For anyone in the NYC area, Nintendo World Store now has Wii U demo kiosks set up. Unfortunately the only playable demo right now is Rayman Legends; otherwise all you can do is watch not-terribly-high-quality videos of 19 of the launch games. Still, it was enough of a draw just to handle the Gamepad, which seems about as comfortable and solidly built as most write-ups claim. I was able to hold it with one hand for much of my playtime with no discomfort. (It felt like it might've gotten a little heavy eventually, but to be fair, it was tethered to the kiosk with a hefty security cord.) The sticks, buttons and triggers all felt great -- like serious hardware, with none of the vaguely toy-like quality seen in the Gamecube controller and parts of the original Wii Classic Controller -- and the screen, though not HD, looks plenty sharp and colorful. It does feel a little strange to have both analogs located near the top of the controller, because then you're basically holding this giant controller by pinching just the top corners of it. But on the flip side, the grip does feel very solid when you have your left thumb on the stick and your right thumb on the face buttons.
As for Rayman, it looks so gorgeous it almost hurts. I mean, I've played some damn fine looking games on my PS3, and feel like I'm at a point where graphics alone can't really wow me much anymore, but I was really taken aback by how good this game looks. Much of it's the art style I'm sure, and I don't discount the psychological factor of playing something in HD on Nintendo hardware, but it seriously looks like a moving painting. It's especially impressive seeing as the game is mirrored on the Gamepad screen much of the time, where it looks only slightly less beautiful. Worth seeing in person.
From what little I've played of Rayman games in general, I'm not really a fan -- the controls feel too "slippery" to me. Still, Legends seemed at worst a competent platformer, and incorporates some clever Gamepad use. My character was running along, when suddenly I felt three small taps coming from the controller. After taking a second or two to remember I was holding a giant ****ing screen as a controller, I look down to see a little insect character tapping on the screen, asking me to let him out. I then tapped the screen and he popped up on the TV display as the game switched to primarily touchscreen/gyroscopic controls. The tapping on the screen to get my attention is such a little thing, but it all adds up to make the interaction feel clever, seamless, and involving.