Since the PS2 days, the sighting of a good platforming game has become a rare occurrence bar the Ratchet & Clank games. All were seemingly replaced by first-person shooters and other adult-orientated games. Over a decade later, and after a successful Kickstarter campaign, Yooka-Laylee promises to bring back the days of old with a nostalgia filled platformer with all the style and character of the past. But, is it a welcomed return, or something that should’ve died and stayed buried?
The story is fairly basic, and deepens over time, but Capital B, the boss of Hivory Towers is hell-bent on removing all books from existence, and Laylee’s rare antique book is one of them. Its pages are scattered throughout the world, so you must collect them and try and stop the Bee in his tracks. There is no voice-acting to speak of (pun intended), but the classic garbled noises with speech bubbles akin to Okami and the Banjo series. Sadly this is the first negative in the game, it is frankly annoying and somehow seems worse than it used to be. The majority of the text can be skipped, but there are enough sections when it can’t be, where it is slow and drawn out.
Yooka is a lizard and Laylee is a bat, and similar to Banjo-Kazooie, the duo use each other to traverse around the vibrant world of Yooka-Laylee. The move set works well around the characters and you can expect to see the obvious double-jumps and gliding over large distance, using Yooka’s chameleon tongue to eat certain flowers that give him the ability to fire the respective projectile associated with the type of flower. More powers are unlocked by collecting Quills and buying them from “Trowzers” a snake who teaches you new moves to help you progress.
The worlds of Yooka-Laylee can be summed up in one word, vibrant. The colours pop and the harsh lighting is unlike any other game. It looks unique and cartoony. Platformers need great level design, and this is another place where the game shines. The levels are expertly designed; each part is there for a reason and is used brilliantly. Sometimes you feel as though you have reached a spot that you shouldn’t be able to, but you were always supposed to do it that way. This may be due to the fact that the game doesn’t hold your hand too much; it doesn’t even give you a mini-map, which would’ve helped on many occasions. Each level is spun off from a hub level, which is a dank factory, and a place you’d rather not spend any time in frankly. The stages are varied, and after collecting enough “Pagies”, the lost pages, you can “expand” a level. Not only does it add more areas, but also a boss battle. To match the aesthetic a classic soundtrack is added and does not disappoint, it changed from world to world and during boss fights and matches the tone perfectly.
Let’s talk about the camera and the controls. This is where the game starts to fall apart, and where a lot of the frustration comes into play. The camera control is bad and gets caught on geometry leaving you with awkward camera angles. In certain areas camera control is taken away, but can violently swing back when you move away, which lead to a few falls. When fighting the first stage boss, Rampo I was forced to use the rolling technique, the camera is locked, but if you get hit and slide back down it switches and the turning circle of the rolling mechanic is very large so I fell all the way back down and died. That wasn’t the worst part, the second negative this highlighted was the check-pointing system, I didn’t start at the boss, the game chose to checkpoint me near the ground where I fell!
This is why the gameplay feels off and outdated. Little features that were fixed throughout time are now back again in Yooka-Laylee, and rather than updating them, they were kept the same.
There is a lot to love about this game, and unfortunately a fair amount to dislike. I went in with high hopes, and thankfully they weren’t completely dashed. This game is fun, and has tons of variety. The mini-games are a good change to the pace, the levels vary greatly. And my completionist brain wants to collect everything. Trying to 100% a level will most likely frustrate you, but I would be satisfying when it’s done. Fans of the platforming genre will be remiss to avoid this game, but remember to temper your expectations accordingly.
- Sound Design
- Replay Value