Remember back to when you were a kid. Before the horde of games with online compatibility flooded the shelves. Games like Ratchet and Clank, Banjo Kazooie and Jak and Daxter captured the hearts of players with their mind-boggling puzzles and collectible hunting.
Yooka-Laylee is a return to the nostalgic time when 3D platformers were king, created by ex-employees of Rare, the studio behind the highly acclaimed Banjo Kazooie. Newly founded Playtonic Games created this masterpiece from a Kickstarter a few years ago, which was met with roaring support from fans of this genre.
Gotta Catch ‘Em All : Pagies That Is
While in most games, I would argue that a good story is paramount to a good experience, it is not the case in Yooka-Laylee. While this game does have some semblance of a story, it is not heavily referenced, the major focus being the collectathon every player is about to engage in. However, it does have a rather simple plotline to follow. Essentially the evil Capital B has stolen all of the literature in the worlds, in the search for the One Book that will allow him and his company to rewrite history. The Pagies you are hunting for are part of that One Book and you are just racing to collect them before his minions can.
The lack of an intricate story does not affect how the game plays however, it being all the backstory needed for a game of this genre. In fact I would say that the lack of story in Yooka-Laylee actually assists the game in its goals, and prevents any real tying down of the characters or the gameplay. It is a game designed to have fun with, whether it be in a casual sense, or I-want-to-collect-everything sense. Either way is good.
Yooka-Laylee is inherently a 3D platformer type game and as such features all the staples of the genre. From your third world perspective you will travel the amazingly colourful worlds with your spree of double jumps, diving and spinning attacks. Now Yooka-Laylee does not reinvent the gameplay of the platformer genre itself, more serving as a tribute and a nostalgia trip for fans of the genre albeit with a more open world formula.
Starting off with some of the most basic moves the genre has to offer, you can eventually work your way up to some of the most advanced moves the game has to offer. But one of the interesting things about Yooka-Laylee is the way you acquire new moves. In reality you’d have to practice and practice to master something new but here you can buy your way to skilldom. Just look for the shady salesman wearing the trousers, you’ll know him when you see him.
Now, this game revolves a ton around collecting significant in-game objects and solving puzzles. These two objectives run pretty much hand in hand the entire game, with many of the collectible items, known as Pagies being locked behind the aforementioned puzzles. Now these aren’t incredibly difficult but can also be locked behind certain moves, requiring you to return to previous worlds to locate them all. The puzzles themselves are vastly different in scope and so will challenge all sorts of players with their enigmas and their riddles. From skill based challenges like a shooting contest, to an actual quiz based on observation, the puzzles will definitely keep players guessing and striving to unlock those Pagies.
One of the downsides to this game I will say is the sometimes uncooperative and maybe a little vindictive, camera. It just doesn’t rotate with you and show you the world the way you want it, which can leave you to be making turns or leaps without entirely knowing what is going to happen, because you cannot see. Comes with the third person territory I guess. On the plus side, every aspect of this game is beautiful so even if it is off centre, it still looks vibrant and wondrous.
The Music : Everything My Inner Child Wants And More
Oh my gosh, the music of Yooka-Laylee captures your heart and messes with your emotions. Speeding up and slowing down in perfect sync with the gameplay, every bit as mystical and bright as the game itself. No words are needed to be sung with this games soundtrack, everything necessary being conveyed to your body, nay your soul with the lightest of notes and the whimsical-est of tunes.
The music definitely matches the vibrancy of the games environments and changes depending on what area you move into. As I stated earlier, it speeds up and slows down depending on what activity you are engaged in. Boss battles feature high energy music that make you feel as if everything is on the line and you keep forgetting to breathe, while roaming around collecting Pagies feels like you have stepped inside your happiest memory, rolled in Froot Loops and good times. But with MUSIC.
The Eclectic Characters Are A Must See
It would not be a classic reiteration of a 3D platformer without a cast of eclectic characters for you to interact with and do quests for. From recurring characters such as Kartos and Rextro, whom you will in each and every world you visit, you may also get some more interesting visitors, much like the above Shovel Knight, from the game Shovel Knight, published by Yacht Club Games.
But not all the characters are going to be so memorable, some only appearing in one of the worlds as specific NPCs in need of help from their messed up environs. These characters usually provide a welcome break from seeing the same faces over and over, bringing with them their own personalities and a glimpse at their lifestyles, without crowding a simplistic-type game with too much complex unnecessary information. In this regard, Playtonic perfected the NPC quest giver.
Yooka-Laylee is overflowing with a cast of colourful NPCs that will aid you in your journey to collect all the Pagies, many of which want help in return. There are so many characters in this game, that you will begin to forget the names of the ones you met all the way back in level one. Oh and everything has eyes. Now the subheading makes more sense- it was a pun!
Speaking of puns, the characters stuck in the world of Yooka-Laylee cannot seem to get enough of them. Puns and bad jokes are the bread and butter of this game and while I normally would just laugh at how bad they are, they definitely suit the vibe of this world. Plus the responses given by both Yooka and Laylee make the bad jokes worth it sometimes.
The Gorgeous Environments
You would have seen photos scattered throughout this review, showcasing off some of the environment shots I have taken and they truly do not do Yooka-Laylee proper justice. This is a beautiful game that has crammed everything positive and bright into each and every pixel. With a unique cartoon artstyle, Playtonic has given us environments we want to spend hours exploring, hunting crevices for those last hidden collectibles.
Even when the features are obscured by the water or the darkness, Yooka-Laylee still exudes such a simple style of beauty. Not too complicated and as with most things in this game, full of nostalgia.
There are five worlds to be explored in Yooka-Laylee each with a distinct theme that is different from all the rest. They each have their own hazards and puzzles to solve. Each Grand Tome world can be expanded once you have the requisite number of Pagies, but the expansions happen in the most obscure of players and you have to do additional exploring just to locate areas you haven’t been to which can get tedious at times.
Maybe I am just a sucker for 3D platformers but Yooka-Laylee is one of the better games I have played in a while. The abilities available to the players are quite polished and quite easily accessible at almost any stage of the game. The bright environments, coupled with the lighthearted humour serves to make this game a truly wondrous and successful descendent of the 3D platformer. While there are some problems with the game, they are minor in scope and do nothing to diminish playability and enjoyment. While the 3D platformer genre may not rise to the same level it once held, it will always be popular if it stays at the same standard Yooka-Laylee has provided.