Yooka-Laylee is a new title from Platonic and Team 17 but it’s sure to bring back a few memories of the late 90’s and the golden era of 3D platform collect’a’thons.
There’s one franchise that will stand out the most, and that of course is Banjo Kazooie, from the partnership protagonists, cutesy art direction and even down to the bold contrasting font used for the title, and it’s clear that Yooka-Laylee isn’t just a tip of the hat to the classic platformer by Rare, it’s the accumulation of what people want to see from a new Banjo Kazooie title and the developers have all too happily made it familiar to 3D platforming fans.
The evil Capital B and his trusty side kick Dr Quack are after a special book, and it’s magic pages known as Pagies, little did our buddy-duo know that the ‘one’ book was hidden under their floorboards, and so they set out to recover the Pagies and save the world.
After a brief tutorial section you head over to Hivory towers after a tip from Trowzer (a Snake character with some oddly fitting shorts) Trowzer returns periodically to reward your progress and collected quills with new moves such as a double jump, glide or secret discovering sonar. But you’ll start off by discovering an open book, within this book is a new world, with numerous Pagies trapped inside, further progression and a few Pagies later you’ll be given the option to either expand the tropical world, or keep searching for a new book.
Either way you can come and go as you please, collecting enough Pagies to pass back and forth through the worlds. New moves such as shooting berries or the secret-sonar will allow you to reach new areas so travelling across the worlds is required and can occasionally feel like a grind, revisiting each area every time you unlock a new ability.
Soon enough though you’ll work your way towards more new areas and there’s some pleasantly challenging sections to tackle, as well as a wide selection of alternate elements such as rolling up a slope to knock the teeth out of a tree, or chasing those elusive Ghosts.
It’s not as captivating as Banjo Kazooie and the characters don’t quite have the same appeal, but it’s certainly not far from the classics we know and love both in style and presentation.
Graphically there’s nothing that really set’s Yooka-Laylee above any other Xbox One release, but it’s much more about the nostalgia of two decades ago, those cute cartoon style graphics do the job perfectly, there’s numerous characters to meet and while I would have preferred to see more worlds than simply expanding the size of current locations, each area is unique and packed with Pagies to discover.
Audio is a little disappointing for me, the gobbled speech of Banjo and co was all good in the 90’s and I commend the effort to keep in touch with its retro roots, but when so many budget games are managing a fully voice acted script it just feels a little lazy. Outside of the speech, there’s everything you’d expect to hear from atmospheric background noise, bouncy music and all the pings and pongs you’d want from the special effects, it’s certainly not a bad showing, but the lack of real speech just leaves it resting on average rather than striving to reinvent the genre.
The same could be said about so much of Yooka-Laylee, with enough hype and following to make a difference, it’s as though Playtonic wanted to stick a little too close to the Nintendo 64 era rather than taking the opportunity to show how well a modern-day console could not only emulate, but also evolve the 3D platform genre.
Throughout the game you’ll also discover ‘Rextro’, a Retro Tyrannosaurus Rex who’s stuck even further in the past than Yooka-Laylee.
Rextro provides 8 retro arcade games to discover which also offer the only multiplayer offering via the main menu, covering a range of retro similarities such as kart-racing and scrolling obstacle courses, it’s a nice added bonus, but it feels a little underwhelming to make such a big deal over revisiting titles 20 years old, when the whole game is merely revisiting a genre that’s 20 years past its glory days.
So Yooka-Laylee might be 20 years past the golden era of 3D platformers but that’s certainly not a terrible decision, fans of titles like Banjo Kazooie or its sequels will easily fall in love with the new duo, and while sometimes a little too much so, it’s all incredibly nostalgic and familiar for fans of those earlier games.
There’s more than enough gameplay to make the purchase a bargain and in true collect’a’thon style completionists will have plenty of content if they want to find every single Pagie and ghost. Yooka-Laylee is certainly a little more appealing to younger gamers and on modern-day consoles there’s not enough games that fill that void
It might be a little harsh to judge Yooka-Laylee so closely on a 20 year progression of Banjo Kazooie, but when it’s been designed to sit next to Banjo then it must be judged next to it.