What I'm Playing: Rayman Legends

As a child, I grew up playing two game franchises, both of which are engrained into my childhood memories. One of these, involving a pistol-wielding relic-hunting young woman, has delved fully into the modern concept of “make the thing gritty as hell”. The other game franchise hasn’t seen anything even remotely resembling grit in its 20-year life. We’re talking Rayman: Ubisoft’s famous, limbless, blonde-haired, big-nosed platform-jumper who stole many of my childhood hours. Therefore, when I discovered that the rebooted franchise was to follow up from Rayman: Origins with the similarly-artsy Rayman: Legends back in 2012 on the Xbox 360, I couldn’t help myself from buying it then, and more recently downloading it now (free – gotta love Games with Gold) on my Xbox One.

The gameplay style is simple to get the hang of, but incredibly hard to master. The side-scrolling, platforming, enemy-punching element of the original Rayman is back, albeit with a far faster pace. It’s easy enough to get through the stages themselves – and incredibly entertaining to do so, but to collect every single Lum, free every single caged Teensie, unlock and complete every single character unlock level, timed stage and bonus level? Therein lies the real challenge of this game, should you choose to accept it.

It’s just one huge artsy nostalgia trip, and don’t we all love looking back at the better times of our childhood before we got old and had responsibilities?

The really marvellous aspect of this game is in its visual aesthetic – UbiArt’s simple, interactive art style is instantly recognisable and unbelievably entertaining. Whatever kind of game design you’re into, you will appreciate the hand-drawn work that’s gone into this game, even if some sections make you feel like you’re tripping balls – the musical sections and boss-fights are definitely culprits in this regard. Certain design elements call back to previous Rayman games, with the wooded medieval stage harkening back to the very first stage of the original 1995 game, and the final stage (which I won’t spoil – good luck unlocking it!) making reference to Rayman 3’s Land of the Livid Dead. It’s just one huge artsy nostalgia trip, and don’t we all love looking back at the better times of our childhood before we got old and had responsibilities?

As you’d expect, the soundtrack is as entertaining as the game and artwork – Christophe Héral’s prior work on Beyond Good and Evil and Rayman: Origins already made clear his penchant for entertaining and fun video game soundtracks, and Legends is no exception. Each themed stage of the game has an accompanying soundtrack, with the initial medieval-inspired stage’s entertaining marches and flute, and the underwater spy-themed stages echoing Bond films with slow trombone and surf-rock guitar. And to top it off, the end of stage levels are entirely musical and based on different well-known songs. Who doesn’t want to run down a collapsing castle whilst ‘Black Betty’ by Ram Jam is playing during your escape? Or even better, jump through a flowery Mexican Day of the Dead dreamscape whilst Survivor’s ‘Eye of the Tiger’ is played on Spanish guitars and a kazoo?

This game is perfect for anyone wishing to escape back into the entertaining and colourful game-worlds that made up our videogame childhood, and if you haven’t explored Ubisoft’s Rayman franchise, despite this being the latest game, it might just be the best place to start for you!

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