We were in France to play Rayman Legends, but no-one was playing it. Not really. There were two reasons for this. The first is that there were constant distractions, not least among them Rayman's creator, Michel Ancel, interrupting his own interviews to throw down a live rendition of Get Lucky with his composer and other musicians. Before that he'd been making fart jokes, and the aforementioned composer had been singing the most outrageous version of Black Betty - seriously, it sounded like his throat was firing tank rounds - you're ever likely to hear. It got stranger from there on out.
But the real reason that no-one was playing Rayman Legends - well, the 'main' portion of it - was because of a small football mini-game tucked away in the code. It's called Kung Foot, something Ancel and co. used as a tool to de-stress when working on the main game. For a laugh, it's been chucked into Legends, and is so horribly addictive that we're surprised the title got finished.
It's a mix of volleyball and football: two teams square off, with each fielding up to three players. From there, it's your job to knock the ball into the other goal, which is on a deck about a character's height off the ground. Fighting is legal - and slapstick, of course - and the ball cannot leave the arena. Two minutes, then golden goal overtime.
It is, matter of factly, one of the best mini-games ever created. The exaggerated physics make for some intense, end-to-end games, but there's just enough fidelity to real football to make those long-range screamers or audacious lobs feel as good as they do in FIFA or PES. It's extraordinarily tense. What should be a fun kick-about soon becomes The Most Important Thing In The World. Tactics and formations even start to take form: goalkeepers, volleyball-style set-ups and spikes, defensive and attacking strategies. It might not be as in-depth as other football games, but there is a skill to it.
It took a while for some to find it, but when they did, there was no going back. The place it was being hosted - a beach-side club in Montpelier - started as a monument to carefree French cool, but half an hour later it resembled your average dorm-room FIFA tournament. People were screaming in delight at last-minute winners, howling in disgust at last-second defeats. During one heated two-on-two game, Ancel himself attempted to grab our attention, gingerly leaning in like a guy trying to get a girl's attention at a bar. We were so invested in what was happening we didn't even notice him, and seconds later he slinked off.
It made me wonder if Ubisoft had made a huge mistake adding this mode to the build. After all, we were there to see Legends' platforming sections. I eventually did check them out. As ever, it's stuffed with wonderful levels and art direction - the stealthy, silhouetted style of one course combining with a Bond-style spy score was a particular highlight, as was the timing and rhythm-based, switch-orientated platforming that required impressive cohesion from everyone on the team.
Controlling Murfy on PS3 and Xbox isn't quite as involved as on the Wii U and Vita. There, the gamepad is used by another player for touch-based assistance - for example, pulling a block out of the way so others can get through. On Sony and Microsoft's home machines, it was all done at a press of a button, an unfortunate if necessary compromise. Either way, the levels we played were impressive, bearing all the hallmarks of Ancel's work - humorous yet challenging, clever but not overly so, with a focus on co-operation but also a sly element of competition.
Another new addition also impressed. There are now rhythm-action-based levels, where players have to run from a wall of fire, hitting enemies and coins: these are the 'notes' of the songs (which include Black Betty and, erm, Eye of the Tiger), and it's your job to make sure you hit as many as possible before the end of the stage.
The rhythm stages were a highlight, as was the announcement that stages from Rayman Origins would return. As good as Rayman's platforming is, however, it spoke volumes that everyone eventually went back to playing the aforementioned football distraction.
Which probably shows you how good a package this potentially is.
Flights and accommodation provided by Ubisoft