Yooka-Laylee Review

Please note: This was the Xbox One version of the game with the day 1 patch installed.

Yooka-Laylee
is a Buddy 3D Platforming Adventure game developed by the newly formed Indie studio: Playtonic Games. It was released on April 11th, 2017 for a recommended retail price of $40/£30. As a studio comprised mostly of ex-Rare employees, the team had a lot of expectations to deliver a compelling 3D platforming adventure, did they achieve this? Read on to find out (spoiler free)!

Story:
The story begins with Yooka and Laylee relaxing in their home at Shipwreck Creek. After having their antique book stolen, they find themselves venturing into the dastardly realm of Hivory Towers in an effort to stop Capital B’s plan to sap the world of all its literature and convert it into profit.

Yooka and Laylee need to collect ‘Pagies‘ to use them to explore and expand Hivory Towers. To unlock the Grand Tomes (worlds), of which there are 5 in total. These 5 worlds have specific themes, the first world for example, named Tribalstack Tropics, is a Tropical Jungle themed world. Unfortunately due to the low number of worlds, each Tome makes up 20% of the game, so if you find that you don’t enjoy one of the worlds, that’s an extremely large portion of the game that you won’t enjoy. You can later expand each world to make it larger (you’ll have to do this if you want to collect everything). Thankfully, the worlds have all had a huge amount of love and attention paid to them. While it would have been nice to have more variety, it’s ultimately better to have 5 perfectly crafted worlds than to spread that affection more thinly across 6 or 7.

Each world has its own quirky characters, as well as a larger, memorable, recurring core cast to assist you on your quest to collect every Pagie. Characters like Trowzer, a ridiculously deluded Snake, and Capital B, the inept authority figure stand-out as among some of the funniest characters, perhaps in all of gaming. While Yooka and Laylee act as a proxy of sorts for Banjo and Kazooie respectively. The characters have genuinely wonderful designs, and more often than not, some sort of pun-related name. This includes other favorites; Rextro Sixtyfourus and Kartos (the God of Ore).

The game’s writing is marvellous, I’ve genuinely never laughed as much as I have playing this game. It’s chocked full of clever puns, dad-jokes, British humour, and all too often a lovely double-entendre.


Gameplay:
It’s fitting to begin by mentioning the overarching similarity between YookaLaylee and BanjoKazooie. Yooka and Laylee handle like you’d expect them to. If you’ve ever played BanjoKazooie or BanjoTooie, you’ll be right at home here.

You begin with limited moves, and regularly meet with Trowzer to unlock new ones. One of the biggest changes in how you acquire these moves stems from being able to unlock the moves in practically any order you wish. Each world has between 1 and 3 new moves that you may unlock in any order at any time (simply by finding Trowzer). While this makes things more streamline, it feels wasteful to have such large worlds and not make more use out of them. It sacrifices the element of surprise, when learning new moves, as to which one you’ll be learning next. I miss that.

The new moves make full use of the species of animals that Yooka and Laylee are. Yooka, a chameleon will use his tongue, and has abilities that focus around adapting to his environment, he can turn invisible or adopt water/fire properties. Laylee has sonar attacks and can help glide over long distances. They do well to stand out, not only from Banjo, but from other gaming protagonists. They shape the game.

One of the best things about YookaLaylee is that while there are many different kinds of objects to collect, they’re all useful. Quills for example allow you to learn new moves. Another collectible, the play coin will allow you to operate Rextro’s retro arcade games. The arcade games themselves are a bit of a mixed bag. For the most part they function, and are fun enough while you’re playing them to unlock the Pagies that are tied to them, but they have little playability beyond that.

Perhaps the biggest issue with this game lies in its camera. While there are in-game options to reduce sensitivity it does little to change how unresponsive it can be at times. It will often get locked behind an object, and has on at least one occasion literally span out of control. Though it is manageable the majority of the time.

The game is brimming with fun puzzles and challenges, and they range from ‘was that supposed to be so easy?’ to ‘good lord how did I manage figure that out’ and everywhere in between. The Ghost Writers which are Jinjo-equivalents even require unique challenges be carried out in order to collect them. One of this game’s biggest strengths lies in its unique boss battles. You never quite know when they’re coming, and they provide you with the best balanced challenges that the game has to offer.

The platforming itself is excellently executed, and the worlds are truthfully engaging to traverse through.


Presentation:

The first thing you’ll notice is just how much influence BanjoKazooie has on YookaLaylee. It’s more than just a spiritual successor, this is BanjoThreeie in everything but name.

The music, which was helmed by legendary video game composers: Grant Kirkhope, David Wise and Steve Burke, as expected is nothing short of masterful. The sound design in general is well executed. The voice-work lives up to expectations, though there are sound design issues with some objects depending on where the camera is situated at the time. I noticed this particularly with the luminous mushrooms dotted throughout world 3, which emit a curdling, loud metallic sound any time the camera passes over them.

Everything, from the funny voice-overs, to the menus, to the game selection screen are heavily inspired by Banjo. It’s a trip down memory lane that those who lived through the N64 will surely relish.


Verdict:
At its heights, YookaLaylee stands shoulder-to-shoulder with platforming greats like Mario 64 and BanjoKazooie, though it doesn’t always maintain this consistently.

Playtonic Games set out to deliver a game specifically for fans of the overlooked 3D platformers of yesterday, and have been successful. YookaLaylee is proof that the 3D platformer still has a lot of life left to live.

+ Incredible soundtrack -Low number of Game Worlds
+ Hilarious writing -Lacking polish on breakable objects
+ Funny characters -Camera issues.
+ Excellently executed platforming
+ Ample references to Banjo-Kazooie
+ Great level design

What do you think of Yooka-Laylee? Let us know in the comments!

TheAnvil
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TheAnvil

From jolly old England, TheAnvil has a passion for video games that dates so far back it precedes his memory. His passion lies particularly and devoutly with Rare and Nintendo. He also creates a lot of sprites.
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2 comments

  1. Very glad that Playtonic games managed to do the best hey could for YL. I’m currently waiting for the Switch version so I’m avoiding as much of the game as I can. As a fan of the games that inspire YL, this game would be right for me even with some issues like the camera. I just might do a replay marathon of Kazooie and Tooie and even DK64, just to wait for the game.

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