I’m going to be perfectly honest: this is a dream for me. A little less than 20 years ago I played Banjo-Kazooie for the first time as a child. Today, I finally get to announce that the kind people of Playtonic Games and Team 17 have allowed me to play and review Yooka-Laylee, Banjo’s spiritual successor. However, dreams aside. I am a professional. And this is an in-and-out, no holds barred Yooka-Laylee review.
The story and the characters of Yooka-Laylee easily deserve a 10 out of 10. It’s not the most ground-breaking plot in the world. A bad guy decides he wants to take over the world, or should I say worlds? (Yes. Yes I should.) However, the creators make a magical place to play in by using books. After all, that is the center of this story as Yooka and Laylee must cross the bindings of several books and enter the worlds within before they can put a stop to the wicked Capital B, Dr. Quack, and their monsters and henchmen.
I won’t give too much of anything away, After all, that is the best part of picking up a new game is discovering it for yourself. However, I will say that there have been many moments in the game that made me laugh, plenty of times I felt my childhood had been tapped into by the veterans of Playtonic, and of course, I had an amazing amount of fun (with some helpings of frustration due to puzzles, but we’ll get to that in Gameplay).
Our main duo, Yooka and Laylee, earn every minute of the spotlight. Between the conversations they have with each other, and how they speak to the other bright and personality-filled characters littered across the lands that make up the unique worlds of this game, you can’t help but fall in love with them. Yooka, not too unlike a certain brown bear I know, is the more mild-mannered of the two. He’s honest, kind, and really can’t say no to anyone. While of course Laylee doesn’t “bat” an eye while she does. She’ll even throw in some insults for free.
Did I mention yet how many puns are in this game? There’s a lot, so prepare yourself.
And what are secondary characters? Playtonic may not know with how much thought, effort, and puns went into creating each and every one. Seriously, there is a character by the name of Ollie who may be my personal favorite from one of the worlds.
Not far behind is self-titled Vice President, Dr. Quack. But don’t tell Capital B I like Quack as much as I do. I wouldn’t say he steals the limelight, but he certainly makes his own purple light to bathe in.
Even the collectibles of the game are characters you can either talk to or will find interesting. I’m gunna say it right here. On the record. For anyone to quote or see. After meeting the ghostwriters, especially Heidi, Rare can keep their Jinjos! And instead of lifeless puzzle pieces, in this game you will be collecting Pagies. And let me tell you about Pagies. I have never wanted to find items more in a game. And it’s not because you need them. They plead for you to free them, to let them help you bring down Capital B. I would lay my life down for some of these Pagies!
So yeah. I like the characters of Yooka-Laylee. A lot! They are maybe my favorite cast of characters, in the older 3D platformers and newer games that claim to have an extraordinary cast.
This is where a majority of my complaints lie. Now, don’t run out and sell your stocks in Playtonic and invest in a fallout shelter, the controls themselves are very smooth, responsive, and make a lot of sense. However, between some camera control issues and the difficulty of mini games, you may either have a wonderful, relaxing evening giggling at the witty banter between characters. Or. You may just tell Rextro, No! Keep your damn Pagie, I don’t need it! I just want it. Really bad!
Smooth Controls and Fun Abilities
I’m big on games having good, smooth controls. Afterall, not many gamers would waste time on a game with controls that make no sense, action sequences that are dull, or complicated commands to remember for simple tasks.
None of that is an issue in Yooka-Laylee.
From a very early point in the game you are introduced to Trowzer, who makes his living selling moves to the local bosses and adventurers. He helps you out by passing down his knowledge of moves, for a price of course, but from the first commands he teaches you to the very last move he has hidden up his…pants, are easy to learn and remember. And you can use the moves as quickly as you can hit the buttons that control them.
But it’s not just that mashing the buttons in the right order is easy. The abilities you learn are just down right fun and make good use out of our lizard and bat friends. From sonar and echolocation inspired moves for Laylee, to camouflage and, yes, plenty of moves that make use of Yooka’s reptilian tongue, you’ll be able to master a handful of intuitive moves to zoom around the maps, bash your enemies, and even protect yourself from the dangers of these worlds.
Hub-World And Grand Tome Worlds
Large worlds seem to be all the rage these days, huh? Well, if you are a fan, you’ll love the worlds inside Yooka-Laylee. The hub-world, the world you start in for anyone who hasn’t heard that term before, is quite big. You start out in the ship Yooka and Laylee call home and then journey to Hivory Towers. It’s not a long walk and may deceive you, but once you start your quest inside, you can spend a lot of time in there.
But that’s not really to say you will get lost. Every time you discover a new location within the Towers, look around and you will find shortcuts that lead the way home if you need an exit. They will also lead you to previous parts of the Towers. Did you suddenly realize how to solve something in the first world while you are exploring the third world? No biggy! In the menu you can exit the world immediately and then duck through a doorway that will return you to a nice central point.
And that’s not even the best part! Well, it’s a pretty great part. But each of the Grand Tome Worlds can be expanded. So take a pretty sizable world and double it! At least!
And if the worlds weren’t creative and well-planed out enough on their own, the soundtrack guides you through the journey effortlessly. From the natural tones you hear as you walk, fly, or roll around each world, to the much more soothing underwater themes, and even rock and electronic influenced pieces that play in specific parts of the worlds, you will hear something you love. The first boss battle I walked into had me pumped! Why? The music instantly told me, “Hey, you are about to fight this guy.” Meanwhile, my ears told me, “Hopefully this fight lasts a while because you like this song!” Where’s that link to buy the album? Oh, right here.
Innovation…And Slight Irritation
Alright you youths reading this. This section right here? Isn’t for you. Because back in my day, games didn’t care about convenience. If you lost a life in-game, the game was over and you had to start over. And in the world of 3D platformers, especially in the style of Yooka-Laylee, if you entered a world, you had to walk your happy ass out of it. And, especially in Banjo-Kazooie, if you transformed, you had to do everything you needed to in the new form, run back, go back to your old self, and THEN walk your happy ass out.
Playtonic Games hooked you kids up. Guess who can de-transform at any point with the push of a button? You can. Guess who can just hit that menu button and choose “Exit To Hub World?” Silly, you already know the answer if you’ve been reading. YOU can! Some worlds still require some planning before you transform and complete errands, but aside from that, you are no longer actually disgusted when you transform at an inappropriate time. Thanks, Dr. Puzz!
However. Remember that pesky camera I talked about earlier? It’s enough of an issue that I feel I need to mention it. The camera switches between one that you can control, one that locks in place to give you a fixed view, and one that corrects itself depending on where you are on the screen. As you can imagine…this led me to some premature deaths. And lots and lots of lost health. It was never bad enough for me to quit or give up on something. Like most anything else, it takes some getting used to. Before you know it, you are predicting what the camera will do. And then sometimes you are wrong and land in toxic water. But what video game character can claim to be a hero without getting a mouth full of damaging ooze?
This Isn’t Your Mom’s 3D Platformer
Well, if your mom played any 3D Platform games. Maybe not. My mom did, but she’s just a bonafide badass. Anyway, what I’m really trying to say is it’s difficult, okay?
For the majority of the game, puzzles vary in difficulty. Some of the early ones you encounter in a world may take some time or some thinking, but can be beaten with one go. Others may take a handful of tries, either because you fell, failed, or fainted. It may also take testing out your abilities until you really know everything they do.
However, if you are expecting the E 10+ game to be an easy handful of trophies or achievements, honey. Sit down. We need to have a talk.
In spite of it’s adorable, cartoony design, Yooka-Laylee isn’t about handing you easy victories. You have to work for them. Mazes, bosses, arcade games, races, just about anything you can think of stands between you and the Pagies of the world. And there were some rage-inducing moments. Especially with Rextro’s Arcade games.
Gamers looking for a real challenge, this could very well be the game for you. Especially if you want to collect everything. It’s no easy feat. Between scattered quills (if you are from the Banjo days, think music notes), Pagies, Health, and Power boosters, as well as some items NPCs will ask you to find, you’ll have to leave no stone unturned and will probably have to put your controller down and take some deep breaths before you are done.
Nostalgia Done Right
I firmly believe Yooka-Laylee is for everyone. Gamers who have never played a 3D platform title, and those of us who put a lot of time into collecting everything you could in previous 3D worlds. However, if you are one of the many fans who are looking to relive a moment from your past, this is absolutely going to meet your demands and exceed them.
Yooka-Laylee is a perfect blend of elements we remember and cherish while being something completely it’s own. There were plenty of moments that reminded me of my favorite buddy-duo, a pair that I still love dearly after a decade and a half. But there were just as many scenes that were only, uniquely Yooka-Laylee and uncomparable to anything else.
This isn’t a reboot of something we loved and would like to see done again. This is a reinvention, something built around the flame that sparked in our eyes as kids. Me, a grown woman, would peek outside of my door while playing this as if an adult would come in and ask why my television was still on at this hour. I would get giddy when completing an exceptionally challenging puzzle or mini-game. I actually let out a scream when I beat the main boss and told everyone I knew! I haven’t been so excited by completing a game in years!
There is something magic in Yooka-Laylee. You can feel the passion of the small team that crafted this game and how lovingly they did so. You can tell the intention wasn’t to grab money from eager fans, but to deliver something truly worthy of their excitement and investments.
Yooka-Laylee earns a 9.5 out of 10 effortlessly from me.
If you still have any reservations about buying Yooka-Laylee and adding it to your gaming library: don’t hesitate! One, this game is only 39.99 USD compared to your standard 59.99 or more. Two, unlike most games that cost less from the start, you aren’t getting less of a game. For me to beat the main story of Yooka-Laylee, without collecting every item in the game, it took me just over twenty hours. That means that there is about twenty hours of story, not counting another ten or so to just go back and collect everything. Three, it is truly enjoyable! For all the reasons I listed; the characters, the world design, the move set, the soundtrack. The first day I sat down to play Yooka-Laylee, I lost track of time and didn’t realize I had put six hours into the game until I noticed the sun had gone down.
Seriously guys and gals, I could not recommend this game enough! Get it! April 11th! Unless you want it on the Switch, you’ll have to wait a bit longer, but still!
Yooka-Laylee [Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, PC, Mac, Linux, Switch]
Developer: Playtonic Games
Publisher: Team 17
Release Date: April 11th, 2017 [Xbox One, PS4, PC, Mac, Linux]
TBA 2017 [Switch]