Pros: Terrifically fun, new challenges every day, free.
Cons: Just an appetizer, dispiriting to see that there are 10,000 people who play better than I do.
Rayman Legends was going to be the game that would break the Wii U’s long game fast; the console has received games as slowly as congress passes bills. Then, just before its scheduled February release, publisher Ubisoft delayed the game until fall in order to create versions for other platforms, creating a huge gamer backlash and calls for a boycott. In an attempt to mollify gamers, the developers, who had no control over the Ubisoft decision, decided to release the online component of the game, Rayman Legends Challenges App, as a free eShop Wii U exclusive.
Developed and Published by: Ubisoft
For ages: 10 and up
Platform: Wii U exclusive
Release Date: 4/25/2013
The Basics: A Few Rayman Levels Plus Ever-Changing Challenge Levels
The app has two parts. One is the Rayman Legends demo, originally released a while back, which contains three, very fun levels of the game (two of which I previewed before the demo’s release). While the demo allowed only a limited number of uses, the Challenges App will let you play those three levels as much as you like.
Added to that demo is the game-to-be’s challenges mode, in which players are offered a new challenge every day alongside a more elaborate challenge that changes weekly.
The Challenges: Run, Jump, Tap
Challenges all set goals based on speed or the collection of little flying creatures called Lums. There are a few basic daily challenges, which so far have involved running, diving into a pit, or performing a series of short challenges.
So far all the weekly challenges have taken place in “Murphy’s Castle,” a shadowy location full of spikes, platforms, and flaming eyballs. While the daily challenges involve moving a character using the controller buttons, weekly challenges are played on the gamepad and involve tapping the gamepad screen to clear the way of a running critter, sliding platforms, cutting ropes, poking eyeballs. At least that is the case in solo mode; with two players, one taps the gamepad while the other runs.
The gamepad player must pull levers, cut ropes, swing platforms, destroy flying, flaming eyeballs, and more; miss a hazard and your critter will plunge into a chasm or get caught by the wall of flame that moves inexorably behind the runner. There are also beetles on the wall you can crush, although I can’t see that it gets you anything.
Competition: Spurring You to Greater Heights
Getting through the basic challenges can be tricky. But the real challenge comes is trying to beat the high score of the tens of thousands of people playing, many of whom get scores far beyond anything I will ever reach. After struggling mightily to make it through the castle with a score of, say 55 seconds, I would be presented with a chart showing that while that was by no mean the worst speed, the best people were doing half the time. This was dispiriting, although I later realized that the best times in Murphy’s Castle can only be achieved cooperatively by two players. Ghostly versions of the previous runs of competitors appear on screen with you, reinforcing the sense of competition.
Each challenge can earn you a gold, silver or bronze cup, giving you points that unlock new avatars and also access to more advanced versions of each challenge. Unfortunately, my bronze-gaming tendencies mean it will be a long time before I have the points needed to play those advanced levels.
Verdict: It's Free and It's Fun; Get It Now
At a time when Wii U games are still far and few between, it’s really nice to know that every day I’ll have something new to play. The App shows, as the demo did before it, that Rayman Legends is going to be a terrific game. But it also reminds us that it’s a game Wii U owners should have received months ago.