Written by: Mike Pixley
So I've been playing Yooka-Laylee. For those of you in the dark, in a time long past a company named Rare was the elite name in 90's platforming adventure collect-a-thon titles. These guys single-handedly revamped Donkey Kong on the SNES and kept the N64 afloat with amazing titles like Golden Eye 007, Perfect Dark, Donkey Kong 64, Diddy Kong Racing, and the Banjo-Kazooie games. However in the early 2000's Microsoft bought them out and ruined everybody's lives. Since then the name Rare has been dragged through the mud. Nostalgia riddled members of my age group (25-35) have been crying in their parent's basements for the past fifteen years hoping, praying; that their favorite Rare characters would come back once more to light the path to salvation.
However, all was not lost! A splinter cell faction of Rare employees were planning something big: a "spiritual successor" to the Banjo-Kazooie franchise (possibly the most popular of Rare's collet-a-thonners). The faction became Playtonic games. After kickstarting their project in 2015 Yooka-Laylee was released last week on almost every major gaming platform available, and will hit the Switch later this year.
So what did we get? Well, pretty much exactly what everyone wanted. Yooka-Laylee is 100% a new Banjo-Kazooie game. Everything here will feel familiar from the atmosphere to the sounds, to the voice acting, to the hub layout, to the puzzles, to the collecting, to the level entrance, to the villain, to... well you get my point...
Now here's my unpopular opinion. I APPRECIATE when creators do things like this. The same issue happened when the new Star Wars came out in 2015. There was a large amount of people complaining about how it was "so much like A New Hope." Being a content creator myself, I can only imagine the pressure one undergoes when touching something as legendary as Star Wars, and to a lesser but similar effect, Banjo-Kazooie. I understand and appreciate the developer's desire to show the consumer that they can STILL DO what you want from them. Yes, it may be "samey" but it shows their dedication to the original and their ability to put out something just as good. This then gains your confidence and allows them to experiment next time.
Yooka-laylee's story is basic but gives you a clear goal and obvious enemy. All the books in the world have been sucked up to be destroyed by an evil corporation to control the market on... well books. Yooka and Laylee were hanging out in their destroyed pirate ship they call home when a golden book they discovered flies up in the air. All the pages come out and are spread across the land and Yooka and Laylee start their quest to collect all the Pagies while infiltrating Hivory Towers (evil Corp mentioned previously). Inside the towers there are grand books that become the levels, they can be expanded for more content and within them is a wide variety or weird quirky characters who need the duo's help.
Saying Yooka Laylee is "just as good as Banjo-Kazooie," comes with a set of problems. I personally liked the Banjo games, but they had issues. First though, let me say that this Yooka-Laylee is fun. It's beautiful and stylized. The worlds are interesting, the music is AMAZING, there's lots of new content and transformations; it all has a ton of personality. The game also has a ton of hilarious sexual innuendo that keeps me laughing consistently. One of the main characters is a snake who wears pants, his name is Trouserz. He's a trouser-snake, it’s a penis joke, and a well done one at that; slays me. There's also a section early on where you turn into a flower with a HUGE stamen, the female flowers hit on you and you have to blast them with pollen (fill in the blanks yourself).
So what exactly does it mean to be "just as good as a Banjo-Kazooie game." It MEANS that despite the beauty and character, there is going to be technical issues and very, VERY annoying aspects involving control and game design. For instance, it's my belief that the camera stick is not meant to be touched. It does it's best to always be behind Yooka which can be helpful, but it's a rouge and will fight you if you try to adjust it. It will zoom in too close, swing wildly, and on some occasions glitch out. The game also crashed on me twice the first time I put it in and on the PS4 the loading screen just stops everytime it comes up; making you think the game has crashed once again. After many play sessions I've only experienced 2 crashes total, but it started me off with a bad feeling. The camera issues can make the game more difficult than it needs to be, or should be, EVER. It doesn't break the game by any means but it can be extremely annoying.
Control for the most part is good, again, the camera can make certain aspects difficult, even down to collecting the feathers and other items you need. Aiming Yooka specifically at these items can be downright hard and you may have to circle around them a couple times before finally picking them up, especially when they're on an incline that’s too steep to normally walk on. Other than that it's floaty and fun with inventive control schemes, the powers are great fun to use and they did an overall decent job.
The last complaint I have is a reinstatement of quiz puzzles and long platforming sections with no checkpoints. Quiz puzzles are the worst. The first time I ran into one I thought it was a joke, it was the lowest point in Banjo and I thought the devs must've known that. I got through okay but then I found ANOTHER ONE. What made the second one worse was that it was literally a guessing game. Complete RNG luck, memorization and repetition. Awful, AWFUL design, this is not fun, it is a waste of time, the game is big enough on its own and needs no padding. Cut it out, just stop and never do that again, it was infuriating. Now the long platforming sections were fine but the lack of checkpoints was mind numbingly annoying. Not because I hate difficulty, I appreciate difficulty. It's because due to the camera some of these sections were just unfair. There's nothing like almost getting to the end of something after struggling with bad camera mechanics to have it mess you up and start you at the very beginning. There's no lives, you just respawn and receive no game overs, so that's a plus (though it wouldn't have to be if the game was fair all the time). When things are my fault it's fine, when the devs mess up it's bad gameplay and that’s not okay.
Yooka-Laylee is a fun time. I'm very happy to see a return to form after so long and I find it engrossing. Above all else it transports me back to a simpler time I miss very much. That being said, there is room for many improvements to be made with the camera control and some design when it comes to forgiveness. I think the game is a good start for Playtonic Games and I'm looking forward to sequels where they should be able to find the freedom to change the formula up now that they have our confidence. The issues I have are an easy fix. As long as they do that they'll have a solid gem. There are many more aspects to the game which are very enjoyable that I left out for you to discover yourself, I recommend doing it! At $40 Yooka-Laylee is worth the price, but know there will be a bit of frustration for you ahead. Yooka-Laylee gets a 6/10 score from me, better than average.
Hi everyone, my name is Mike Pixley! I go by MikeTV on Motor City Gaming and Maikeru on the rest of the internets. I am a video editor on MCG's YouTube channel and create my own content and gaming review videos on my own channel the Death Mountaineers.
For my editing work on Motor City Gaming's channel watch any video @ https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHNURQhXuxkkAn8765e_LPw
My YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/deathmountaineersgaming