Thank you to Playtonic for the review code of Yooka-Laylee!
Your favorite bear and bird return in Playtonic’s spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie! Except that this time, it’s a chameleon and a bat instead. They are Yooka and Laylee, and they will bring you on a nostalgic trip back to the early 2000s, complete with the horrible camera! Playtonic is made up of several ex-Rare members from the Nintendo 64 era, so you can clearly see where they got their start and certain facets that never left. Chameleon-Bat duo Yooka and Laylee travel through different worlds, collecting Pagies (Jiggies), quills (music notes), and thwarting the plans of Capital B (Grunty). All of this happens while you learn new moves that let you take on new challenges. In the most literal sense, it is a 3D-platformer with heavy emphasis on collection. But besides some neato-burrito scenery and characters, there are some pretty glaring oversights.
Everyone Loves a High Note
I like to start on a positive note before beating something to death. Yooka-Laylee excels at providing eye-catching scenery. From the gloomy Moodymaze Marsh, Galleon Galaxy, and even Glitterglaze Glacier (although horribly named) look awesome. Bright, vibrant textures fill the lands littered with angry little creatures bent on destruction and NPCs chomping at the bit to challenge you to new tasks. There are also a butt-ton of items to collect in each level that will take completionists forever because a lot of the levels are rather large.
The Little Engine that Couldn’t
The downfall of the vast setting mentioned above is when you try to pack so much into the world, your load times become excruciating. Sometimes, this depends on the engine you are designing in. Yooka-Laylee uses the Unity engine and while great for indie games, the larger scope of this project may have been a little too much for it to handle. The current generation of rabid gamers demand speed!
Do You Hear What I Hear?
Your objective in each level is to rescue the Pagies so that you can travel to more worlds. To do this, you must interact with the NPCs around the level you are in. The N64 had an excuse as to not use voice actors. The technology to make it all work well just wasn’t there. Now granted, Jontron was supposed to voice act for the game before he was pulled because of some tasteless remarks, and he would have been the only actual voice in the game. All other characters in every level have what I call “Banjo-Kazooie voices” which means they are a mish mash of random sounds that drone on forever. The dialogue in the game (which actually can be really funny at times), aside from the cut scenes perhaps, would be better left without “voice over”.
Or even better just play the amazing music composed by none other than Grant Kirkhope, legendary Banjo-Kazooie composer. The world music is one of the things Yooka-Laylee gets 100%correct. It is a flawless throwback that invokes childhood memories and perfectly fits each level it is so carefully placed upon. Grant Kirkhope is a master, we will never be worthy. But even Grant couldn’t save the most jarring problem facing Yooka-Laylee, the camera.
Do You See What I See?
Imagine this. The year is 2017, you have all these amazing, super-powerful consoles capable of games like Battlefield One and Overwatch. Now imagine you made a new game and gave it camera control worse than that of the first Kingdom Hearts. You don’t have to imagine too hard, just play this game. It is almost like they said “Hey! What if we just took the same camera from Banjo-Kazooie and just made it a little worse!” Within the first 10 minutes of the game (after the absurdly long intro cinematic) I was forced to do a blind leap without knowing where I was going because the camera was unmovable. There are plenty of times where I started a timed mission only to fail repeatedly because of the inability to see where I was going. This is a game-breaker that really kills the immersion and forces the fun out. Some may say “C’mon Greg, it can’t be that bad right?” to which I would invite you to play Yooka-Laylee for more than an hour without putting the controller down and walking away at least once.
The game does have some saving graces, like the previously mentioned soundtrack. There is also a neat retro arcade mode with games that are unlocked by finding coins hidden in each level. Other upsides are the multiplayer aspects and couch co-op options, which are depressingly absent from 99% of current generation games. For a collect-a-thon, Yooka-Laylee is satisfying, plut it will definitely scratch that pesky nostalgia itch if you have the Banjo blues. However, it feels like the developer didn’t do enough to bring the game up to the standards of the current console generation. If it was cheaper, I’d tell you to pick it up just for the humor and the sheer amount of things to do in the game. But for $40, you may want to wait until it goes on sale.
- Plenty of Humor
- Great Nostalgia Feel
- Co-Op is Available
- Horrendous Camera
- Annoying Voices
- Slow Load Times
- Can't Skip Cut Scenes