Rayman Legends - First Impression

-Greg Livingston

The Rayman Legends demo debuted on Wii U’s eShop yesterday (December 13th). Rayman Origins was an interesting game; it took the fluid, rhythmic gameplay that platformers have had since Super Mario Bros. and cut away the excess, leaving a game that was fast and almost musical in its gameplay. Rayman Legends promises to build on that concept, showcasing higher highs and lower lows. I’ve gone and reviewed the three levels from the demo below.

Teensies in Trouble

The first level was a kind of escort mission. A green Globox strolled forward through a level, while I watched on the gamepad screen and manipulated the environment to help him out. If I wasn’t done pulling a platform over to him or cutting down a barrier, he’d politely wait for me, making the level pretty easy to clear. The tough part was accessing optional areas to gather collectibles—for instance, in one case, if I wasn’t fast enough in rotating a platform, he’d jump to a lower path and skip a bonus room. Big flaming eyes would also drift towards him, but killing them was a simple matter of touching them.

It’s nothing brilliant, but it is fun to touch and manipulate the level directly. If nothing else, it’s evidence of an attempt to develop past the speedy design of Rayman Origins. The potential exists for further touch screen levels to refine their sense of rhythm, but at the risk of jumping the gun, I doubt that’s the angle these levels will take.

I don’t foresee these levels pleasing many people, since it’s always a bummer to leave the platforming to a computer AI instead of doing it yourself. However, if these levels only come in on occasion to mix things up, I could see them working well.

Toad Story

Here’s the meat and potatoes of the demo, the only regular level of the bunch. In terms of gameplay and mechanics, this has everything from Rayman Origins. At stretches, it felt like it, too—I’d run forward, crash through baddies, pick up lums all strung in a row, things like that.

However, almost immediately, the level introduced upward drafts. This gimmick dominated Toad Story, since I often had to wait for Rayman to ride a draft high enough to reach some ledge. The level even concluded in a giant vertical shaft, where the entire challenge was to drift upward while avoiding brambles and kicking enemies. It was slow going, but lums would fly about the screen in formations, encouraging me to fly smart in order to grab as many as I could.

There were just as many, if not more, nooks and crannies as your typical Origins level. It seemed like there were hidden lums around each and every corner, and fully utilizing drafts to explore the environment was key to uncovering everything.

It’s definitely not what I was expecting from a sequel to Rayman Origins. Of course, I doubt such drafts will dominate the entire game, but I think it points to an overall desire for a larger range of moods in the level design.

Castle Rock

If Toad Story experiments with moods that Origins didn’t touch, Castle Rock takes the idea of Origins levels to the extreme. Here, the level design encourages you to jump and attack in time with a cover of Ram Jam’s Black Betty, and the whole thing plays out like a medieval platformer music video. It’s a shallow idea that’s only impressive the first few times you play it, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t put a smile on my face those few times.

It’s one thing to play Bit.Trip Runner, where all of your actions are always in the context of music, and so they seem inextricably bound together. Castle Rock takes gameplay you already know and puts it in a new context. There’s a raw joy to be had in watching your actions magically match music as they never had before.

In all, I’m interested to see where Rayman Legends goes. It would be easy to phone in a sequel to Rayman Origins, but it looks like Ubisoft’s developers are taking some chances, some riskier than others.