How Rayman Legends Might Best Rayman Origins

E3 2012: A little more refinement to the Wii U controller asymmetric co-op, and this game could really be terrific.

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Rayman Legends, the upcoming Wii U successor to last year's Rayman Origins, has the potential to be a really special game. It maintains the same sense of visual whimsy and terrific 2D platforming that made Origins so great, but on top of that it layers in a genuinely unique form of co-op where one player gets to run and jump in traditional platforming style while the other helps out in an entirely different way with the Wii U touch screen.

The second player in Rayman Legends is basically there to help the first one collect more items, discover hidden rooms, and dispatch enemies when the situation calls for it. They're not the one platforming around; in fact, they're ignoring the physical buttons on the Wii U controller entirely.

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The second player focuses on the touch screen. They can do things like swipe at lums (Rayman's version of coins) to turn them from yellow to pink, at which point they become worth twice as much as a currency for unlocking later levels. They can also manipulate the world to let the first player reach previously unavailable areas, whether it's dragging a giant carrot out of the ground to act as a wall-jumping platform or actually twisting the controller 360 degrees to move a giant spiky wheel of death out of the way of the first player.

It's a concept that allows for some truly unique and exciting co-op gameplay, a fresh new means for two players hanging out on the couch to play a game together. But we're not quite 100 percent sold on it yet.

There's one thing Rayman Legends needs to figure out before it achieves the potential that game is flashing all over E3. This is a game that--in its current state, at least--needs to do a better job of explaining what's there for the second player to interact with, and what's just the window dressing for the lush, richly detailed environments.

As the second player, you spend so much time swiping at objects to change the environment that you develop the habit of swiping hazards away as a matter of instinct. So when you encounter a sequence where you're shown special icons on your touch screen that tell you whether a platform about to extend from the wall is going to be safe or covered in spikes (icons the first player can't see on the TV), you immediately think you need to tap the "This one's safe!" icon. But you don't. Those icons aren't interactive; the game wants you to verbally communicate with your teammate which platforms to jump on.

At other points you're uncertain which enemies the second player needs to swipe away from the first one, and which are just critters crawling around the level to provide some ambient life to the gameworld. In most games you wouldn't bat an eyelash at this sort of thing, but in a fast-paced platformer like this, when your running and jumping come to a screeching halt so you can examine what you need to interact with, it can really throw things off.

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So as long as the final version of Rayman Legends is able to establish a clear and consistent logic about what the second player needs to interact with and effectively communicate that, this game is going to be terrific. The core platforming and delightful art style are both great, and the co-op is an absolute blast when the two players are in a rhythm with what the game wants them to do. It just needs a little bit more effective visual language to get there.

We're really looking forward to this one. Rayman Legends has a metric ton of potential, and we're hoping to see Ubisoft deliver on it.

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