Rayman Legends is a wormhole, whisking Wii U owners back to November 2012 and a time when Wii U: The Incredible Promise had yet to make way for Wii U: The One Third Parties Don't Like Any More. Do you remember those halcyon days, when we sat on riverbanks composing romantic odes to asymmetric multiplayer? Ten minutes playing Legends has us reaching for our notebook and rhyming couplets afresh (er, what rhymes with Globox?). For while Rayman now wraps rival formats in a far-reaching, elbowless hug, his barmy French heart truly belongs to GamePad.
Under Ubisoft Montpellier's stylus point, the five-inch window becomes a holding pen for Murfy, a hyperactive greenfly who helps co-op teammates. Prods see him tickling enemies, dragging treasures within reach, even painting Lums with a score multiplier: it's all beneficial and most of it requires enough dexterity to keep the GamePad player happy. Should fatigue set in, Murfy's hand is easily turned to mischief by lifting health vials out of reach, or shunting a floating platform at an inopportune moment. Warning: this can result in a dead arm.
Origins Of Asymmetry
Where Murfy trumps other support roles - Mario's 'boost' blocks, for example - is in Ubi's decision to make him a necessity in certain levels. An early dungeon, for example, has him slicing obstacles free, rotating level chunks (by spinning the GamePad, naturally) and sliding platforms to form a path. On the GamePad you're struggling to keep up to four characters alive, while on the TV it feels like a demented ghost has possessed the level. Either way, it's quite unlike any other co-op game going.
Every Murfy showpiece arrives with a new trick. Hey, I'm picking off dragons with a catapult! Eep, I'm blocking fiery comets with a Roman shield! Oh no, I'm trying to use platforms to hide Rayman from a laser-firing sentry turret and making a rotten job of it. Not since Super Mario Galaxy has a game so wilfully abandoned neat ideas to make way for even better stuff.
Co-op magic comes at a price: a game built for two or more comes unstuck when there's only one player. Play a Murfy-essential level alone and you're forced to pilot the greenfly while AI steers Globox. The AI is amazing, admittedly, responding quickly to level alterations and cleverly sniffing out secrets you lead him towards, but what you're playing is little more than a glorified escort mission. It's just not the same without a fellow human to scream as you carve them a cakey passage to the grave.