Developer: Playtonic Games
Platform: PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch
Tested on: Xbox One
Yooka-Laylee – Review
In 1998 Banjo-Kazooie saw the light on the Nintendo 64 and the player had to control a duo of characters, namely a bear and a bird, who would do rather crazy things together. Both characters used their own skills to enhance the other character’s faults or shortcomings to complete puzzles, defeat enemies or cross obstacles. When in 2000 its sequel was released, it felt like this series had a lot more tricks up its sleeves for the coming generation(s) of consoles. When Microsoft purchased all the rights to the Rare games, of which Banjo-Kazooie was a part, we desperately hoped for a revival for the series, but safe for a spin-off game in 2008 dubbed Nuts & Bolts, we were left in the dark. Now, members of the original staff have created a spiritual successor to said series, namely Yooka-Laylee and we simply loved this blast from the past on our next gen consoles.
Capital B, the villainous overlord of Hivory Towers, and his evil henchman professor Dr. Quack, have been plotting to become the only book-dealing business in the entire world. To do this, Dr. Quack has come up with a way to attract all the books in the world to their building, by using a suction device. Not only do they want to become the biggest exclusive business in the world, they are also looking for a special book that is able to control the world. This all happens when Yooka and Laylee are relaxing in Shipwreck Creek, and all of a sudden their books also fly away in the direction of Hivory Towers. From here on out, it’s a journey to stop the massive corporation, find back the scattered Pagies, which are sentient pages that are part of the special book, and defeat Capital B and Dr. Quack in the process.
In Yooka-Laylee we are greeted by a somewhat simplistic story, which would work for pretty much every children’s cartoon or for a younger audience, while still remaining enticing for an older audience, thanks to the amount of puns spread throughout every single dialogue this game throws at you. Over time the story will develop, but the most fun might just be the many different encounters with a boatload of oddballs throughout your playthrough.
Recently we were treated to a colorful and blissful experience in Snake Pass, which, for us, had the same color palette as this game. Nonetheless, Yooka-Laylee, takes the attractiveness of Snake Pass and cranks it up a few notches thanks to the diversity this game has to offer, as well as the massive worlds you can run around in and explore. You’ll find yourself wading through many bright and vibrant worlds, filled to the brim with liveliness, fun creatures, adorable NPCs and a lot of variation.
The characters themselves feel like a blast from the past, albeit with modernized graphics, as they are truly unique, witty and comical from start to finish. Everything feels and looks like an updated version of the older more color-filled games we used to have ‘back in the day’. Graphically things will never get realistic, instead you get treated to a beautiful fairytale-like adventure game.
You’ll notice that even the music is inspired by the source material, and thus you’ll get a very upbeat soundtrack, sometimes with ukulele (Yooka-Laylee – get it?) tunes, to keep things rather lighthearted from start to finish. During segments where the evil mastermind and his henchmen are shown, you’ll get a soundtrack that is somewhat moodier, darker and less playful, to properly sketch the direness of the situation.
All characters have voices, but everyone speaks some kind of gibberish that perfectly suits their appearance. You’ll be treated to many funny noises, that sound like grunts, moans or unintelligible blabber that it becomes rather amusing to hear.
Yooka-Laylee is an adventurous puzzle-platformer through and through, which means you’ll constantly be roaming around different worlds, helping its inhabitants, while looking for new ways to uncover or earn ‘Pagies’, while trying to reach hard to get-to places. Overall the concept of everything proves to be simple, but certain sections can become quite tricky, if you don’t get lost in the diverse worlds.
Just like Banjo-Kazooie, you’ll be thrown into a main hub, which has entrances to all the different levels in which you can collect your Pagies, to complete your missing book again. Nonetheless, while the beginning is straightforward, it’s not always clear where you’ll have to go to after you’ve completed the first world, or at least have connected more than enough in said world. The worlds themselves can also be a bit overwhelming as they are quite big, especially when you trade in Pagies to upgrade the world of your choice. The latter will unlock new opportunities to find more Pagies and other items.
Just like many older games, this one is also all about collecting enough of the required items to start making progress. You’ll need Quillies, this game’s currency, to unlock skills, but you’ll also need Pagies to unlock or expand new worlds. The first is found by exploring the world you’re in, and finding new pathways where everything is littered for you to grab. The Pagies are harder to find, as you’ll have to beat specific foes, complete minor puzzles or simply go and fetch items for someone who will then reward you with a Pagie. This is pretty much the same formula that was used in the original Banjo-Kazooie and even in our modernized gaming society, this format still works like a charm, especially seeing this game tries to be as varied as possible, to alternate between platforming, puzzles, fighting and/or even playing somewhat old school arcade games.
Controls are all rather responsive, and they feel like the updated game of yore, which is a good thing, as it feels rather authentic. You’ll learn more and more moves as you progress, and most of them remain simple to use and remember. There’s only one minor remark, and it’s the somewhat awful camera angles from time to time that bust the near flawless mechanics. That being said, the game offers a lot of variety of gameplay, as you’ll have to do a lot of platforming, shooting, even 2D mine cart racing, small arcade-like mini-games and sometimes the game even allows you to transform into another being to complete certain quests, thus it would have been hard to actually perfect everything the game throws at you.
For us, Yooka-Laylee is a near perfect homage to classic adventurous puzzle-platformers. We simply enjoyed this blast from the past, with updated mechanics, loads of nods to other games from the old ‘Rare crew’, and of course, we fell in love with the duo that are deemed the spiritual successors of Banjo and Kazooi. If you loved the original series in the past, if you long for the good old days of gaming, or if you’re just into solving puzzles and like platforming, Yooka-Laylee will never be able to disappoint you in any way whatsoever. After playing this game, you might even go like Banjo-Ka-who-ie?