Gameological At E3This Could Be Good

Rayman Legends

We Play, You Work

Rayman Legends looks beautiful, but it may expose a flaw in the Wii U.

By Anthony John Agnello • June 7, 2012

The preview events provided by most game studios offer only brief glimpses at very big games, so reporting on a preview requires a lot of guesswork and reading between the lines. For E3, we’re highlighting a few games in which we see some promise. Who knows how any given game will pan out in its final form? The most we can say is This Could Be Good.

Last year’s Rayman Origins is a feral thing. From the moment you fire up Michael Ancel’s weird cartoon world, you can taste its happy craziness. Limbless nerd Rayman and his buddies are just napping in the jungle, snoring so loud it wakes the devil. Then you and three friends wake them up to play, racing across deserts of piano keys and slapping each other. Rayman Legends, the follow up for Nintendo’s upcoming Wii U console, is still beautiful. In fact, its painterly wash of color is even more beguiling than Origins’ stark primaries. It is a tamer game, though, one whose essential feeling of togetherness is broken by the inherent barrier created by the Wii U’s controller.

The hook this time out is that five people can actually play. Up to four players still run and jumping through the stages, but now an additional player controls a flying bug on the Wii U’s new controller, with its embedded touch screen. The flying-bug player can zip about the stage sliding her finger over the screen. See a rope bridge that’s too high to reach? The bug cuts the rope, and voila, Rayman can run up.

Rather than foster a greater sense of connection with your fellow player, though, this asymmetry creates distance, at least in the demo version that I played. The sample on hand at E3 has Rayman racing through a heavy-metal world with grandmas wailing on guitars, and while controlling him has that same sweet swiftness from Origins, controlling the bug on the Wii U gamepad has the player tapping on little points of light and flicking enemies out of the way. It’s not a wild rumpus anymore. Rather, it’s fun for a few and a chore for others. In my play session, someone was always failing to do his job or having more fun than the other players.

Legends embodies a fundamental problem with Wii U. The original Wii is a machine built around companionship; it’s right there in the name. Everybody gets an simple motion-control stick, and they do the same things with it, like playing tennis or bowling. Wii U’s name also speaks volumes: We are doing something together, while you do something else.

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787 Responses to “We Play, You Work”

  1. Cloks says:

    Were you able to see the tablet/pad/padlet used for anything competitive? It seems to me like it would really shine in areas of semi-concealed douchebaggery, bringing the partner-hating antics of New Super Mario Brothers to a hidden screen where the active players have to constantly watch for new pitfalls.

    • Girard says:

       In the podcast, they mentioned the Luigi’s Mansion mini game where the screenholder is an invisible ghost who is in an adversarial relationship with the players who are trying to catch her/him. And in the Animal Crossing minigame, apparently the screen-holder controls a pair of guards on the map who try to stop the players from collecting candy. So there’s definitely some asymmetrical adversarial gameplay being experimented with…

      • HobbesMkii says:

        What kind of fucked up universe is Animal Crossing set in that there are guards out to prevent people from collecting candy? Can you imagine that:

        Guard’s Wife: “Good luck at work today, hunny! Don’t let anyone collect that candy.”
        Guard: “I won’t, dear!” God, I hate my job

        • GhaleonQ says:

          Remember, it’s GROUND CANDY.  It’s 1 thing to put a “Regal Cabinet” in your home after finding it in the wild.  It’s another to eat things off of the ground in a Forest entirely populated by Animals.

        • HobbesMkii says:

          Then why not just set up stricter litter laws? What logic is there in going, “Oh, lots of discarded candy in this forest. We should hire a bunch of guards to watch and make sure people don’t try and collect it.”

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      How have they not introduced Mario Party U yet? Or did I just miss that?

  2. Brainstrain91 says:

    Reminds me of the Super Mario Galaxy “mutliplayer”, where P1 plays the game and P2 flutters around gathering and wasting your star bits. Only one of them is actually playing a Mario game. I’ve read article of gamer guys and non-gamer significant-girls having fun with it. But it’s pointless for two actual gamers.

    • Girard says:

      It was pretty explicitly designed for pairs where one is more comfortable/experienced, and the other is not, and I’d say that’s a step up from the necessarily single-player-only design of the 3-D Mario games where it’s not really feasible to have a multiplayer option that accommodates two “actual” gamers.

      I actually quite enjoyed that style of interaction, and found a few different ways to make use of it. In addition to the expected scenario of a less-savvy friend being able to gather and waste start bits, I found what was more fun was giving a friend or younger relative the chance to play as Mario, while my more experienced self played as the 2P and used the cursor’s ability to stun enemies or hold back obstacles like rolling boulders, making the game less frustrating and challenging. He was traversing the world, and I was manipulating the world, and we were working as a team toward the goal, which was pretty great.

      It seems like people expect the “helper” role to be handed over the grandma or little cousin to save them from the boredom of just watching the “real” gamer play, but I found it better addresses the frustration experienced gamers have when they sit and watch less-experienced gamers frustrate themselves playing a game. It gives you an opportunity to use your knowledge of the game to assist their gameplay without just snatching the controller out of their hand and beating the level for them.

      It’s not as truly complementary or awesome as the Mario Kart Double-Dash cooperative gameplay, but still something I found pretty successful, for what it was. It definitely wasn’t trying to be a full-on two-player experience like the NSMB Wii game was.

      • NFET says:

        I did that too. As such I see no problem with the bug guy here.

      • caspiancomic says:

         Yeah, Zack and Wiki’s “multiplayer” had a similar vibe. Player one controlled Zack and was in charge of actually, you know, playing the game, but player 2 could use his Wiimote to guide the player, point out interesting areas or objects, highlight items on the field, etc. I played it a bit with my housemates my first time through, and having the ability to highlight a specific thing on the screen was a lot easier than saying “no wait! Go back! No, like… over… back where you were… okay now go up… no, like, away from the camera… grgagh, just let me!”

        • Aaron Riccio says:

          That’s what I’m enjoying so much about Portal 2 co-op, I guess. You can do the whole “highlight” thing (if you don’t have mics), but the game requires BOTH players to play and be decent with puzzles. I’m only just getting into the Multiverse of user-created levels; I’m hoping that some of them will be co-op.

  3. Enkidum says:

    Still haven’t bought Origins yet, but played a bit of the demo and it looks totally awesome. I’d like to play through it with my kids, but it seems a little hard for them – does anyone know if it’s possible for less-skilled players to coast off the stronger skill set of their partners?

    • Destroy Him My Robots says:

      When you die, you turn into bubble that gets dragged along with the scrolling caused by the surviving players, who can later revive you. It’s possible, but of course there’s going to be a point where it stops being fun.

  4. caspiancomic says:

    So the more I read about it, the more it seems to be true, but the less I can actually believe it: does every Wii U console support one and only one tablet controller? Multiplayer games are going to use what, the Wiimotes? And like, one guy is using the tablet? Could this possibly be true? Why in God’s name would this be true?

    • Enkidum says:

      Didn’t they say they support 2? Which still seems kind of crappy – 4 player is standard nowadays – although I guess if you actually look at it, almost everyone is either playing online or maybe with their partner, but it’s rarer for larger groups.

    • Merve says:

      2 gamepads, 4 Wiimotes, or 4 pro controllers. As of yet, there aren’t any multiplayer games that allow more than one gamepad, and any multiplayer game that uses the gamepad has the gamepad-wielding player performing a different task than the other players.

    • Girard says:

      It can support 2, but that halves the frame rate, and presently no games are proposed that actually support it. So no awesome four-swords-style gameplay (unless it can wirelessly talk with the 3DS or something).

      Buying a second controller may also be prohibitively expensive, though I supposed knowing a friend who also owns a Wii U and can bring theirs over for a specific game is a likely scenario.

  5. Kevin Gray says:

    What I want to know is if it’s at all possible to play a game like this with only one player.  Bridges you can’t reach unless someone else cuts the ropes?  Special tokens you can’t get until someone else taps their finger over them first?  I hope there’s a way to bypass these necessities without compromising level design.

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      Agreed! To me, the joy of platforming has always been that pure skill will get you through, if you repeat enough. To think that I’ll be reliant on other players . . . well, that’s a turn-off. I have a hard enough time already with FPS co-op, trying to communicate to other players that NO, NO WHAT ARE YOU DOING, FALL BACK, DON’T JUST KEEP RUSHING IN, OH FORGET IT… FORGET IT. ::sigh::

  6. Aaron Riccio says:

    The only game I’ve ever played that’s ever adequately divided up tasks between one player “playing” and the other player “participating” was Duck Hunt, in which one person could shoot while the other sort of moved the ducks around. At least, I think they were moving the ducks around. We were all pretty drunk at the time.