I’ll be honest, I was a little skeptical when I first heard about Yooka-Laylee. I wondered if my affinity for 3D platformers was a thing of the past and maybe I wouldn’t appreciate it. Not to mention, hearing this was to be a “Banjo-Kazooie spiritual successor?” What big paws to fill! However, after getting my hands on Yooka-Laylee, I realized my doubts and skepticism were just…silly. Yooka-Laylee is a fun, entertaining experience with a sense of humor I can’t get enough of. It’s witty, charming, and most importantly; the gameplay is a love letter to the open-world-3D-platforming genre many of us grew up on.
Without a doubt, Yooka-Laylee plays like a true Banjo-Kazooie spiritual successor through and through. From the voice acting to its platforming and puzzles, I’m confident Yooka-Laylee will make a lot of Banjo fans happy. That’s not to say this game is dated or an exact replica of Banjo-Kazooie. Yooka-Laylee manages to have its own identity because of its new likable characters and story, along with a few twists on familiar mechanics that make the gameplay feel fresh.
For example, much like Banjo-Kazooie where we had to fetch puzzle pieces or “jiggies,” Yooka-Laylee is similar in that way because we now fetch book pages called “pagies.” Much like the jiggies, pagies are needed to progress to different levels but they can also be used to expand levels, to make them bigger and add more content. I tried this as soon as I had enough pagies and was pleasantly surprised with how much more content was added to the level. Not only was the terrain extended with bigger mountains and pathways leading to more areas, but more mini-games and character side missions were added as well. A single level’s open world became even more open and I found myself just wandering around in it, enjoying myself as I discovered more things to do.
Another reason Banjo and old school 3D platformer fans will enjoy this game is it’s notable sense of humor and references to other games. I love when a game doesn’t take itself too seriously and that is where Yooka-Laylee really shines. I couldn’t help but smile and chuckle a few times as I played this game. One minute I had a character tell me assets were borrowed to make this game but “ssh, don’t tell anyone,” and then the next minute I was running into characters I recognized from other games. “I was having an adventure so great, I crossed over into the wrong game!” comes from a character that is sure to make you smile as well.
As for the move set and abilities, Yooka and Laylee start off with simple abilities such as attacking, running, jumping, and even… slurping. Later on as I progressed, I learned I can make Yooka slurp up flowers to use as another attack on enemies, or simply to spit at buttons to activate platforms or win at mini-games. I also learned other special moves by collecting quills and bringing them to a snake friend named Trowzer. He has a variety of special moves to purchase, and I was able to back track with these new moves to activate something new. Combat is pretty basic and fun to use. I usually use the spin attack with the help of Laylee but every once and a while, I mix it up with the roll move I purchased so I can mow down enemies. So far, the combat and move set has been easy to pick up and enjoyable.
So far, my only real gripe with this game is the sometimes wonky camera angles. There have been more than a few times where I was controlling the camera with the right stick, only for it to wrap around the opposite direction. Also, when Yooka and Laylee are near a wall or edge of a mountain, the camera will sometimes wrap around and get up close and personal, causing me to feel a little disoriented. At one point, I even felt a little motion sickness because of it. To be fair, I can be sensitive to motion sickness with particular genres; 3D platformers being one of them. Fortunately, it hasn’t been every play session and I do feel like I’m getting used to the camera movement with the more I play. Regardless of this issue, I am looking forward to playing more and especially look forward to seeing the different worlds in the game.
From what I have played so far, I sense that Playtonic Games put a lot of love and tender care into Yooka-Laylee. It’s delightful characters and dialogue has me smitten and the gameplay is easy to pick up, with new abilities to learn as you progress. Yooka-Laylee shows us how open a world can be for this type of genre and whether you are a long time 3D platformer fan or just picking this genre up for the first time, you’re in for a delightful treat.
This has been a preview of Yooka-Laylee, by Playtonic Games, played on PC. Are you picking up Yooka-Laylee April 11th? Let us know!