One of the features of the Wii U that Nintendo has been emphasizing is its potential for asynchronous gameplay, in which one player using the Wii U gamepad has a different gameplay role than players using a Wii remote. I had been especially excited by this form of gameplay after experiencing it Nintendo’s Nintendo Land and New Super Mario Bros. U, but I felt differently after playing a little of the sidescrolling platformer Rayman Legends, which shows exactly how cool asynchronous gaming can be.
I played two levels alongside a Ubisoft PR guy. In the first level he controlled the game’s protagonist (not Rayman, but instead some girl) with the Wii remote, making the little lady run and jump. I controlled a little flying creature that helped clear the way. I could slash my finger across a rope on the gamepad touch screen to cut loose an obstacle hanging in the girl’s way. I could distract a monster by tickling it with a flick of my finger so that my partner could take it out. At times I could grab a wheel which I could then turn by rotating the gamepad. One wheel contained an elaborate pathway full of spikes, and I had to turn it repeatedly as my partner snaked through.
This was really fun. It also made clear how the game could encourage conversation, during the wheel segment my partner and I had to discuss how to work together.
The PR flack and I switched controllers for the other level. This one was very different; my character had to run continuously, jumping over monsters that would jump up and start singing. The music was so key to the level that I was supplied with headphones, which allowed me to appreciate both how the music was keyed to the timing of jumps and how out-and-out funny the level was. It was very fast-paced and enjoyably difficult.
There was little talking during this level, and in fact, I later realized that because I had been so focused on making it through in one piece, I had no idea what my partner had been doing on the gamepad. He may have just been standing there watching me, or he may have been furiously clearing the way for me.I’ve only previously tried a couple of Rayman games, and honestly I never developed much enthusiasm for the series. But I am tremendously excited about this game, and disappointed that its release date has been pushed back from November 2012 to sometime in the first quarter of 2013. But whenever it does arrive, I am eager to play it.