Rayman Legends: Demo Impressions

Not only would it sound harsh to say “Rayman does what Nintendon’t”, it might also sound like a somewhat preposterous statement for something that is only in demo form. New Super Mario Bros. U is a great game, and one that I believe that will continue to stand as a brilliant Wii U launch title. However, as I stressed in my review, it’s a fun game but one that remains very safely in what Nintendo knows has been successful before. There were moments of brilliance that sadly weren’t explored further. Ubisoft, however, have outdone themselves, allowing their creativity to flourish unrestrained – and going completely insane in the process.

The preceding Rayman Origins was one of the highlights of 2011, so it was always clear that Rayman Legends was going to be a quality product. No one could have anticipated, though, how Legends could innovate to such a stunning degree and surpass expectations. Firstly, I don’t need to tell you how great the graphics are if you played Origins – except, I really do need to tell you how great the graphics are.

Legends continues the bizarre and beautiful visual style established in Origins, but it is boosted by the Wii U’s HD horsepower to appear somehow more gorgeous than before. There’s no way to describe Legends other than to say it’s just so alive – from the wacky enemy designs and comically exaggerated expressions and gestures to the magnificent level design and detailed backdrops.

The first level begins our limbless wonder in the level Teensies in Trouble, a jungle environment similar to that at the beginning of Origins. It is again littered with Lums to collect, and hosts some hidden areas for bonus collectables. This level soon introduces the player to the capabilities of the GamePad, when Rayman gains some assistance from the neighbourly gnat Murphy. Murphy is controlled entirely by the touch screen, removing obstacles and adjusting platforms. You can swat the eyeballs of screen-filling beasts, drag blocks for our heroes to leap across and even use the GamePad’s gyro sensor to tilt a huge spiky maze-like contraption. While you’re fiddling with the environment, Globox moves by himself and has surprisingly clever AI to respond to your actions.

The second stage is Toad Story, which is more of a pure platforming level that doesn’t require any GamePad gimmicks. The music is incredibly soothing as you use Rayman’s hover ability to fly through gusty updrafts. There are many huge thorns and evil arms out to grab you and pull you into the watery depths, with the many hazards providing a risk/reward scenario as you aim to reach for coins in tricky places.

Just when I thought the game couldn’t get more fun, Legends hit me hard with its third and final stage, Castle Rock. Despite only being a small level on a relatively short demo, playing through Castle Rock is possibly my favourite experience on the Wii U so far.

You must outrun an incoming wave of fire with some high speed running and jumping, The level is themed around a song, with every jump, punch and slide of the ropes, each of your actions is perfectly synced to the music. It has an awesome metal vibe, not only from the riffing guitar but the setting; a dragon chases you blasting fire, skulls and bones litter the entire stage and cannons fire at you from medieval castles in the background. The singing enemies that provide gibberish for the song’s vocals only serves to make the experience all the more hilarious. I can’t remember when I last grinned so hard at a game.

So now Mario’s had his run (and jump) in the spotlight, it’s time to give Rayman all your attention and bring Legends into your life. If you have a Wii U, go download the demo from the eShop now. If you don’t have a Wii U yet, then Rayman Legends could be the best reason to get one so far.

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