- Platforms: Xbox One, PC, PS4 (Reviewed)
- Developer: Playtonic Games
- Publisher: Team17
- Release Date: April 11th, 2017
Nearly two years after a massively successful Kickstarter campaign, Playtonic Games has delivered on their promise of creating a spiritual successor to the Banjo-Kazooie franchise with its debut IP: Yooka-Laylee. While the game has some small nagging issues, the combination of chameleon and bat deliver loads of nostalgia and plenty of promise.
The adventure begins with the game’s villains, Capital B and Dr. Quack, discussing their diabolic plan: using a device called the Noveliser 64 to steal all of the world’s books and secure the “One Book” in the process. With the One Book Capital B will rewrite the universe, but the book is in the possession of an unlikely pair. While renovating their pirate ship/treehouse, Yooka and Laylee discover the One Book, but it is quickly pulled towards the Noveliser 64, with all of its golden pages scattering across the world. The chameleon and bat decide to venture off and collect the golden pages, known as Pagies, completely oblivious to Capital B’s intentions.
Those intentions become quite clear when Yooka and Laylee stumble upon Hivory Towers, which serves as the main hub of Yooka-Laylee. If you’re familiar with games such as the Banjo-Kazooie series, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and Super Mario 64, you’ll already have a pretty good handle on how the game works as it operates on the same formula.
If you are unfamiliar with the formula, Yooka-Laylee is a 3D platformer that focuses on collecting 145 pagies spread across five worlds, which can be found by completing fetching quests, solving puzzles, and interacting with an assortment of goofy NPC’s. The five worlds in the game, known as Grand Tomes, are scattered throughout Hivory Towers, and can only be accessed by unlocking special abilities from Trowzer the Snake and trading in the hard-earned pagies you’ve accumulated along your adventure. Apart from collecting pagies there are quite a few more collectibles to snatch up while exploring, including five ghost writers in each world, which are the equivalent to Banjo-Kazooie‘s Jinjos, and hundreds of quills, comparable to music notes, that allow Yooka and Laylee to purchase special moves.
Some pagies are unlocked by completing arcade games inside of each world that resemble past Rare titles. By collecting a play token hidden in each world and visiting Rextro Sixtyfourus at one of his arcade cabinets, you’ll be challenged to beat a time trial or complete a level to be awarded. These titles can also be played separately in the main menu of the game, and can be played both single and multiplayer. The games offer some nostalgic value and can be fun in small doses, but don’t go in with high expectations of hours of multiplayer fun.
A game is nothing without its main cast, and Yooka and Laylee make quite the duo. Yooka is the voice of reason between the pair, with sort of a happy-go-lucky attitude, while Laylee couldn’t be more opposite. The feisty little bat pokes and prods the game’s supporting cast, making crass remarks while taking subtle jabs at subjects such as the gaming industry and crowdfunding. Yooka and Laylee, along with many other of the game’s characters are very heavy on the punny humor, and the dialogue often has fourth wall-breaking moments.
The level design of Yooka-Laylee is pretty solid overall, although some areas of the game feel a little too large with not much going on to utilize the space. Moodymaze Marsh in particular stands out as the Grand Tome that is the least entertaining to explore, while Glitterglaze Glacier, the game’s second Grand Tome, is easily the best area of the game, largely in part to some outstanding background music from Grant Kirkhope.
Grant Kirkhope is one of the greatest composers in the gaming industry, and has added yet another beautiful soundtrack to his resume. Each one of Yooka-Laylee‘s worlds is perfectly complimented by one of Grant’s tracks, and sets the tone for each Grand Tome the moment you take your first step.
Much like almost every other 3D Platformer that has ever existed, camera control is often an issue in Yooka-Laylee. This can become a headache when traversing a narrow walkway, or maneuvering in a tight spot where there is little room for error, as the camera at times becomes fixed on an unfortunate angle.
All in all, Yooka-Laylee is exactly as advertised: a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie. Kickstarter backers should feel satisfied with the finished product, and fans of the 90’s 3D platformers will feel right at home. Despite some camera issues and some areas of the game feeling a little too spacious, Yooka-Laylee‘s addicting gameplay and stellar soundtrack are more than enough to leave you hooked. Yooka-Laylee brings 3D Platforming back to its former glory, and it will be interesting to see what Playtonic Games has up their sleeve next.
Playstation 4 Review code of Yooka-Laylee was provided by Team17. The author of the review also backed the Kickstarter.