In recent years there has been a wave of new games that are preying on the sense of nostalgia. 8-bit graphics, retro difficulty, throwbacks and references to your youth are plentiful. While the indie game scene has had some gems, there hasn’t been a game that truly captures the nostalgic feel of a bygone era. Yooka-Laylee seeks to find its place as the successor to those past games.
Enter: Playtonic Games and the game Yooka-Laylee. A bunch of former Rare LTD. employees looking to rekindle their passion for open world platformer games. Touted as a “spiritual successor” to the Banjo-Kazooie games, Yooka-Laylee will make you feel like a kid again.
Yooka-Laylee started out as a VERY successful Kickstarter and was the one of the fastest campaigns to hit their goal. A super team of industry veterans have poured their hearts and souls into this game and it shows. The worlds are vast and expansive, the characters are well written, and there are enough collectibles to keep you coming back after you’ve finished the main story.
Right away players will feel a wave of colorful nostalgia wash over them at the outset of the game. Our brightly colored heroes are in an amazingly painted world ready to take on whatever comes their way. Every world in this game has it’s own unique color scheme and feel to it. From the icy slopes of Glitterglaze Glacier to the dark and murky waters of Moodymaze Marsh, every world will have you exploring every nook and cranny, then revisiting it to grab anything you might have missed. Not only to find collectibles, but to see the detail that was carefully placed in each world. Everything from the enemies, the characters, the worlds, even the particle effects flying through the air look great. Yooka-Laylee takes what was great about the look of the 90s platformers and gives it a modern-day polish.
Banjo-Kazooie games have always had a fantastic soundtrack and with Yooka-Laylee players will be reminded of that. The score is happy, dramatic, intense, and everything one would expect from former Rare developers. The characters speak in a familiar gibberish language and there’s plenty of auditory clues in a world to let you know something special is nearby. From the moment the game starts the musical accompaniment will bring out a world that seems new, yet somehow familiar.
The gameplay is where this game really shines. We haven’t seen a good 3D platformer in over 10 years and Yooka-Laylee is here to take it’s rightful place atop the throne. Slick controls, amazing power-ups, and a fantastic learning curve will have players jumping, double-jumping, rolling, eating, and more in no time. The levels are designed in such a way that new power-ups will be required to progress through, but also in such a way that getting power-ups later within the game will have one revisiting levels to reach new areas that were previously inaccessible. A great addition to the gameplay and level design is the idea of “expanding” the worlds. Players can enter a world and do what it is required to get past it, but they can revisit it later and expand it to explore new areas for more collectibles, of which there are PLENTY. Expanding worlds isn’t crucial to finishing the main campaign, but players looking for more things to pick up will want to make sure all worlds are expanded as much as possible. There is also a well done hub that connects all the worlds together and there is plenty to exploring in the hub as well. The worlds are massive and will have players searching everywhere for items.
One of the biggest surprises in the game was the difficulty. There’s a decent enough learning curve, but even on the first world boss I was shocked at how many times I tried to take him out. There are some challenges later on that are also on the difficult side, but everything else pales in comparison to the final boss. I spent HOURS trying to defeat it. I am not sure if I didn’t have enough collectibles to extend my life and energy, or if I just didn’t have the right modifier. This last boss sucked and made me rage quit. A LOT.
The game isn’t without it’s faults. An open world 3D platformer will have it’s share of camera issues and more than a few times I managed to get myself stuck in areas I couldn’t get out of (forcing me to close out of the game and restart). Oddly enough, the worlds might be too big. I finished the main campaign without ever seeing two world bosses. I also noticed some pixelation when looking closely at shadows, but that can easily be overlooked.
With the exception of the getting stuck, all of these small flaws only add to Yooka-Layee’s charm. If you were a backer on Kickstarter there is tons more than getting your money’s worth. If you didn’t back it, at only $39.99 (USD) here’s a game that has hours of enjoyment.
Except for that last boss. Eff that guy. . .