Game developer Rare once dominated the 3D-Platforming genre with vibrant, bouncy, ‘collect-a-thon’ titles. Among these wondrous games were classics Banjo Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64, influencing many more platformers like Gex, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger, and Ratchet and Clank. As interest fades and the introduction of the First Person Shooter fad in the late 2000s, the adventure platformer genre died out. The joyous nostalgia of playing hours upon hours of Banjo on a beautiful Sunday merely became memories. Now, following a now muzzled Rare, a group of former employees launch a Kickstart campaign for the return of the genre. A spiritual successor, Yooka-Laylee, has finally arrived on Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC, and later on Nintendo Switch. However, does Yooka-Laylee satisfy gamers while also feeling fresh and contemporary?
Playtonic Games’ throwback adventure features two brightly coloured protagonists. Yooka, the lime-green chameleon performing most actions and abilities, and Laylee, the wisecracking, fourth-wall breaking, purple bat that allows the pair to fly and use a sonic radar to find hidden items. Together, they represent the classic team-up style platformer, and they do it well. Less can’t be expected of Playtonic Games, with their experience in the genre they know exactly how to design and develop these two characters and it shows. Your main ally, Trowzer the Snake, is a sleazy snake (both literally and figuratively) that sells you special abilities. These are unlocked to progress further in the game and reach new areas. He’s a snake in a pair of trousers who randomly pulls out an old cellular phone as if his pants are a time capsule from the 90s. Yooka and Laylee’s main adversary is Capital B, a capitalist bee who runs Hivory Towers and desires to hold a monopoly of the world’s book industry. The character’s design itself is a joke on Microsoft and their treatment of Rare as a company, and Yooka-Laylee doesn’t stop there with witty humour. The rest of the cast are on par with the rest, all featuring diverse and exciting designs playing upon a pun or joke appealing to the adult or 10 year old you. For the fan favourite, see “Rextro Sixtyfourus”.
The level design features colourful open worlds with various objectives to obtain Pagies and progress to newer arenas. Players expand upon these original worlds by paying with collected Pagies, revealing more characters, obstacles, and tasks to complete. The initial stage is a perfect representation on 101 adventure-platformer design. A vibrant green land of ruins and forest abundant of enemies, quirky characters, and even a race or two. Each level hold mini-games akin to older arcade titles. Once unlocked, they are congregated in the hub world arcade and are playable in multiplayer from the main menu. They are enjoyable, little treats providing bit of fun away from the fun. Secrets are smartly placed in each and searching for them is enjoyable and doesn’t feel like a chore. Areas of backtracking are clear, where your abilities don’t match the requirements, providing for additional replay value. The opener world really sets the tone for the title and presents the expectation of what is to come. They are vastly larger and varied than the worlds of Banjo, however, the numbers are low with only a handful of stages to complete. One drawback is the central hub level that can often be a cumbersome challenge, making progress more difficult than it should be. It’s large, complicated, and often slows down game play. The ability to select a different stage without having to find a way to and from or a concise hub world would improve the neatness of the entire title.
Technically, the title seems to share more in common with the 64 than a modern day game. On the Playstation 4, lighting may feel overly dark, shadows under trees on the first level for example. The game runs smoothly at a 60FPS but will not shy away from barrelling down to a slow 20 or lower, particularly when loading areas. As unfortunately expected, the awkward camera controls that plague the genre are prominent. It may lock onto an unwanted angle, incorrectly frame Yooka and Laylee, and really hurts controlling the pair. It can lead to missing a jump or falling off the level… a lot. Potentially this is merely part of the 3D platformer, a highlight and a negative. Nonetheless, it’s an issue and one corrected in other third person titles since Banjo.
One of the best features of Yooka-Laylee is the whimsical soundtrack. Honestly, video game soundtracks were still as favoured and praised as they used to be, Playtonic’s would have a classic on their hands. The title menu music is bouncy, uplifting, and perfectly represents the title as a whole. It presents the tone and beautifully reminds players of the nostalgia trip they are about to experience. Each level has equally as intriguing music fitting their environments. Hivory Towers sounds dark, broody, but holds an upbeat tune driving the entire game. The ice level is full of jingles and bells akin to a Christmas wonderland. Collecting a pagie, performing certain moves, and the sounds of slain enemies are similarly delightful and energetic. The sound design is absolutely on point perfect for this sort of title and is one to remember.
Playtonic Games’ 2017 reintroduction of the 3D-Platformer, Yooka-Laylee, is exactly what it sets out to be… to a fault. Presented is a beautifully colour diverse, kid-friendly adventure with a cast of diverse eccentric characters that propel attention forward. The bubbly tunes and addicting jingles will keep players moving along as they collect every single secret and Pagie obtainable in all expandable stages. All the nostalgia is present, both the fun and the frustration. Technically the title suffers from frame rate drops and wonky camera and controls frequently, similar to predecessors. Does that make it a bad game? Not at all. Does it hurt playability? Regretfully. For a lower price point, for the perfection of the genre, and for the fun experience of playing the title, Yooka-Laylee is worth it, faults and all.
|All the nostalgia is present, both the fun and the frustration. For a lower price point, for the perfection of the genre, and for the fun experience of playing the title, Yooka-Laylee is worth it, faults and all.||4.3 4.3 ( on 5 rating)|