Fans were outraged when the once Wii U-exclusive Rayman Legends was delayed last February so that the game could be released simultaneously on all platforms. The game was already finished, but publisher Ubisoft had been burned by Wii U’s sluggish sales, which saw its solid launch title ZombiU flop at retail, despite offering the best proof of concept for the fledgling system’s unwieldy gamepad. Fortunately, Rayman was worth the wait, as it’s arguably the best game on Wii U and an amazing platformer that everyone will get to enjoy on every console.
A direct sequel to 2011’s Rayman Origins, Legends is simple at its core, letting you run, jump, float and smash your way through a ridiculously varied number of environments. It sits somewhere between Mario’s plodding, deliberate pace and Sonic’s breakneck am-I-actually-controlling-this? speed, but outshines both with its brilliant level design. The game constantly rewards you with unlockable levels and items, which makes it almost impossible to put down. At times, it almost feels like a racing game, as you hold down the right trigger to sprint and find the perfect line through levels. It controls flawlessly and is fiendishly challenging but rarely frustrating; if you fail, it’s your fault, and you’ll instantly hit retry to see if you can make it through the next time. New musical levels are an absolute treat, as you hop and bop in time to the music in a cross between a platformer and a rhythm game.
The Wii U version is definitely the one to get, as it allows up to five player co-op versus the other versions’ four, thanks to the touchscreen. With the gamepad, players can control Murfy, a whimsical fée verte, using their finger to move platforms, cut ropes and smack enemies to help the other players progress. Even in single player, the Murfy levels provide a nice change of pace from frantic platforming, letting you think differently about reaching the goal. The PS3 and Xbox 360 versions diminish Murfy’s role, with players simply tapping a button to perform these actions. It’s an unfortunate concession to these consoles’ limitations, but you can’t help but think the developers could have attempted to tap into the Xbox 360’s SmartGlass app or the PS3/Vita remote play functionality to mimic these features.
That said, Legends is a fantastic experience on all platforms, and the delay gave developer Ubisoft Montpellier the opportunity to add 40 remastered levels from Origins to the mix. Best of all are the daily and weekly challenges that are constantly updated, letting you race against other players’ ghosts and see how you compare on online leaderboards, making the game almost endlessly replayable. Rayman Legends has surpassed Mario as Wii U’s premiere 2D platformer and even makes better use of the system’s quirky gamepad. That’s pretty legen – wait six months for it – dary. Wii U: A-, PS3, Xbox 360: B+