Rayman Legends Hands-on Preview: platforming with soul

Ever since the limbless figure of Rayman lolloped onto PlayStation and other platforms in 1995, Michel Ancel’s kooky platforming series has consistently managed to strike that perfect balance of fun vs. challenge, taking gamers on a visually arresting and audibly charming journey filled with wacky characters, distinct settings and patience-testing action.

As the sequel to Rayman Origins, Rayman Legends follows a similar pattern to its predecessor, fusing traditional platforming mechanics with a few Rayman-eccentric twists. Wrapped lovingly with silky smooth cartoon visuals and a delightful soundtrack, Rayman Legends oozes style out of every pore and, like other games in the series, expertly manages to make the art of stomping on enemies’ heads, freeing trapped Teensies from jail, and collecting cute-faced Lums an utter joy.

The colourful environments and slick animation in Legends are very much on a par with Origins, though the evolution of the UbiArt engine has added an extra layer of sheen. This is showcased by the sheer depth and polish of the environments as well as the enhanced lighting and shadow effects that add character to the five distinct game worlds. From the lush greenery and vegetation that spreads throughout ‘Toad’s Story’ to the atmospheric underwater caverns crawling with all sorts of colourful sea-life in 20,000 Lums Under The Sea, Legends is the best looking Rayman game to date.

The visuals work well with the soundtrack too with every object you interactive with generating a unique sound that synchs perfectly with the impressively varied audio experience. One minute you can be motoring along in a speed level banging your head to the sounds of an adapted version of rock classic ‘Black Betty’ - the noise of drums pounding in time to the fists of the troll-like creatures banging on the ground of Castle Rock - and next minute you can be swinging serenely through Jibberish Jungle to a dreamy piano solo where a tinker of notes enriches the track as you pick up Lums.

Four players work together to cut through cake in Fiesta De Los Muertos

By paying so much attention to how things sound - showcased most magnificently in the ‘sound stages’ produced specifically to make the most out of music - Legends occasionally feels like a rhythm-based platformer. And, like the very best games in this particular sub-genre, the combination of addictive platfoming, superb sound and crisp visuals creates an experience that you can’t help but lose yourself in.

Though gameplay will be instantly familiar to anyone who has played previous titles, particularly Origins, Ubisoft has stepped things up a notch in terms of variety. Old school platforming action (jumping, swinging, stomping and bashing) is where the action mainly lies, though a host of mini-games, online challenges and new features have been added to make Legends the most diverse and in-depth Rayman experience yet.

Along with Rayman, Globox, and the Teensies, players can also control the ginger-haired Barbara, and there’s the option for four players (locally) to team up together. The five worlds take their inspiration from a variety of materials. 20,000 Lums Under The Sea, for example, is a clear nod to Jules Verne’s nautical adventure and takes place under water. It’s not just about avoiding deadly underwater traps either as the gameplay often takes players down a Sam Fisher-style stealth route dodging lights to avoid patrols. Fiesta de Los Muertos on the other-hand takes a different theme. Inspired by the Mexican Festival, this is a much brighter setting filled with a festival theme and plenty of sweet treats to work your way around before you come face-to-face with the end-of-level boss, El Chili.

Mini-games such as Kung foot provide some competitive shenanigans

Each world and level within it offers something a little different and Legends does a good job at mixing things up so they don’t become too stale, ramping up the pace with timed-challenges and then slowing things down giving you time to explore for hidden areas and go about the addictive pursuit of collecting Lums and freeing trapped Teensies. The mind of Rayman creator Michel Ancel has once again been let loose and Legends is full of humour and brilliantly conceived levels that give players countless creative ways to get from ‘A’ to ‘B’.

Aside from the game hub, which now requires players to jump into paintings to ... (continued on next page) ----

A gamer since the days of the ZX Spectrum, Steven Williamson now works as General Manager for PSU. He's supposed to be managing, but if you're reading this, it means he's dipped into editorial again. Follow @steven_gamer
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  • Related game: Rayman Legends

    Release date (US):
    September 3rd, 2013
    Ubisoft Montpellier
    Action - 2D Platformer
    0 of 2,665 Games
    Up 0 places (in last 7 days)

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