Yooka - Laylee Review
Nostalgia in gaming is a very harsh master; it sits in the back of your mind reminding you that no matter what game you are playing now it will never be as good as the classics from the good ol’ days. Days when games were ACTUALLY challenging, lasted more than 5 hours and when you and your friends would crowd round one TV and laugh until the early hours of the morning… or until your parents told them to go home and eat their own food.
Nostalgia is what makes you go on uncharted expeditions into your loft or garage, like some modern-day Marco Polo, to seek your old consoles and games just to relive these times. Returning with your prize, covered in cobwebs and bruises where that train set you got for Christmas so many years ago fell on you as you were attempting storage-Jenga.
Nostalgia is also the feeling that fades away faster than my willpower in a cake shop, as you load up said classic and realise that in fact over the years you have become spoilt. This classic doesn’t look as good as you remember, that theme tune just seems a little too basic (now that it is not edged with your own memory’s inflections), the controls are clunky and unwieldy and it lacks features that are now commonplace in most games.
Nostalgia is the Diet Coke of emotions; promising that same great taste but delivering a mouthful of disappointment (more often than not).
But to every rule there is an exception. Yooka-Laylee is that exception.
Created by Playtonic Games - a talented team of developers with incredible pedigree, Yooka-Laylee is the spiritual successor to one of my all-time favourite games: Banjo and Kazooie. As such, whilst I was delighted to see that this game was being made, I just kept playing the Diet Coke Break advert in my mind… only it was Louie Spence in the tight white tee, just daring me to pop the drink so he could burst into some horrifically extroverted dance… I digress. Basically, I was ready to be disappointed.
However, from the very moment Yooka-Laylee starts it feels right; the menu is bright and colourful and moving up and down invokes various sounds from characters you meet in the game. Behind all this plays a spectacularly cheery theme tune, that you will find yourself humming long after you have finished playing.
The game is set around out titular heroes leaving their home in Shipwreck creek to search various lands for Pagies that have been stolen by the dastardly Capital B and Dr Quack. It is a formula that will be very familiar to veterans of Banjo and Kazooie, and as the old saying goes “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. Worlds are unlocked by spending the Pagies you have collected and in a neat twist can be further expanded with more Pagies, which makes returning to these worlds exciting rather than a chore.
The worlds follow your typical settings such as a tropical, icy, haunted etc. but whereas this may seem generic it is far from it. Each world is an absolute labour of love, beautifully designed with their own unique soundtrack, characters, enemies and fiendish puzzles. Each are full of collectables outside of the Pagies such as quills that are used to purchase upgrades, ghost writers to find, power ups to discover that extend your energy or life bar, and super rare collectibles that if I am honest I have no idea what they do… yet.
Progression in the game is perfectly paced and new abilities are added slowly so as not to overburden you, these abilities also allow you to solve puzzles in earlier worlds you have completed, again enticing rather than ‘forcing’ you back.
Some of the worlds will catch you off guard with a wonderful surprise, such as the Icymetric Tower in Glitterglaze Glacier that is unlocked when you expand the world. This area features a series of puzzles in a maze-like environment that, as if you could not have guessed, plays from a fixed isometric view point in a loving nod to classic games such as Head over Heels and Little Big Adventure. This level of passion is evident in every corner of every world and it makes exploring an utter joy.
In another throwback, there are ‘Retro’ arcade games based on some classics of yester year that serve not only to unlock Pagies, but can also be played as standalone multiplayer games with your friends. Whereas these are obviously not as polished as the main title, they serve their purpose beautifully when you and your friends just want to kick back and have a bit of light hearted competition.
Controls are, in my opinion, fantastic and my only frustrations came down to my lack of skill. More importantly they feel ‘right’ depending what you are doing and where you are doing it. Be it running or rolling, swimming or gliding, I found the controls adapted superbly which is vitally important in some of the more fiendish time trials and courses.
If I had to pick fault I would say that at times the camera can feel a little unwieldly and this can lead to a few re-tries on certain challenges, but this is forgivable by its rarity.
There is much more that I could talk about but put simply Yooka-Laylee is platforming adventure in its purest form, delivered with a love and care that is so desperately lost on most big franchise games. It is the Pixar of platforming, providing bright, colourful, beautiful worlds to explore packed with challenges for all ages along with a humour where kids will laugh but adults will laugh harder.
Bravo Playtonic games, bravo for being brave and reminding us… me that games can be as good as we remember them, that games don’t need to have machine guns and death bombs to work. Bravo for not being Diet Coke!
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We are going to leave you guys now with the Yooka-Laylee Rap... Enjoy!