Preview: Rayman Legends packs a ton of platforming action in a cheery package
If ever there was a game to reaffirm my support of launch delays, it's Rayman Legends. I've long believed that pushing a game back a few months often helps its creation. Hell, most people with any bit of common sense know that delays are usually brought about due to necessary work that needs to be done to a title. But Legends was different. The game was practically already finished, and it was well on its way to the Wii U as a platform exclusive. That is, of course, until it was delayed so that it could arrive on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Vita. Thankfully, that delay, while incredibly anger-inducing for many folks, has ensured that we'll get the biggest Rayman game to date.
Okay, so I'm going to let the select few of you who are still shaking with anger let it all out. Go on now. Scream and curse. Oh, and go ahead and call me an ass if you want. I'd like to think that I'm at least a lovable ass. Anyway, got all of that rage out of your system? Of course not! Well, we're going to move on anyway.
First off, let's talk about the sheer amount of content in Legends. It's evident that within the span of the last few months Ubisoft Montpellier has squeezed out every last drop of awesomeness for this endeavor. Aside from the main levels, there's a myriad of reasons to keep playing. In addition to the main game, you've got 40 whole levels from Rayman Origins, a game that was outstanding in its own right and definitely worth revisiting. Of course, the levels have been altered to fit within the context of Legends, so even those will have a slightly new coat of paint on them.
There's also the Kung Foot minigame, which was recently detailed by Ubisoft Montpellier. I had a few competitive matches at Ubisoft's press event in San Francisco, both winning and losing some in the process. While the premise is simple (it's single-screen soccer with no rules and you can jump around and slap other characters), there's a pleasant, addictive luster to this mode. It's one of those things like Bomberman that may not exactly be overly deep but is still fun with a group of friends. In all honesty, I don't know if Kung Foot will have the staying power of Bomberman, but at the very least, it provides a worthwhile distraction that's easy to sink time into in short bursts.
As far as the main game is concerned, Legends definitely continues what Origins started not too long ago. Even then, however, the game introduces several neat elements beyond all of the clever platforming. The Olympus Maximus stage, for example, has a number of areas where fireballs either rain down or shoot up at a constant pace. Thankfully, you've got a little helper dude carrying a shield who can totally block the flames as you jump across large gaps. You control the little guy with the tap of a button or using the touchscreen on the Wii U, so you need to stay alert and move him around at the right moment, all the while running around as Rayman (or one of his buddies). It takes a little getting used, but controlling both characters adds a hint of welcome depth.
It should be noted that I played Legends on the Xbox 360, so the controls differed noticeably from the Wii U version. (For more on that setup, check out my previous impressions.) While there's definitely a jolly novelty to the GamePad controls on the Wii U, the Xbox 360 controller works incredibly well. It's obvious that Ubisoft really thought about how to properly adjust the controls for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions. Rather than using tilt or touchscreen functionality, rotating and controlling different in-game elements is mapped to the face and shoulder buttons in a way that feels pretty natural. Don't get me wrong, I'm still totally going for the Wii U version at launch, but it's great to know that the game was altered appropriately on the other consoles.
Going along the main strand of stages unlocks special Invasion levels. These feature enemies from different worlds, and you're tasked with outrunning them. The Invasion level I checked out forced me to run from right to left — making me change my traditional left to right platformer mindset — as a huge luchador chased after me. The action was fast-paced and frantic, and it was a throwback to the treasure chest chases in Origins. I had to dodge obstacles, slap enemies off the screen, and most importantly, stay as far away from that huge masked enemy as possible.
Rounding out the package are special objectives based entirely off of the Rayman Challenges App. That means if you didn't get the chance to check out these addictive missions on the Wii U, you'll be able to on your platform of choice. When you put all of that content together, you're looking at a sizable experience. There's a lot to do in Legends, and if you want to see everything the game has to offer, you can expect to be busy for quite some time.
While Origins was a highly challenging affair on par with something like Donkey Kong Country Returns, Legends scales back the difficulty in favor of style. That's totally fine, because parts of the game will still give you a hard time, though the overall adventure isn't as daunting as Origins. This time around, there's more emphasis on the ambiance of the game, and hearing as everything you do — whether it's bouncing off of springs, smacking baddies, or collecting Lums — affects the sounds in the environment around you is a total treat for the ears.
Legends looks to give players more of everything we loved about Origins plus new gameplay mechanics for good measure. The game is quite beefy, with loads of regular levels and optional challenges to check out. Additionally, and you probably already know this if you've watched gameplay clips, the whole thing looks gorgeous and sounds great. I don't like to look too far ahead when it comes to video games, but I think I lot of us are going to be very happy with the way Legends turns out.
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