It was hard to go anywhere during E3 without hearing the words “asymmetric gaming” and it was even harder to imagine a scenario where it works properly. The idea is that multiple people play the same game but play it in different ways. It’s been done before but usually ends up being pretty lopsided, with one or more players not having quite as much fun as everyone else. Think about Super Mario Galaxy: one player controls Mario, the other player gets to shoot stars at the screen or collect coins for you. It works well enough and is great for when your 4 year old wants to play, but for the other 95% of players, it isn’t nearly as much fun as controlling Mario for yourself. The difficulty is finding something for both players to do that’s separate and yet equally as important at all times. It’s the Law and Order of video games, and Rayman Legends is like Ice T. Don’t think about that for too long.
At the Ubisoft booth, next to the obnoxiously loud thumping of the Just Dance 4 platform, members of the Ubisoft team were on hand to walk attendees through one of Rayman Legends‘ cooperative levels. With the attendant playing as Rayman, I was given the Wii U Gamepad and control of a weird little ugly fairy-frog named Murfy. By tapping the screen I could zip him around to different areas, uncovering secrets and pickups. I wasn’t just there for busywork, however. More often than not, my influence was necessary to progress.
For instance, we would reach a pit that was too wide to jump across, but above it was a log hanging by a couple ropes. With a quick swipe, I could cut the rope and lower the log, allowing Rayman to walk across. Other times I would be required to rotate a platform by tilting the gamepad in such a way as to protect Rayman from the spikes on it’s underside as he ran along a wall. There was even a large spike filled rotating puzzle that had to be carefully navigated in a joint effort between both players. When I wasn’t manipulating platforms, I was helping defeat enemies by tapping and dragging them to Rayman so he could beat them up freely.
A few times during the demo, my duties were changed considerably. We entered a bonus room where a bunch of pink balls with eyes were gathered on one side of the screen with Rayman positioned on the other side, tasking me with scooping them all up and throwing them over a wall to be collected. A little later, I was using a slingshot to fend off dragons that were attacking Rayman as he jumped across gaps. Towards the end of the level, we reached a portion where Rayman had to run through the level quickly, jumping gaps and avoiding walls. While this was going on, my game essentially turned into a rhythm game as I tapped platforms at specific times, causing a line of collectibles to spawn along Rayman’s path. It was a taste of how things will be kept fresh as the game progresses.
Every action I performed was done via either the touch screen or the accelerometer turning the gamepad portion into what was essentially asmartphone or tablet game. The beauty of this is that you can give it to your parents/kids/significant other/dog (meaning any one of those things, not some weird freak-of-science combination of all of them) and they can probably figure it out within minutes. It’s simple, gorgeous to behold , and a reminder that asymmetric doesn’t always imply one player will be having less fun. Rayman Legends is shaping up to be a must have Wii U title when it hits sometime before the end of this year.