Rayman Legends Hands on – deceptive gameplay at its best

Originally announced as a Wii U exclusive and Developed by Ubisoft Montpellier, Rayman Legends is the follow-up to last year’s Rayman Origins and continues the theme of platforming action the series is renowned for. However, the minds at Ubisoft have often opted for the surreal approach in terms of visual and audio elements in this madcap game that truly tests players nerves as they battle through a number of themed levels collecting, rescuing and jumping to avoid the pitfalls of a treacherous alternate realm.

Nothing is set to make much sense when playing, other than the recurrent theme across each level to score bronze, silver and gold cup awards to boost your “awesomeness” rating – which is a clever boasting card for others to see online. To accomplish this, Rayman has to navigate the terrain using switches and pulleys, gliding and the odd bit of fisticuffs to survive. Scattered across each level are Teensies which need saving and these are basically tied to the games’ progression. Rescue more Teensies, get more cups and unlock more levels.

Gameplay is quite simple in that there are few moves needed to master, and yet it’s the mastery of the levels themselves which presents the greatest challenge. Each level is ranked, with some naturally being moderately easy and others tough as nails. There’s quite a contrast, and in terms of the game’s kiddie appearance, there are several hair pulling moments to be had. This is certainly deceptive gaming, and while Rayman might appear to be a kids game, there’s some hardy challenges awaiting the more accomplished gamers.

What’s pretty spectacular is how the levels introduce various interactive themes for Rayman, and on occasion his side kick who can interact with enemies and the environment at the touch of a button.  The duo have to work together in tandem, often in tight circumstances where the wrong timing can lead to a restart. Pulling, pushing, using movable shields, clearing cake – yes clearing cake are some of the things the duo have to utilize to beat some stages. Luckily, the game is quite forgiving, but on some stages where there are no checkpoints, the pressure really does mount as its a case of learning from ones mistakes and trying again…and again. Legends certainly does have a decent hook to keep players unwillingly coming back for more and if teaming up with other players can increase the levels of fun to be had here. There’s a number of skins players can use, and for the Xbox 360 version – a console specific outfit that mimics Sam Fisher from Splinter Cell, The PS3 version gets Edward Kenway from Assassin’s Creed 4.

What’s probably the most striking aspect of the game is its presentation which simply oozes quality with its hand drawn artistic style and smooth animations. The gallery interface the game uses is excellent, although not necessarily the most practical for finding unlocked paintings.  Yet, there is a distinctive charm to the game’s appearance and tone especially with the exceptional soundtrack that weaves its way into the gameplay on certain stages and adds a more dynamic audio spectrum to the table which is nice to see.

Having spent many hours with the game, replaying levels pulling out hair and simply taking in the delights…including some of the Rayman Origins levels that are featured – Rayman Legends is looking like a comprehensive fun package for fans of the series and anyone looking to stray away from the norm. With solo and  online challenges to extend the game, a blistering soundtrack and some mighty fine looks, Rayman Legends is well worth checking out when it releases August 30th 2013.