I decided that I should probably preorder it instead of trusting on the local department store to receive sufficient inventory. So I loaded up the gameís page on Amazon, and a yellow bar appeared at the top with an ďInstant Order UpdateĒ reminder. It turns out I had already placed a preorder for the item on August 7, 2012, more than a year ahead of its eventual release date. The page didnít comment that I was a forgetful dufus, because it respects me as a person.

When it was originally announced with a much earlier release date in mind, Rayman Legends was going to be exclusive to the Wii U platform. It was kind of a big deal at the time, because the game looked awesome and it was an early feather in Nintendoís otherwise mostly featherless cap. Then the system sold very poorly right out the gate, and Ubisoft pushed back the release date and announced that it would also be producing Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 editions. The biggest platforming adventure in Raymanís history needed to reach a wide audience, and the Wii U install base wasnít going to provide that all by itself.

Rayman Legends asset

Unfortunately, releasing the game on a number of different platforms doesnít seem to have done the trick, either. Itís relatively difficult to find anyone who has played Rayman Legends, regardless of console, and thatís a shame because the game is excellent, easily one of the best platformers Iíve had the joy to play in years. Fewer people should let themselves miss out on experiencing it.

Despite being sufficiently interested in Rayman Legends that I wound up ordering the game a full year ahead of its release, Iím actually a rather casual fan of the series overall. I really enjoyed Rayman Origins when it arrived as a Vita launch title, but before that my experience with Rayman and friends was limited to various Raving Rabbids titles and assorted earlier releases. I almost always had fun with them, but then I all but forgot they existed because the character doesnít really excite me. For that reason, I couldnít tell you much about the story in this newest outing, and I figure thatís just fine. Narrative isnít the real appeal. Itís the crazy platforming action that hooked me.

Like Rayman Origins, the new game allows multiple players to run and jump through breathtakingly beautiful environments. The lush, painted backdrops from the previous game s are mostly gone, but the more three-dimensional stuff you see this time around is still a treat for the senses. Thereís some great character animation, too, whether that be Rayman or his many friends. Characters grin and grunt, glare and stare, and it all looks every bit as good as it would in a Saturday morning cartoon. Rayman himself is still--as always--the least interesting character on display, but he makes it work because he is part of such a colorful cast.

Rayman Legends asset

When youíre playing with friends, you typically have the option to join as many as four other chums on a romp through the aforementioned environments. Four players grab controllers and the fifth player can use a character named Murphy, who is controlled using the gamepad. As Murphy, you are able to interact with the environment. Sometimes thatís optional, just a way to make it easier for your friends to traverse challenging environments, but in other cases itís required. An obstruction must manually be lifted before anyone can advance, or a ledge must be hauled into position so everyone can clear a wide gap. Murphy is invulnerable to attack, but canít interact directly with enemies except to tickle and distract them. Heís like a toothy version of Navi from Ocarina of Time, but without the chatter.

Murphy is an excellent addition to the gameplay, because some players are naturally more skilled than others. In a multi-player environment, I have to practice up a fair bit before Iím anything better than rubbish, even though I cleared Rayman Origins just fine all by myself. So when I played with friends, I spent a lot of time--until the later and more difficult levels, ironically--in charge of the floating little green hero. Meanwhile, my two gaming companions leaped and wall bounced and swam and floated through the dynamic environments. Itís the most fun Iíve had with a simultaneous multiplayer platformer in my life. Iím sorry, Mario, but youíve been beaten.

If you like the sort of experience that Rayman Legends offers, as my friends and I do, then thereís more good news: the game is huge. There are a number of themed worlds, each with around seven or eight gorgeous stages to explore. As you clear those, you sometimes gain scratch-it tickets. They reward you with virtual currency to unlock characters, or sometimes with other surprises that include additional stages taken from Rayman Origins. There are a bunch of those stages, so that it feels like youíre actually getting two full--and wonderful--games with a single purchase. Then, on top of that, Ubisoft has included new challenges that unlock. Youíll play through timed challenges relating to stages youíve already cleared, and some of those can be incredibly demanding. There also are daily challenges that offer rewards, so youíre rewarded for signing in each day and trying something new.

Rayman Legends asset

Rayman Legends is definitely ambitious, then, and itís very creative with its design. Thereís a series of levels I particularly liked that requires the players to work in concert as they sneak past security systems, for example. You must make mad dashes from one safe point to another while Murphy manipulates blocks and you stay out of sight. It felt very Splinter Cell to me. Musically-themed levels also return, providing a musical rush through treacherous environments while pipsqueak voices sing popular pop songs or mariachi tunes. Near the end of the game, as you unlock final areas, these get a little too devious for their own good--with effects that sometimes turn the screen to static and messed with my eyes--but for the most part they are well-executed.

Another mark in the gameís favor is its generally forgiving difficulty. Aside from some of the stuff I mentioned that you encounter near the end of the experience, youíll have little reason to feel frustrated. Rayman and friends control every bit as beautifully as they look, whatever you have them doing, and they pass enough checkpoints that you seldom lose much progress if everything goes wrong. Thereís no need to worry about running out of lives, and things keep going as long as at least one hero remains alive to free his or her cohorts from the bubble prisons that encase them when they meet an untimely end (Murphy can do the same thing, even more easily).

With gorgeous graphics and a pleasant soundtrack, precise controls, inventive level design and a massive campaign that includes enough content for several conventional platformers--almost all of it top-notch--itís easy to fall in love with Rayman Legends, itís easy to ignore a few extremely minor flaws and itís easy for me to recommend that you make the game your next Wii U purchase if youíre into that sort of experience at all. Should Ubisoft see fit to release a follow-up, Iím fairly certain I wonít need Amazon to remind me that Iím buying it.

honestgamer's avatar
Staff review by Jason Venter (October 31, 2013)

Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.

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Linkamoto posted November 01, 2013:

Great review, Jason. I was a little curious as to how well the five player romp would fare, so I'm glad you were able to wrangle four friends and inform me in the affirmative. When I played the demo at Gamestop (when the Wii U demo kiosks first were released...exciting times), I LOVED the musical stages that altered the speed accordingly as you moved. Glad to hear those made it into the final package.
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honestgamer posted November 01, 2013:

Thanks. I actually didn't get five people together, though. We played three-player: two of us with controllers and me on the gamepad using Murfphy, or three of us going at it with standard controls (though I was still on the gamepad). It gets a bit crowded with three guys running around, and I'd imagine moreso with four, but Murphy himself wouldn't worsen matters. It's a great game for however many players, basically.

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