Yooka-Laylee is a revival of a semi-lost idea. Within the last 10 years or so, 3D action platformers have fallen to obscurity while side scrolling and retro-esque indie games have taken over the platforming genre. Rare studios was known for its groundbreaking and indistinguishable games throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s, before its tenure with Microsoft started. PlayTonic Studios is the new Rare, consisting of those vets from the Nintendo 64 era of gaming. Yooka-Laylee represents not only a start, but a confirmation of fame for these iconic developers. So does Yooka-Laylee rise to the top of the 3D platformer market, or does it fall short of its mark?
Like always, lets start with the graphics (or jraphics, if you are a fan of .jifs). The game looks beautiful, even for its indie standard. Playtonic uses the Unity Engine to its fullest extent, giving beautiful backgrounds while building excellent textured models that rival most games at its price point. Map environments are skillfully built as well, creating an immersive experience that seems very familiar to veteran gamers. The cartoon-y style may be a turnoff to more newer gamers, but the game is basically a love letter to N64 era of games – Gex 64, Conker’s Bad Furday and Banjo Kazooie to be more specific. Fans of Team Fortress 2 will also feel at home.
So the game is beautiful, but does it deliver when it comes to story? The short answer is: No. The game follows hetero life partners Yooka the Chameleon and Laylee the bat, who have just finished building a new home in a abandoned pirate ship. While building their home, the owner of an evil corporation uses his evil henchmen and scientists to build a vacuum to suck up all the books of the world, creating a monopoly on books (yea, its straight out of the 90’s). At around that same time the team of snarky heroes find a magical book, which instead of being stolen completely, the book’s pages are torn out and thrown across several different book worlds. It is up to the duo to retrieve the books pages and then save the worlds book supply (is this really what they came up with?).
In all, the story is not too bad. The characters are very cartoon like – Laylee is the slightly evil, fourth wall breaking and snarky commentator while Yooka is the strong, dumber, and pure of heart character that moves the story forward. The wide array of side characters range between those two personalities, but in many aspects they are not bringing anything new to the table. The story feels refreshing to me, a veteran gamer, but to newer gamers the story probably feels boring and confusing. The 4th wall breaking is a cool idea, but it ultimately is over used. The Deadpool game from a few years ago really delivered when it came to that idea, but here it is overused and forced in the player’s face, killing the immersion.
That leads us to gameplay, which is the strongest feature of the game. Being a standard 3D platformer, there is a lot of jumping and puzzle solving. Many of which are actually very clever and fun to complete. The controls however, are a completely different story. The biggest complaint this games gets is the use of a free hanging camera – a mechanic used originally by Nintendo for Super Mario 64. The camera has gotten better over the years, but you would not have noticed that by playing this game. With that being said, using it at the start of the game is not really an issue – it is only until the later levels that it becomes apparent that there are some issues.
Ultimately Yooka-Laylee is Banjo Kazooie. The game is suppose to be the spiritual successor to the groundbreaking game from the early 2000’s. The only problem with that is that it feels like it could have been groundbreaking maybe 5 or 6 years ago. Platforming games have become a staple of the indie market since then, creating a surplus of both side scrolling and 3D platforming games. The game seems refreshing to me because I am such a huge fan of the original Banjo Kazooie games. But this feeling is lost for people who either did not play those games or are too young to have experienced them first hand.
Yooka-Laylee gets a…
The game is nothing new, but for $20 and being a great looking game, it may be worth your while to sit down and try it out.
For TMN, I am Tim Abrams.