The 'oooh!' when you slip into a catacomb hidden deep within an apple core. The squelch when you poke a be-tentacled monster in one of its five eyes seconds before it drags you into the abyss. The little Spanish guitars that grow louder as you approach the level exit. Here we have a game that fully understands the importance of feedback.
If you were to strip Rayman Legends of its surreal sights and sounds, you'd have yourself a perfectly serviceable 80%-rated platformer and no more. But Rayman Legends' artistic flair doesn't just make it a fantastic looking and sounding game - it fuses itself to the action spectacularly, with every tiny flourish - every oooh, ahhh and wow - spurring you on to the finish.
So in tune is the platforming with its soundtrack in fact that the game sees fit to throw in some truly mesmerising rhythm action push-scrolling levels, which sees Rayman sprint through levels arranged around such unorthodox mash-ups such as a mariachi Eye Of The Tiger or a hard rock rendition of Black Betty.
The same staggering attention to detail applies to the art direction. We're not just talking about the big things (such as a host of gargoyles popping up in the foreground to croak "bam ba-lam" during the aforementioned Castle Rock stage). It's the incidental details that make Rayman Legends such a magical experience; the way purple lums frantically gesticulate in mid-air, imploring you to collect them in the right order despite the x2 multiplier rewards being negligible; the way teensies blow you a cheeky kiss after being saved.
To play Rayman Legends is to be in awe in the way all its tiny touches mesh together so beautifully. It is rare to see a game so respectful of the player's time - barely a second goes by without an amusing aside to keep interest levels piqued. Even the loading transition screens give you an extra life icon to chase down. Rayman Legends remembers something important; something many developers forget. It remembers that it's not playing its tune to a captive audience - that the player can up and leave at any time - and strives to never give them reason to.
This is a game too that understands the finer art of incentivisation; while its unlock structure of levels-for-teensies could prove a slog in lesser hands, the game hurls a boatland of mini-rewards the player's way to keep them keen. These include new heroes to play as, a gallery of creatures to cultivate and - ingeniously - a 'lucky dip' scratch card positioned half way between the silver and gold medals targets.
Replaying levels for higher scores never feels like a chore, and Wii U owners will already be aware of the charms of the Challenge mode, where players tackle a weekly-rotating selection of cement-hard timed challenges for leaderboard bragging rights.
This was originally a Wii U exclusive of course and its heritage shines through brightest on the levels featuring Murfy - a little green helper who assists you by cutting ropes, shifting platforms, blocking off lava flow with guacamole(!) or (for example) saving you from a frazzly death from a vengeful Greek god by providing shelter from a finger-produced lighting storm. On Wii U these section require intense multi-tasking via the GamePad touch screen, but on console all actions are performed with the circle/A button. Far less interactive, but enough of the original concept's madcap panic shines through to prevent it from being a wash-out.
2D platformers are undergoing something of a renaissance at the moment but most are concerned with looking backwards, not forwards - from the conservatism of the New Super Mario Bros series to the retro-aping of the indie scene. Here we have a thoroughly modern take on the genre that gets us off the ice world/fire world treadmill and takes to levels made of sausage and cake; that randomly transforms you into a duck halfway through for no reason other than it's funny. We loved every second of it, and you will too.
An absolute joy to play - challenging, amusing and very, very French. Essential platforming shenanigans, and one of those rarest of beasts - a third-party game best experienced on Wii U.
- Supremely funny and confident platformer with terrific art direction
- Structure offers constant incentives and boggling variety
- Ooh, nearly forgot - the Kung Foot mini-game is a bit special, too
- A tough game, but one which doesn't offer much penalty for death