Last year's Rayman Origins proved that quality 2-D gaming was still alive and well. A beautiful and difficult platforming game, it scored well with critics but didn't find the large audience of gamers. Nevertheless, it did well enough for a sequel, and since Ubisoft has done some good business on Nintendo consoles, Rayman Legends will be available on the upcoming WiiU. At their Comic-Con press event, we checked out a demo build of Rayman Legends, and it was both familiar and surprising.
First, we'll start with the familiar aspects of the game, and that comes from the big-screen antics. From the two demo levels that we saw, the game mechanics are similar to its predecessor. Levels are still presented in a 2-D plane while you run around punching enemies to progress, though you'll often travel between the foreground and background. There are still various traps to avoid, and getting hit just once means you're dead; it's an annoyance rather than a setback since you have unlimited lives. The standard platforming levels go on at a good length, but the action is sometimes broken up by races where reflex is more important than precision. In short, this is exactly what one expects from a sequel: more of the things you loved from the original.
An interesting twist comes from another player using the WiiU Control Pad. The one sporting the new controller takes on the role of a flying character named Murphy, who helps the main characters similar to how the Move controller helped players in LittleBigPlanet 2's Sackboy's Prehistoric Adventure. Using the touch-screen, the player can grab any enemy on-screen and throw him away or shake him in place so the rest of the party to get a clean shot. He can cut down ropes to give the rest of the party access to safer areas, and he's the only one who can manipulate platforms and obstacles so the party doesn't get stuck. He can also activate switches to open up bonus collectibles and man a slingshot to either propel the heroes into the background plane or knock out enemies nearby. In a way, Murphy becomes an indispensable part of the game in multiplayer, and it'll be interesting to see if the game is vastly different in single-player due to the absence of another player.
Graphically, Rayman Legends looks better than its predecessor, a big feat when you consider that the system is only slightly more powerful than current-generation consoles. The art style is still the same, but the color palette seems expanded thanks to the vibrant colors. The animations look just a little more robust since they're more exaggerated. What is more noticeable, though, is the expanded use of foreground and background elements to lend some depth to the game world. This creates a better sense of 3-D without actually employing the use of glasses or a special TV, though it would certainly look rich if the option were there.
The only question left with Rayman Legends is how it'll play on other consoles or if other consoles would receive it at all. Last year's game went multiplatform, but we've only seen the game on the WiiU thus far, and with the level design seemingly made with the unique aspects of the console in mind, one has to wonder if Nintendo scored an exclusive title from one of its biggest supporters. We hope to know that answer soon, enough as the game is scheduled to launch alongside the WiiU console later this year.
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