Yooka-Laylee – Review
Platform – PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC
Developer – Playtonic Games
Publisher – Team17
MSRP – $39.99
Editor’s Note – This game was reviewed on the Xbox One with review copy being provided by the publisher Team17.
Kickstarter has kicked off many successful and unsuccessful projects. Yooka-Laylee is another project that has originated from a Kickstarter campaign that promised to bring back the nostalgic feeling and gameplay of old school platformers from the N64 era. Playtonic Studios was formed from former developers who belonged to Rare Studios. Rare Studios was mostly known for creating quirky, charming and whimsical games such as the Donkey Kong series (now at the hands of Retro Studios), Banjo Kazooie and more on the mature and naughty side – Conker’s Bad Fur Day.
Playtonic’s goal with Yooka-Laylee was to create a spiritual successor to the Banjo Kazooie games which consisted of a lot of platforming, puzzle solving and collecting enough jigsaw pieces and music notes to unlock new worlds and progress throughout the game and stop the final boss from doing his/her evil deed. This is the exact same case here, but the question is how do the old-school mechanics fare in today’s world of the video game industry and is there is truly a demand for the whimsical platforming genre? Let’s find out.
The story in Yooka-Laylee is nothing special and it doesn’t really try to be or needs to be in the first place because Banjo-Kazooie never took itself seriously either and this game follows exactly the same concept as far as storytelling, humor, and narration go. Instead, it’s a whimsical adventure full of hilarious characters, amusing gibberish voice acting, and puns that will make you laugh. At the beginning of the game, you’re introduced to Yooka and Laylee the two main protagonists of the game along with Capital B who’s an evil corporate owner of Hivory Towers and his hunger for power and dictatorship. Capital B decides to steal Yooka-Laylee’s magical book that will make him become a powerful dictator and it’s now their job to go after it and prevent him from using its special powers.
This chameleon and bat duo must traverse throughout five different worlds along with a hub-city named “Hivory Towers” and collect special items called “Pagies” that have scattered themselves to escape from Capital B. You start the game off on a shipwrecked island where you are able to explore for a little bit and get used to the controls and platforming mechanics, you can also come back here later on at any time when you obtain new platforming moves to reach out to things you weren’t able to before.
Gameplay, Platforming, and Worlds
Playtonic did quite a great job at nailing the retro platforming genre with Yooka-Laylee. It plays exactly like the Banjo Kazooie games and has the same gameplay concepts. In the game, you collect “Pagies” throughout each of the five diverse worlds along with quills. The “Pagies” are equivalent to the Banjo Kazooie’s jigsaw pieces that you are required to find in order to unlock worlds and eventually face the final boss. Meanwhile, the quills are equivalent to the music notes that can be used as a currency to buy new moves for Yooka and Laylee to pull off. You can acquire these moves from a salesman snake character who goes by the name of “Trowzers.” Yooka-Laylee does exact the same thing and it does it pretty well in terms of staying true to the genre but it does have one big problem and that is the controls along with some technical issues in the fourth world of the game.
There have been far too many times where controlling Yooka felt quite floaty and sometimes slippery which caused a lot of death falls and annoyance when you’re in a middle of solving a platforming puzzle or trying to avoid obstacles and not die. I am not sure what Playtonic were thinking, but when it comes to platforming games the most important aspect are the controls and they need to be fluid and responsive and that is not the case with Yooka-Laylee and that is a huge issue because the game doesn’t have anything else that makes up for it. Every world also contains a boss that you must defeat in order to get a “Pagie” and progress through the story and the tank controls make the boss fights far more frustrating than they need to be. The worst offender of this is the fifth boss and that is where Yooka-Laylee are turned into a small ship and the vehicle controls in this game are even more problematic than being in regular form. The boss itself is super easy, but it took me about 45 or so minutes to defeat it due to how clunky the vehicle controls were.
The controls keep the game from being really enjoyable throughout and it’s quite a shame because there is a good game here to enjoy because a lot of the puzzles themselves are quite creative and become more complex as you acquire new moves throughout the game and move on to new worlds. But when such a simple thing like controls and sensitivity create a problem the game becomes not enjoyable anymore and you will just stop playing the game out of frustration unless you have a lot of patience to put up with it.
In Yooka-Laylee there are over 140 “Pagies” to collect and over a 1000 or so quill to go along with special items that extend your power bar for your special moves, hearts that give you an extra butterfly to your life meter and five different ghosts that end up rewarding you with a “Pagie” if you find them all in the world. Each ghost is unique, for example, one of the ghosts asks you to feed him berries in order to have him collected, while another ghost likes to play hide and seek until you find him using your sonic sound ability. You will also meet a character named Rextro who’s a really low polygon dinosaur that asks the player to play different mini-games with him via an arcade machine. It’s a cool addition, as the games can also be played in local multiplayer. However, they’re not really that well-designed, the controls issues also persist in these mini-games. Beating Rextro’s games will earn also earn you a “Pagie” assuming that you have found a hidden arcade coin in the world.
The best aspect of Yooka-Laylee is the exploration, the worlds themselves are much bigger than Banjo-Kazooie’s or any of those previous games and on top of that they can also be expanded by using the “Pagies” you have collected or you have the choice of using those “Pagies” to open up the next world, either way it’s completely up to you on how you want to tackle your progression which is a nice touch. The first world “Tropical Paradise” was very enjoyable to play through, during my adventure here I’ve met a lot of interesting, funny and quirky characters that have a personality and a favor to ask of you and in return, they reward you with “Pagies.” It’s always exciting to see what the next character you meet is going to throw at you or say, because the game throws all kinds of puns and silly things at you that make it fun and then, of course, you have the platforming challenges that you must complete to rescue the “Pagies” out of their “Cagies.”
Graphics, Sound and Technical Aspects
Yookay-Laylee runs on the Unity engine which is quite popular among indie developers and mobile games. The game’s art style definitely fits the N64 era of platforming games and has bright and beautiful colors across all of the game’s five worlds. If you love the look and feel of old-school platformers then you’ll feel right at home, I sure did when I first started experiencing the game and it was a fantastic feeling.
While the engine gets the job the done it does have some major technical flaws, particularly in the framerate department and stuttering, especially in the fourth world. The game is already locked at 30fps on the consoles and that’s already unacceptable for a game that has a small polygon count and that has barely anything going on in the background. There is absolutely no reason to why the game should be locked to 30fps and to top it all of it also has issues keeping a consistent framerate. Instead, it ends up dropping sometimes into the 15s in some areas. The Casino world is the worst offender of this, no matter where you go in that level you’re always below 30fps and there are frequent stutters that occur and that really messes up with the gameplay especially when you’re trying to time your jumps properly during a platforming puzzle. We’re in the year 2017 and this is a simple basic platforming game that tries cater to the old-school fans, it’s a complete shame and a disappointment that the developer is not able to get in with the times when it comes to optimization.
Not everything is doom and gloom, though, for Yooka-Laylee, the music in the game is great and is composed by the same person (Grant Kirkhope) who created music for the Banjo-Kazooie games. The fans will feel right at home when they hear the tunes. As previously mentioned, voice acting is all silly gibberish and adds a great amount of amusement. The game’s sounds are also all very fitting and go well along with the style of the game and have a nice tone to it.
Overall, very disappointed in the technical department, the developer has no excuse to make this game run smooth as butter considering how basic the geometry is and how the worlds look like and what they consist off. You don’t see thousands of creatures on the screen or complex particle effects happening during the gameplay and that is completely unacceptable.
Yooka-Laylee is delivers on its promise of providing players with nostalgic Banjo-Kazooie gameplay concepts and N64 era platforming. Playtonic Games has crafted five diverse worlds for you to explore and conquer and plenty of items to collect for your old-school platforming needs. As previously mentioned, they have also nailed the humor, looks and the atmosphere of the whimsical platforming games that were so popular during the N64 era.
The game satisfied my thirst for old school platformers. For some it might bring a tear to the eye for others it might just be whatever. Despite the nostalgia, the game doesn’t come without its faults, particularly in the controls and sensitivity department and the fact that the game is locked at 30fps and also has framerate issues along the way with the frequent stuttering in the “Capital Casino” world is really sad. Hopefully, there will be a sequel and all of these complaints can be fixed if there is another entry in this series or future patches. Other than that it’s a decent old-school platformer with fundamental issues that shouldn’t be here in the first place.
- Diverse cast of humurous characters will keep you laughing and entertained
- Great recreation of the Banjo-Kazooie/N64 platforming gameplay concepts
- Big and fun worlds to explore
- Horrific control/sensitivity issues that make the game frustrating where it doesn't need to be
- Consistent frame-rate issues and stuttering in the fourth world of the game, also some dips in other areas.
- 30fps locked - unacceptable for a game with a small polygon count and basic gameplay mechanics especially for a platformer