Playing Yooka-Laylee by Team17 and Playtonic Games I was immediately reminded of sitting on my family couch in the basement with my brother, eating Little Debbie snacks and playing Spongebob Squarepants: Battle for Bikini Bottom on our PS1. It’s a formula you’ll recognize if you played platform games as a kid. You’ll find hidden treasure chests if you explore. You’ll learn new moves to unlock more areas of gameplay. The villains (like Dr. Quack and Capital B) are outlandish and extreme. And, you’ll definitely recognize the camera panning across the platform challenge course to the shiny prize at the end. It’s a tried and true method, and it’s just as fun now as it was in my childhood basement sitting on the family couch – though I wouldn’t say the same for the Little Debbies.
Like our favorite games from childhood, Yooka-Laylee has personality, strange and amusing characters, and tons of collectibles. You play as a bat and a lizard named Yooka and Laylee who run around collecting “Pagies” and “Quills,” both in the hub world and in five additional worlds that you unlock once you’ve collected enough Pagies. As you may have noticed, this game is a not-so-subtle homage to Banjo-Kazooie, but it seems designed for players nostalgic for platform games in general. The puzzles are satisfying and creative, involving different moves and skills you acquire throughout your gameplay. The different worlds are amusing and actually pretty extensive compared to Banjo-Koozie. And though it’s possible I had so much fun with this game because it deftly tapped into my nostalgia, I think the challenges, levels, and puzzles are diverse and interesting enough to be fun for anyone.
I did have some issues with the physics of the game. For one thing, it’s not meant for keyboard controls. The camera is impossible to use accurately and the arrow keys are sensitive enough to disrupt the flow of gameplay. If you want to have fun playing Yooka-Laylee, you’ll need a controller. You might remember a certain fluidity from old games like this one, where if you do a challenge long enough, parts of it will become locked into your muscle memory and you’ll be able to go through it faster and faster, getting the hang of the physics and timing. Not so much in Yooka-Laylee. I had to be a bit slower than I would have liked as I made my way through these challenge courses, partly because one wrong move could send you falling, and partly because the camera isn’t always your friend.
But those are my only big complaints (along with how annoying the Banjo-Kazooie styled dialogue gets after a while – I switched to mute). Yooka-Laylee knows what it’s doing. It tugs on your memory and expands an already flush genre. It’s a game from your childhood, one you’ll recognize and enjoy.
I give Yooka-Laylee 8/10.
Yooka-Laylee Modernizing the 3D Platformer Video:
Yooka-Laylee launches on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC, Mac and Linux on the 11th April 2017 and is available to pre-order digitally now via the Xbox Store, PlayStation Store, Steam and GOG. A boxed version is also available for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One from select retailers.
Gamers who pre-order either digitally or the physical version from select retailers such as GAME in the UK and Amazon in the US will receive an instant unlock of the Yooka-Laylee Toybox, which gives a taste of the platforming mechanics set to appear in the full game in a self-contained, spoiler free sandbox experience.