Rayman Legends Demo Impressions

Last night, I had my first “wow” experience with Nintendo’s new Wii U console. It wasn’t with any of the late-to-the-party ports or even a first-party offering. It was with the demo for Ubisoft’s upcoming Rayman Legends, now available for download. It’s just three levels, but it’s one of the most exciting, refreshing, and innovative gaming experiences I’ve had all year. It’s heartfelt, beautiful, and genuinely whimsical in a way that no cheapjack indie clone coasting along on fake 8-bit chic or even Nintendo’s own nostalgic Super Mario Bros. Wii U is. It’s joyful, full of love for video gaming and without a trace of the kinds of commercial cynicism or insulting lowest-common-denominator condescension that have become endemic in the industry.

It’s a 2D platformer with 3D elements, much like last year’s terrific Rayman Origins. Ancel’s trademark comics style is rendered in an all-new engine, and it looks amazing in 60FPS, native 1080P. Maybe it’s just the shock of the new talking, but I think it looks better than just about anything on either the 360 or PS3. Gameplay is classic platforming, at its root not really all that far removed from the original Rayman- or the original Super Mario Bros. for that matter.

But the key here is that Rayman Legends feels like a very now, very current game. This is the platformer of today.  It’s not an aw-shucks genuflection to the good old days. This is a game designed with innovation in mind, drawing on recent game design elements to create a new- and original experience that really, really should have been a Wii U launch title. I haven’t seen anything yet that makes a better case for the console.

Rather than trotting out Mario in another animal costume, Rayman Legends gives platformer fans something new by bringing in brilliant use of recent concepts such as touchscreen gameplay and motion control. There are elements of auto-runners like Canabalt. There are hints of IOS games like Cut the Rope. And in one astonishing segment, “Castle Rock”, the rolling lane of a game like Rock Band or Guitar Hero is subversively hidden in the rhythm-based level design. The result is a glorious symphony of sound, vision, and movement. I don’t think I’ve played any video game this year or even in the past few years that felt so vibrant, alive, and crackling with celebratory energy.

I’m excited about this game because it feels like something new yet it remains a firm example of a classic but somewhat old fashioned video game genre.  Most refreshingly, there isn’t a lick of tiresome irony, bullshit hipster intellectualism, or even postmodern revisionism. I’m not going to describe anything that goes on in it, or any of the many happy surprises that happen in just the three levels of this demo. You need to discover those for yourself. From what I understand, the demo is on the in-store display kiosks and I can’t recommend enough that you go check it out if you don’t have a Wii U.

8 Responses to “Rayman Legends Demo Impressions”

  1. Dorkmaster Flek December 17, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

    Nice. I really need to go back and actually finish Origins. I never got all the way through it.

    • Michael Barnes December 18, 2012 at 8:10 pm #

      I didn’t either…even though I played it both on 360 and Vita! I just rebought it from Gamefly, $7 after a coupon.

      The funny thing is that I never really liked Rayman…but it’s looking like that franchise’s heyday is actually NOW and not then anyway.

      • Mark E December 19, 2012 at 10:56 am #

        I have played some of the earlier titles; I think that’s a fair assessment you make.

        The series was always okay, but now it’s turned into something rather amazing.

        Which is all good by me; my wife pretty much confirmed she’s stuffed a WiiU under the tree for me. Actually looking quite forward to a new 2D Mario (I happen to love new animal costumes ;) ) and ZombiU. With the new Rayman I hit the ’3 games’ requirement for a purchase.

        Doubly so since I am not purchasing :P.

        Gimme my core franchises, a version of Four Swords that’s online, and stuff Cube titles on the VC and I am set.

  2. docstar December 17, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    Unfortunately not every kiosk has this demo. I know that Gamestop kiosks have it, but Toys R Us does not. Haven’t seen a kiosk anywhere else but Target, and the one at my local store had already been rendered unusable by the time i first saw it.

  3. Autistic Angel December 17, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    Coincidentally, it was just last night that I stopped at the Wii U kiosk in my local Best Buy, spent a few minutes with the Rayman Legends demo, and walked away thinking, “That’s the game that might sell me this system.”

    It’s seriously impressive.

    • Michael Barnes December 18, 2012 at 8:12 pm #

      Yeah, I don’t know why it wasn’t pushed for launch, unless the involved parties were cautious about rushing it…which is what I like to think was the case. But this is far more impressive than anything else out of the launch. I’ll be trading NSMBWU toward it come February.

      I still don’t know that I’d buy a $350 console for it, but add in Bayonetta 2 and that other Platnium title that’s coming up and suddenly I feel like my purchase was vindicated.

  4. Crimson Dragoon December 17, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

    Played this earlier at Gamestop with my wife (she hates platformers, but loved using the Wii U controller for it). This and Monster Hunter 3 will sell me a Wii U.

    • Michael Barnes December 18, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

      Yeah, I’m interested in MH3U too…I loved Tri, it’s the only one I’ve played though. There’s tons of potential for Gamepad use in it.

      Not sure how the multiplayer shakes out in Legends, but it says it supports up to five players…could be a sweet husband and wife thing. Too bad my wife hates games of any description!

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