3D platform games were all the rage in the mid-90s. With many much-loved franchises stemming from this era and many modern series influenced by these games. It never surprises me when titles use these well-established mechanics, but I always worry when a new game comes to market that it won’t live up to my expectations. Yooka-Laylee is heavily inspired by these early console games, so I’m intrigued to see how it’ll compare. Already reviewed in 2017 by Diogo Miguel you can see how his thoughts differ from mine by reading it here!
Developed by Playtonic Games and published by Team17, this is a colourful 3D platform game. It is laced with sarcasm, good old-fashioned wit, fun challenges and many tasks. Using the well-appreciated double protagonist approach, it was clear to see that Yooka-Laylee was influenced by the wonderful title Banjo-Kazooie.
Yooka-Laylee has a lot to live up to!
This is one of those genres with die-hard fans who expect everything to be right. Now, I like the genre, but I wouldn’t say I love it, so I’m going to be more forgiving than most. What I expect to find as I delve deep into this colourful, vivid world is plenty of collectables, lots to do, many side quests, and memorable characters. Fortunately, it has all these elements in abundance, so we’re off to a great start.
The story revolves around a crazy evil villain called Capital B and his duck sidekick. They have created a machine that’ll steal the world’s book supply. They want one singular novel known as the “One Book”. Possessing this ancient object will make them become the most powerful beings in the world. As the book is taken, its pages hide in several worlds. You must enter each tome, collecting the pages (pagies) and recovering the book before it’s too late.
Classic mechanics but not enough worlds.
What leapt out at me immediately was the modern take on the classic mechanics. Each of the protagonists brings their personality to the party and they each have abilities that’ll help you progress. The usual; jumping, fighting, and double jumps are utilised. Alongside this, you have bat sonar powers, speed rolling, the power to shoot harvested fruits, and more. The abilities were genuinely interesting and their implementation harked back to the glory days of the genre.
These abilities don’t come for free and a sleazy snake salesman known as Trowzer (yes, he’s a trouser snake. Hilarious, right?) sells you each one for a small number of quills. These feathered pens form the main collectable item and work perfectly with the literature theme. As the new skills are drip-fed, you access more pagies and otherwise locked areas. This, alongside expanding each book, kept you busy throughout your fifteen to twenty hours of gameplay.
The gameplay doesn’t quite match its peers.
Even with its many twists and turns, large worlds, and an array of ability, it always felt that Yooka-Laylee was desperately clinging to the past. Yes, it has some interesting moments, such as; the special ability transformations from Dr Puzz an octopus scientist, or the tonics and RPG-style ability modifiers purchased from Vendi the living vending machine. Yet, it felt dated, unoriginal, and uninspiring.
This thought process was confirmed when Banjo-Kazooie inspired game show challenges made repeat appearances. Now, there is nothing wrong with referencing major titles, but to constantly see them in a different franchise held back the creativity. It’s a shame as I desperately wanted this to be original. But its lack of worlds and reliance on other games mechanics held it back considerably.
A 2017 title that has aged badly.
Whenever you think of your favourite game, you always see the best in it. Your rose-tinted view hides the dated aesthetic and the moment you return to play it, you realise it hasn’t aged so well. Unfortunately, Yooka-Laylee has aged badly, and though it is serviceable and has a bright cartoon appearance, it’s rough around the edges. The third-person perspective combined with the juddery camera makes this uncomfortable to observe. The gameplay is also rife with visual glitches and this was a shame as it damaged the end product considerably.
The fun and upbeat audio were to be expected, and I enjoyed the song choices. The lighthearted tunes matched the comical and immature nature of the gameplay. It was surprising that none of the characters had voices, instead, random and annoying sound effects attempted to infer emotion during each cutscene. The sound grated on me throughout and I ended up skipping vital text to avoid listening to the noise. This was a shame, as the text contained the witty banter I loved. This one oversight reduced the enjoyment factor considerably.
Sensitive controls cause many issues.
Half of the challenge in platform games is the intricacies of traversing each level. This fine movement requires accurate controls and a well-designed button layout. This was lacking on both counts and you will be infuriated by the sensitive controls combined with the poor camera angle. Aiming when shooting projectiles was almost impossible, as was lining up jumps. Undoubtedly this poor decision undermined the enjoyment that was had in each of the quests.
Twenty hours of gameplay is a good return for a title in this genre. There are also plenty of side quests, secret arcade games and collectables to be found. So there is an awful lot to keep you playing. A moderately difficult achievement list will make you return repeatedly as will the multiplayer mode. This would have considerable replay value if it wasn’t for the drawbacks to its gameplay.
Yooka-Laylee had such potential, but it’s dated and lacks originality.
Yooka-Laylee had the potential to be a great retro-inspired 3D platforming title, yet it missed the mark. Heavily reliant on other franchise mechanics, it fails to create an identity to make it stand out. Other than its issues I enjoyed playing it, because of its retro style. I felt let down as I guess I just hoped for more. If you love the genre, buy a copy here! I’m on the fence, but its benefits outweigh its negatives, so I recommend it. Can you find the pages and stop Capital B from taking over the world?