Yooka-Laylee is the latest platforming game that aims to revitalise the 3D platforming genre from decades now past. Does Yooka-Laylee succeed in delivering a brilliant platformer that can rival the likes of Banjo-Kazooie, or does it fall short of the glory RARE was known for in the 90’s?
Before we begin, I must point out that many reviews of Yooka-Laylee aim to bench mark it against titles made today from extremely large studios. Yooka-Laylee is essentially an Indi title and thus with a small team, small funds and a small price tag, these must all be waged together when judging the expectations of gamers as to exactly what Yooka-Laylee is setting out to achieve. That being said, let’s begin.
Yooka-Laylee is a modern adaption and re-creation of a franchise that is long since deceased, that is Banjo-Kazooie. However the team by the name of Rare that were responsible for Banjo, have formed their own studio called Playtonic games and have set out to create Yooka-Laylee which is a throwback (and slight rip off) to the Banjo platforming games of the Nintendo 64 era. Yooka-Laylee is essentially a 3D platforming title that will see you traverse multiple stages in search of lost pages from your book which are being seized by the evil villains Capital B and Dr. Quack who are absorbing all the worlds’ literature. A simple plot indeed, but within a few moments your off on your adventure.
Yooka-Laylee begins with a centralised hub world with various pathways to different worlds, all which require pages to access. The first world “Tribalstack Tropics” is relatively easy to enter and requires just one page to commence. Tribalstack tropics is filled with colour, rich environments and more and is a great starting world designed to draw you in with its funny characters and smart level design. By comparison, the worlds in Yooka-Laylee are definitely larger than those of Banjo-Kazooie which is welcoming, and also offer a unique characteristic. For example, as you explore Tribalstack Tropics and begin to find “pagies” as they are referred to, you have the ability to use these pagies to unlock new levels or expand existing levels. Curious as to what this entailed, I spent my first upgrade on expanding Tribalstack Tropics. Expanding a level vertically via an upgrade is something I haven’t seen before which I truly felt was a great addition to the platforming genre. Just when I thought I had discovered everything, the world expanded and I had a wealth of collectables, puzzles and more to explore.
The level design in Yooka-Laylee in fantastic and very well created and is a true testament to the all-time greats of the Nintendo 64 era. The worlds are vibrant and colourful, and the character design is excellent. Yooka is a heroic lizard who is the main one in charge, while Laylee is the sarcastic bat that sits on your shoulders. As a team you work together to run, jump and roll about the world and throughout your game you continue to evolve by learning new moves from a drug dealing snake named Trowzer. It’s quite comical, all bar the constant ringing sound of Trowzer’s mobile phone.
Despite all the praise so far there is one aspect of Yooka-Laylee that truly let’s the game down, and that is its camera design. In most parts the game’s camera functions perfectly and you would initially feel such a comment is almost unfair, however delve deeper into your game experience and this soon becomes apparent. The camera began to fail me when trying to traverse rotating platforms along the side of a mountain face. The camera would swing around on its own free will, causing some of the most simplest platforming jumps to fail miserably. In fact, some jumps I repeatedly failed over and over again due to the camera repositioning itself and causing my direction of travel to be different, thus resulting many times in my death. Again this isn’t prevalent everywhere however it has been enough of an issue to note here. But I must add, some would argue that the camera is intentionally trying to emulate games of the past, however I don’t buy that theory especially today. In fact the camera was far better in Banjo-Kazooie compared to Yooka-Laylee so it’s certainly an area where the ball has been dropped.
The other small complaint is in regards to the number of worlds on offer here which is just 5. Four of these are exceptionally good with the exception of the Casino which just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the game’s platforming style and Yooka-Laylee could have done without it. The remaining worlds certainly do the game justice, however perhaps 2 more worlds for a total of 6 would have been bliss, but again given this is an Indie title you can forgive this particular shortcoming.
Graphics & Sound
Yooka-Laylee is an absolute blast of colour and instantly transported me back to the Nintendo 64 golden days with games such as Conker’s Bad Fur day and Banjo-Kazooie. In addition to the colourful worlds, bright colour pallet and excellent level design the characters and their charm is also a big talking point for Yooka-Laylee. Each of the characters have class and attitude, with a nice British charm that can only be attributed to the Rare development team. In terms of the games performance this was also impressive with only a few instances of frame rate drops particularly when jumping over fire flames early on and where multiple enemies were present. Yooka-Laylee’s soundtrack is also great to listen to with a true retro feel.
Yooka-Laylee has all the right bits and pieces to be one of the greatest 3D platformers we’ve seen in a while, however camera issues, some level design and a lack of polish prevent Yooka-Laylee from reaching the heights it certainly should have reached. Still these shortcoming aside, Yooka-Laylee is filled with colour, humour and excellent platforming fun which truly should not be missed which definitely outshines its shortcomings. Yooka-Laylee is a great throw back to an era that once was, and I certainly hope that we can see more games like Yooka-Laylee in the future. Yooka-Laylee is definitely recommended to platforming fans.
Also click to watch our full video review here: