FYIG recently got the chance to try out a brand-new action-platformer inspired by Banjo Kazooie. Find out what we thought in our Yooka-Laylee review!
One of my favourite genres in all of gaming has to be platformers. Some of my favourite video games of all time are Ratchet and Clank, Super Mario 64, and Jak and Daxter to name a few. I was very excited to learn that Yooka-Laylee was in development when I first heard the news last year. This game seems to be a bit of a throwback to the numerous platformers that graced PS1 and N64 in their heyday. Does that type of gameplay translate to today? Let’s dive right in and find out!
Yooka-Laylee is heavily influenced by the N64 classic, Banjo Kazooie. Even the name of the game is pretty similar. This is one vibrant and beautiful looking game. The developers definitely spent a lot of time creating the different levels and characters that make Yooka-Laylee so endearing. I did enjoy my time playing this game, but I also found some camera-related issues, the low number of worlds, and lack of voice-acting kept me from fully enjoying this adventure.
Yooka-Laylee follows a similar path to most other games in this genre. You meet out two heroes, Yooka the chameleon and Laylee the bat, in a hub-world. You’re given a few minutes to explore and learn the controls and a little more about the game. Your goal is to find the “pagies” that have been scattered throughout the world from the golden book. Capital B (the game’s antagonist) stole all the world’s books and that’s pretty much the premise of it. The story is pretty weak and it’s not at all going to be the reason to buy this game. The name of the game is collecting different items, exploring new worlds, and purchasing new abilities. There are even some arcade games you can play as a bit of a diversion.
I was really impressed with how many interesting abilities were available to unlock and utilize as you go through the game. There’s a real sense of progress as you go from simple platforming which consists of running and jumping to many different advanced moves. You’ll see the regular stuff like double-jumps, gliding, and a higher jump which are pretty obvious additions, but it’s the more inventive abilities that I enjoyed the most. Rolling comes into play to get up steep hills, sonar reveals secret areas and puzzles, and Yooka can even eat different berries and things to assume that elemental power like fire and ice. I had a lot of fun using all of these different things to solve different puzzles and experiment with to find different areas.
As much fun as Yooka-Laylee can be at times, I found it to be a very polarizing game for a number of reasons. The camera really drove me crazy. It gets caught on anything it touches from walls to rocks to hills. It’s incredibly hard to get the camera to go in the right direction that you want it to go and you’re constantly fighting it. It’s a tough issue to get past in certain instances and, in a game where precision is key, it really makes things more difficult than they need to be. I will say that the control over Yooka is very responsive and I had no problems getting him to do exactly what I wanted him to do when I wanted him to do it. I read other reviews claiming there are control issues and I really haven’t seen any.
I really enjoyed the worlds and level design in Yooka-Laylee. I felt like they did a really good job in creating vast, detailed worlds that even expand after you collect enough pagies. It’s amazing to see how big some of these worlds are, I felt like a tiny speck in most of them. Some of the worlds you’ll see include a world of floating islands, an ice world, and even a casino. No two worlds are at all similar and each one has their own unique set of challenges to collect more pagies. I had a great time collecting things and exploring these different areas. It’s satisfying to know all of the stuff that you’re collecting has a purpose in expanding islands and buying abilities. It never feels like you’re just doing something to do it.
The side-activities are alright in small doses. There’s a minecart course on each world that brings you straight back to Donkey Kong Country on the SNES. These courses aren’t very fun and get pretty difficult as you progress through the worlds. There are even some arcade games to play as I mentioned earlier. I wasn’t a big fan of these and thought they felt a touch out of place in all honesty. The boss fights were what you would expect from this type of game. They put your new skills to the test to see if you can defeat your enemy and I didn’t have too much trouble with them. The worst part by far was the quiz show to get to a new area. Why on Earth would I want to answer multiple choice questions on things I’ve done? It’s multiple choice with 1/3 chance to move forward, but still. I feel that it had no place in this game and it really slowed the pace to a crawl.
There is absolutely no voice-acting in Yooka-Laylee. The worst part about that is that the characters make annoying noises for every word that they say. I’ve never said “shut up!” more than I have when I play this game. Listening to those noises over and over every time you talk to someone can make you go crazy. You can’t even skip most of the dialogue so you’re forced to sit there and listen to this stuff over and over again. If you could at least hit the button to make it go faster, it’d be fine, but this is awful.
As annoying as talking to the other characters can become, they actually have a lot to say and are full of personality. The facial expressions on some of the enemies make me laugh as they look like a typical cartoon villain. The NPCs that you talk to are equally as pleasant and full of character. There’s a cloud named Nimbus who’s sad because his wife left him for a Typhoon and there’s even a snake with a pair of pants on comically named Trowzer (get your mind out of the gutter). The game is full of these subtle instances of humour mentioning the game’s crowd-funding origins and generally being very self-aware. The soundtrack is equally as good with a distinctly late-90s vibe.
I was hard on Yooka-Laylee in some instances, but I really enjoyed this game a lot. It’s a game that would have benefitted from a bit more polish instead of extras like the quiz, minecart, and the retro arcade that really didn’t add anything to the package. I had a great time with the actual gameplay and figuring different things out. It’s definitely a game for all ages, but I think it skews more towards adults with how difficult some of the challenges are to complete. I will say that there is a lot of stuttering on the load screen (not in game) of the PS4 version that I played, but it’s never frozen or anything like that.
I would recommend Yooka-Laylee to everyone. If you like 3D platformers, you’ll probably like this game. There are some frustrating issues, but for me, it doesn’t take away from how enjoyable this game is as a whole. Anyone who thinks 3D platformers are antiquated is definitely wrong. There’s certainly a place for games like this in today’s gaming ecosystem and I really wish there were more like it.
*A copy of this game was provided to FYIG by Playtonic Games for review purposes*