By Dalton McClain / May 9th, 2017
|Release Date||April 11th, 2017|
|Platform||PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch,|
Yooka-Laylee is a 3D platforming game developed by Playtonic Games, some of whom worked at Rare. In recent years, if you wanted some platforming fun you had to either buy a new Nintendo console, or dust off the old N64. The times are changing, however, and Yooka-Laylee is living proof of that. But with all of that being said, is the game actually worth anything, or is it just one last gasp from a dying breed of gaming history?
The first thing you’ll notice about this game is the art design. Right from the get-go it hits a huge nostalgia chord. The game both looks and feels like an old Rare game from the N64 era of platforming games. Everything in this game is so beautiful, from the cartoon animal designs, to the eye popping set pieces, and even just the transitions between areas. Yooka-Laylee looks exactly like you’d expect a game of its genre to look in the modern age. It’s all very pleasant to the eyes, and I could honestly just sit and stare at this game for hours.
The story is simple: Yooka and Laylee are laying outside when their book is swept up (along with every other book) by Capital B. Your job is to go and collect all of the pages, or Pagies, that are scattered everywhere, as well as retrieve the actual book itself. It’s a very simple concept that works out surprisingly well. You traverse the worlds and find Pagies, all while helping (and sometimes fighting) the cast of colorful characters. Almost everything is based on some sort of pun, especially the challenges and characters. For example, there’s Capital B (a capitalist bee), the Tenteycle (a tentacle with eyes), and Trowzer the snake (insert innuendo here). It’s a simple story that just so happens to be very charming and full of punny characters.
Where this game really excels is in the open world. Pagies and other collectibles can be obtained in any order. They sometimes require upgrades from other worlds, need you to complete a challenge, or simply need you to “platform up.” There are so many ways that you can go about collecting Pagies, it’s insane. This makes the game loads more fun because you aren’t just stuck on a singular patch. For the most part, you can get them whenever you want and however you want. You aren’t stuck doing the same monotonous thing every time, even though some Pagies do require you to do the same thing in every world like Kartos’s challenges, but we’ll get to vehicle stages later. Pagies help you not only unlock new worlds and power-ups, but also to expand the worlds. Expanding the worlds unlocks more challenges, more stuff to collect, and more characters to interact with. Plus, they can be expanded at any time. It really feels like you’re always in control in Yooka-Laylee.
Like any collect-a-thon platformer, the game rewards exploration by not only putting in several hidden collectibles, but also by giving you different tonics for doing different things. Tonics are equipable items that give you some sort of permanent boost, including an extra health bar or the ability to roll without it draining a lot of energy. You get these from doing a lot of different things, like collecting a certain number of hidden collectibles, getting a certain number of Pagies, or simply just beating the game. I found these really useful, especially in the later stages of the game. You can only equip one at a time, so they aren’t completely broken either. There’s so much to collect and explore that I doubt you would ever get bored in this game.
Power-ups are purchasable from Trowzer and give you a wide variety of new moves, like the ability to absorb materials and the ability to use your tongue like a grappling hook. These, like most other things, can be obtained at any time, in any order you want. For the most part, they all control really well and make the game a lot more fun by both unlocking new challenges, as well as possibly creating a new way to solve a previous challenge. I didn’t think any of them were really useless; they all had their purpose in the game.
The music in this game is very lively and beautiful as well, but that’s to be expected at this point, seeing that it was composed in part by Grant Kirkhope and David Wise. Grant and David have previously done music for a wide variety of other games, such as the Banjo-Kazooie series, Goldeneye 007, Perfect Dark, and the Donkey Kong Country series. So it’s no wonder that the music is as great as it is, but it still deserves some more praise. Every single track fits the stage that you’re on beautifully and immerses you fully into the world. It’s to the point where even when I’m not playing, I still find myself searching for the OST to listen to—it’s just that good.
So with all of the good stuff out of the way, it’s time to talk about some of the weaker points of the game: the controls. For the most part, Yooka-Laylee controls like it should. The controls are mostly quick and responsive, with no delay. The problem is that some of the controls in this game are very floaty, like flying, and anything involving a vehicle. All of the vehicles control like they’re on the world’s biggest patch of slippery ice, and flying just ends up taking you all over the place with the momentum. In most games, flying is unlocked to make certain stages easier, but in this game it’s more of a hindrance. I understand that in a platform game, platforming should be the focus. However, it shouldn’t be an entire obstacle just to fly in a straight line without veering sideways. The mechanics of this game could have gone with some more tweaking to iron out all of the issues.
These floaty controls aren’t the biggest issue though—that would be the boss fights. Out of all 7 bosses in the game, I only really liked fighting half of them. It’s kind of funny that the boss fights I didn’t like were the ones that forced you into vehicles. The game spends its entire lifespan powering you up and getting you ready for bosses, only to have all of your powers stripped away from you and placing you in a vehicle with terrible controls. This made a lot of bosses, especially the last two, a lot more difficult than they really needed to be. This seems to be there to unnecessarily pad out the game, which it really doesn’t need seeing as how it took me 20 hours just to beat it. They just feel cheap and annoying more than daunting and challenging. The ones that I did like used your knowledge of patterns and platforming to beat them, and were actually a lot of fun. They even had easier ways of beating them if you waited to fight them. It’s a shame that they couldn’t all be like that, as the boss characters were very entertaining.
Overall, Yooka-Laylee is a good game that hits a nostalgia chord that hasn’t been touched in quite some time, but it’s very hard to recommend to everyone. The difficulty ramps up immensely in the final levels of the game, and there are random difficulty spikes scattered all throughout the game. However, if you’re a fan of 3D platforming games then I’d definitely recommend picking this game up. It’s only about $40 right now. I hope that these issues are addressed in a sequel, but as it stands right now, Yooka-Laylee is a good game, albeit heavily flawed.
Review copy provided by Play-Asia. Use our affiliate link below if you would like a copy for yourself.