Title: Yooka-Laylee

Platform: Windows, Steam, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch (planned)

Reviewed on: PS4

Genre: Platformer

Players: Single player, Co Op, Multiplayer





Written by Whistler 3rd May 2017




















Back in the day it must be said that the quality of games back when Rare was with Nintendo was the stuff of legend. You can’t deny they produced some of the most memorable and enjoyable titles from the SNES and N64 eras, which were major contributors to the success of both consoles. That golden age has long since passed though and you’d be forgiven for thinking the development studio had been disbanded once they had produced nothing but Kinect shovelware for four years in a row. So when Playtonic Games (composed of former Rareware devs) announced development of a spiritual successor to Rare’s beloved Banjo-Kazooie, the nostalgia fueled expectations could not have been higher.


Yooka-Laylee doesn’t so much as stay faithful to its predecessor but rather copy pastes it entirely, and much like a last minute attempt to copy your mate’s homework it only serves to bring attention to the original’s flaws. Everything is there that should be, such as colourful characters, expansive playgrounds to explore and collectibles to be discovered. You’d be forgiven for thinking Yooka-Laylee is a remaster, the 3D platformer would feel perfectly at home of the N64 with smooth yet blocky visuals. The visuals reminiscent of it’s blocky ancestor go hand in hand with the quirky writing plentiful in fourth wall breaking and self referential humour. Cringey dialogue is also dealt out in spades but the writing is so cheesy it could cover a party sized pizza that had me laughing regularly (even as much as the signature garbled voices had me wanting to mute the audio).


The strange duo composed of an Iguana (Yooka) and snarky bat (Laylee) are tasked with reclaiming all 145 ‘Pagies’ from a mysterious book that the evil Captial B and his Hivory Tower are searching for. Turns out he who wields the book (and it’s contents) can rewrite the world as they see fit and so begins the players collect-athon through Yooka-Laylee’s six worlds. Paiges can be found scattered throughout the worlds or through completing the various challenges within them so players are free to hunt them down as they see fit.
























While you require Pagies to gain access to these worlds, the player will also need to collect Quills to better equip themselves for traversing these large playgrounds. Quills serves as Yooka-Laylee’s currency which can be handed over to Trowzer the snake in return for a plethora of abilities and special moves. These abilities play a pivotal role in gaining access to more Pagies such as the glide or high jump skills and even a barrel roll for speedy traversal and the ability to ascend slippery slopes.


However the option to revisit previous worlds is purely for the need of missed Paigies and Quills; the five worlds and main hub world look great, but each struggles to fill their big playgrounds with meaningful content. They feel hollow and more often than not are plagued with vast empty spots making exploration feel arduous. There’s some decent platforming and the challenges themselves are enjoyable (if not often recycled repeatedly) but boy did I get sick of exploring thanks to the movement. Yooka’s running speed is just slow enough to get tiresome but the duo’s roll ability is so haphazardly clunky that it leads to more frustrations.


If Playtonic’s intention was to fully recreate the feel of an N64 platformer then they could have probably done without recreating some of the poor design choices and technical hiccups from that era. Controls and camera movement are key in any 3D environment and especially within platformers, here the camera is shockingly stubborn and slow to manually move.

Too often did I find myself struggling to focus on certain platforms as I slowly panned the camera but to then suddenly jump cut to another angle like I’m playing Resident Evil or practically hugging the characters when I maneuvered near any solid objects. Jumping is satisfying but there’s this floaty feeling I couldn’t quite shake off or adjust to in regards to movement which has characters moving a few steps before actually stopping. These hiccups would be forgiven back in 1998 but here they’re unacceptable, and don’t get me started on the awful aiming mechanic.
























Alas much like Banjo Kazooie, combat is both lacklustre and utterly pointless. Rarely does engaging one of the few variations of minions benefit the player and you can outright avoid them altogether for the majority of your playthrough especially when the minions respawn regularly. Sure recreating what made 3D platforming so memorable is key, but Playtonics have done nothing to update the formula bar the visual coat of paint. This is the underlying issue that plagues Yooka-Laylee throughout its 16-20 hour playthrough.


Challenges are repeatedly recycled along with character interactions without any relevant context that only serve to drive home the repetitiveness. The quirky characters themselves feel like they’ve just been plopped in, much like the Quills and Paigies, none feeling like they have a place in these worlds outside of handing you challenges and rewards. Some of the more demanding challenges of dexterity were fun but they often felt more like self-contained minigames rather than cohesive aspects of the worlds.


Yooka-Laylee could have been the 3D platformer to revitalize the age old genre but it spends too much time reminiscing in it’s legacy and forgetting to be a new game. The visuals are solid but everything else feels like it merely tries to emulate the old school platformers, nothing feels fleshed out or refined and the playgrounds ultimately feel unmemorable. There’s no Big Boo’s Haunt, Artisan’s Home World or Spiral Mountain; beyond the hub world I couldn’t for the life of me recite the names of Yooka-Laylee’s worlds.

Yooka-Laylee is a nice homage to the 3D platformer of yonder, but it’s bad parts are all the more noticeable and good parts never live up to the task.

If you’re desperate to scratch that nostalgic itch and have no means to revist the platformers of yesteryears then by all means Yooka-Laylee will indulge your desires. If you were hoping for Yooka-Laylee to build upon its legacy then look elsewhere, I recommend checking out A Hat in Time.



Pros:

Quirky characters,

Colourful dialogue,

Recreates that Banjo-Kazooie feel.


Cons:

Merely emulates oldschool platforming rather than expanding on them,

Poor camera controls,

Lacklustre challenge,

Bland worlds and unmemorable gameplay.


Final verdict,

Yooka-Laylee rolls in with a 6.5/10.

 

Written by,

Whistler

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