Yooka-Laylee (PC)

Yooka-Laylee (PC) - Review

by Dan Carreras , posted on 14 April 2017 / 9,028 Views

Full disclosure - Dan originally backed Yooka-Laylee on Kickstarter. This review is based on a digital copy of the game received as a result of his funding contribution.

I’ve been harping on about indie studios going back to gaming’s roots for a while now. There's perhaps no better example of this in recent years than Playtonic Games - a group of former Rare employees who wanted to revisit that company's glory years and revitalise the 3D platformer genre.

After being Kickstarted to the tune of over £2 million, this crew of developers were able to spend the last three years bringing our childhood memories back to life with a brand new set of characters, a semi-new setting, and a new generation of consoles that promised to allow them to show off their ambitions like never before. So with the restrictions of publishers and console specs lifted, have Playtonic Games managed to craft a memorable experience capable of rejuvenating the once-famous 3D platformer genre? 

yooka-laylee

While I’d love to say that they have, unfortunately they most certainly have not. 

The premise of Yooka-Laylee, at least, doesn’t stray too far from Rare's N64 glory years with Banjo-Kazooie. Yooka (the lizard) and Laylee (the bat) are lazing around in their new home when, suddenly, their prized possession, a golden book, is dragged away towards Capital B’s factory. Pages start to fall out across the land, and it’s up to the dynamic duo to collect them all and put a stop to Capital B’s dastardly plan to collect all of the world's books and re-write the universe.  

So far so good - the groundwork is quickly laid down for the title's main collectibles and its primary villain. You then quickly happen across multiple characters that introduce you to the game world and explain how to go about doing things. Trowzer (the trouser snake) for example gives you new moves which he’s created himself, and with these new moves you’re able to traverse the terrain in novel and wonderful ways, enabling Yooka and Laylee to play through new levels and partake in extra challenges. 

stupid quiz

But the cracks soon start to show through. The open world you get to navigate between levels is large, but also very confusing, even towards the end of the campaign when you'd expect to be familiar with it. There are no hints as to which direction you should be heading in, and as a result it's easy to find yourself spending ages walking around in circles just trying to find the stages themselves.

When you do happen across a stage you're teleport inside of it and transported to one of a number of themed lands that aren't too dissimilar to those found in Banjo-Kazooie back in the day. The first stage, for example, is a tropical land that is perhaps not coincidentally one of the best areas in the game; there's plenty of terrain to jump around and explore, and numerous different objectives to complete. Later levels look more basic and challenges are soon recycled, so it's safe to say that Yooka-Laylee plays its best cards first. 

NPCs are similarly entertaining at first but quickly begin to feel shallow. Learning a character's name is always fun, for example, but repetitive dialog quickly becomes an issue, especially in subsequent encounters. So NPCs are great to look at, and they certainly have charming and original designs, but don’t expect any depth of character. 

Casino

Abilities, on the other hand, are plentiful but quickly feel under-utilised. It's as if a whole tranche of intended challenges have been cut from levels in order to ensure that the game released on time. For example, I only had to use a newly-acquired invisibility skill once, in order to bypass security cameras. Thereafter there are no additional stealth segments or anything else that would require you to use this new addition to your repertoire - just that one rather predictable section.

All platformers are ultimately only as good as their gameplay and controls. In Yooka-Laylee the jumping gameplay fortunately feels precise, but many other abilities, such as the rolling ability, are incredibly unwieldy, with that particular one feeling like you're on ice. What should be a simple task, like manoeuvring a ball into a hole, ends up being incredibly frustrating as a result. Yooka-Laylee is almost a tale of two halves as a result of this. The first half is refreshing and enjoyable, the second frustrating and disheartening - so much so that there were many collectibles I decided not to collect simply because the duo were too annoying to control.

wooo

Graphically, however, Yooka-Laylee holds up well and it's a genuine delight to view in motion. Early stages are rich in detail, while textures and character models look fantastic throughout. Eventually things begin to deteriorate, with later levels employing less stage presence and instead relying on large bodies of water to fill the gaps and make stages feel bigger, but it at least still looks great.

Above all else the main issue I have with Yooka-Laylee is its failure to modernise the 3D platformer genre. Throughout the whole game I felt like I was playing an N64 title that had received a graphical facelift. From the challenges you take part in, to the dialogue you witness between characters, it's as if everything has been ripped straight from 20 years ago, all, it seems, without any effort being made to add something new. Games are not sold in a vacuum - they evolve with time, being influenced by consumers' wants and needs, which themselves change based on other games that have been released. Yooka-Laylee ignores the progress other franchises and games have made on specific areas of the genre, and as such it ends up feeling like a HD remaster rather than a new concept.

woooooo

It's not all bad. There were times when playing Yooka-Laylee that I zoned out and played it for several hours straight, ignoring the frustrations and just generally absorbing the world the game offers up. But Yooka-Laylee doesn’t bring much new to the table and the nostalgia factor will only keep you engaged for so long. If you’re looking for a complete recreation of a by-gone era, you may well enjoy Yooka-Laylee, especially at the start, but in the long run it's a bit of a disappointment.



This review is based on a digital copy of Yooka-Laylee for the PC

Read more about our Review Methodology here

More Articles

7 Comments

Bristow9091 (on 14 April 2017)

I feel like the negative "fails to add to the genre" shouldn't be there, since as I understand, they weren't trying to add anything in the first place... o.O


miedek (on 17 April 2017)

Funnily enough, if they did, it would be scorned for not being like the old games, which it promised to be.


  • 0
Conina (on 14 April 2017)

Both Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie had these quizzes! But in Yooka-Laylee they suddenly are "unusual for a platformer to say the least"?


Machina (on 14 April 2017)

Looks like Dan removed that from his final draft, but I accidentally left it in when editing, so that one's on me. I've removed it now.


  • +5
JWeinCom (on 15 April 2017)

Definitely with you on the controls. Particularly the ball ability. But, as for fails to modernize the genre... that seems to kind of miss the point. It's like buying a car from the 60's and complaining that there's no backup cam. The 90's nostalgia is pretty much the entire reason the game exists. It seems weird that people seem very forgiving of this sort of thing in 2D throwbacks like Mega Man 9 or Shovel Knight, but don't accept it when it comes to 3D games.


Dravenet7 (on 14 April 2017)

I want to be bit more forgiving about the modernization bit simply because they aimed to make the game like the Banjo Kazooie games. That, and they haven't really worked on games from what I know of since they made Rare games. Also, even looking at this from the get go, I never felt like I was going to enjoy this as much as B & K. I still plan to get it to formulate my own opinion of the game. If these are serious issues, hopefully Playtonic takes the criticism and tries to improve on the formula. Good review. That all being said, people are bringing up good points about the quizzes and adding to the genre. Not everything needs to add to the genre and both quizzes and puzzles were staples of B & K


hesepa (on 16 April 2017)

earn $7711 in 1 month on the computer . go now === cash-review.com


Ka-pi96 (on 14 April 2017)

Kinda surprised the atrocious voice acting wasn't included as one of the -s


Bristow9091 (on 14 April 2017)

What do you mean atrocious voice acting? Did you never play the Banjo Kazooie games? :P


  • +3
Ka-pi96 (on 14 April 2017)

Nope, never played them. Was "uh, uh, ah, ah" the extent of their voice acting as well then?


  • -1
Dravenet7 (on 14 April 2017)

Reading this made me extremely sad people are seriously saying this


  • +3
Bristow9091 (on 14 April 2017)

Yeah, that's EXACTLY what the voice acting was like in the Banjo Kazooie games... in fact it's one of the things lots of people were excited about, to hear the voice acting!


  • +2
Bristow9091 (on 14 April 2017)

And yeah Dravenet7 I agree, people are actually putting it as a negative, it's like they have no idea what this game is supposed to be :(


  • +1
monocle_layton (on 14 April 2017)

TL;DR is this the worst game ever? No, it isn't. At the same time, it was a pretty big disappointment