Unlike other industries, games are the least afraid to celebrate its heritage.
Even though we’re deep in the trenches of 2017, you’ll find 8 Bit Platformers and FMV titles are some of the most anticipated and immersive releases of the year. Rather than shun its roots, it remembers them and respects them enough to know their significance to everybody.
So it should be no surprise that one of the biggest releases in April is – essentially – a spiritual successor to N64 classic Banjo Kazooie. Everything from the look and feel, to the quips, unlockables, mini-games and everything in-between.
Yooka Laylee centres around a chilled out green chameleon and agitated flappy bat as they try to retrieve a series of lost pagies that have got caught on the wind and been spread throughout Hivory Towers. Now in the clutches of Capital B and Dr Quack, they intend to consume all of the world’s literature, so it’s up to Yooka and Laylee to stop them.
It’s the most basic of plots, yet the game is filled with plenty of humour, a charming cast of characters, a beautiful world and memorable soundtrack that you’re soon swept up in. This topsy-turvy adventure sees you control both characters, each with differing abilities. For instance, Yooka can swallow berries and spit them out as fire and icy breath. And Laylee can help the pair sail between ledges.
Everything is structured into hub-areas with a luscious greenery, slippery ice stage, and suffocating deserts. You can expand the scope of these areas by collecting a certain amount of pagies or use those pagies to open other worlds. This freedom makes the game very open-ended and flexible, which ensures playtime is as refreshing as you make it.
And this really is everything you remember from the classic 64 3D platformers, from the amount of collectables you can discover, to the epic boss battles, fun arcade side games, and even silly quizzes. It’s all the quirkiness we grew up with.
But there are some modernisations which do make the experience fresh, such as Play-Tonics which give your characters’ permanent attributes, such as increased stamina, or additional potency from collecting butterflies.
Likewise, there are things about Yooka Laylee that don’t quite measure up. The frame rate, for instance, really struggles quite often. The game stammers and stutters so often, and unfortunately it’s very noticeable. To the point where it sometimes interferes with the action.
Levels also feel really padded and it’s incredibly easy to get lost and feel a bit directionless at times. In Mario 64, for instance, it was always clear how to get the Stars, even if you didn’t have all the tools necessary to do so. In Yooka Laylee, you’ll need to do some investigating – and even a bit of guess work – to determine what’s next.
Engine-wise, it’s also very authentically 64 bit down to a fault. At times, Yooka Laylee can look drop-dead gorgeous and stunning, then at other times some areas and sections can appear quite ropey and jagged.
The mini arcade games are also a little bit underwhelming, the controls can be a little bit fiddly – especially the aiming.
Oh, and I hope you like loading screens because there’s plenty to keep you busy!
But Yooka Laylee remains absolutely absorbing, charming and infectious. You’ll find yourself sniggering and laughing at some of the cast of characters, you’ll catch yourself broadly smiling as you scale some of the highest mountains, racing along on side-scrolling mine carts, and even challenging others to races down slippery slopes.
Despite the distinct flaws, the goodness shines through in Yooka-Laylee more often than not. With so much to do and real variety – like collecting certain items through challenges, or activities to mix up the action – Yooka Laylee is a mostly welcome return to form for a genre that’s been on the backburner for far too long.
Yooka-Laylee doesn’t quite match the polish of a Nintendo 3D Adventure, inheriting some of the flaws that have plagued earlier adventures and should really have been ironed out for 2017, but there’s so much loving personality here that you won’t stay mad for long. Especially those sneaky cameos!
Playtonic can make you smile, laugh and have so fun as much as they can make you feel nostalgic and modernise the genre in one, awesome package. It’s a treasure.
+ Lovely crafted worlds
+ Reinvention of a genre
+ So many hours of enriching content
– Occassional control issues
– Awful frame rate at times
– Some sections feel padded and almost aimless
7 out of 10
Tested on Xbox One
Based on Version 1.0