Review: Yooka-Laylee (PS4/XBO)

Developed by: Playtonic Games
Published by: Team17

Rareware and 3D platformers were a huge part of my childhood. Every time I see the famous Rare Iogo, I am immediately taken back to my days playing Nintendo 64 on my small CRT television. I was born in the late-90s, so naturally I had exposure to games such as Banjo-Kazooie and Super Mario 64. To this day, these 3D “collect-a-thons” remain as some of my favorite games of all-time. As I grew older, the genre seemed to just disappear. Rare changed its approach on game development, opting to use their IPs to create new experiences, instead of just creating 3D platformers. While I totally support the creation of new ideas (I can’t wait for Sea of Thieves), my heart yearned for a new, modern 3D platformer by Rare. When I heard the news that former Rare employees established Playtonic Games to create the game I always dreamed of, I immediately got excited. Two years later, their first game, Yooka-Laylee, has arrived on the scene, and it’s a worthy return to form.

Yooka-Laylee is basically a modern version of Banjo-Kazooie. Yooka, the green lizard, is this game’s Banjo, but definitely more smart and aware than Banjo. He is a caring protagonist, one who looks out for and wants to help others, but understands when something fishy is going on. Laylee, the bat with the big nose, on the other hand, is exactly like Kazooie. She is sarcastic, sometimes rude, but always entertaining. Yooka and Laylee have a great dynamic between each other, and it makes the dialogue in the game just as charming as it was in Banjo-Kazooie. The main antagonist, Capital B, doesn’t feel much like Gruntilda. In fact, he is not as interesting as her. His banter in the hub world can be entertaining at times, but for the most part I just wanted him to stop talking. However, Capital B never ruins or out shines the charm the other characters have. Yooka and Laylee are a fun team to play as.

The supporting cast of characters in the game are just as fun. Some of the characters include Trowzer, a snake with pants who will grant you new abilities, Dr. Puzz, an octopus who is also a scientist who will transform you into new forms, and Dr. Quack, a duck who serves under Capital B. And I can’t talk about the supporting cast without mentioning Rextro Sixtyfourous. Rextro is a 64-bit dinosaur who you will meet throughout your adventures, and he owns a variety of arcade machines for you to play. This dinosaur is the most joyous creature in the game. Every time I would find him in a world, it would just make everything even better. Each character you meet is unique and has something witty to say. The developers at Playtonic Games definitely put a lot of time into making sure the dialogue felt right.

Yooka and Laylee explore colorful and charming worlds in their debut game.

The gameplay is just what you would expect out of a 3D platformer. Jumping and exploring feels good and just how you remember it. Yooka and Laylee have a variety of power-ups and moves, which you slowly gain throughout the game. Every move has a purpose and will grant you access to new portions of the world. Yooka-Laylee provides players with five unique worlds to explore, all contained within one hub world. Each world has a personality of its own, with a boss to face at the end. Each world can also be expanded, giving players even more areas to explore. These worlds are definitely larger than the ones found in Banjo-Kazooie, but they don’t feel too overwhelming. It’s easy to get lost since the areas are so large, but players will become familiar with the environment as time passes.

The main goal in Yooka-Laylee is to collect as many Pagies as you can. Pagies are the main collectible in the game, which are golden pages from a special book, and are required to advance into new worlds. Pagies can be obtained through mini-games, challenges, and simple platforming tasks. In classic N64 platformer fashion, these objectives range from incredibly fun to annoying. Other collectibles include Quills, which act as currency and can be traded for new power-ups, and Ghost Writers, this game’s version of the Jinjo. These new collectibles are fun to find and collect and have their own personalities, despite being so similar to those found in Banjo-Kazooie.

Grant Kirkhope, David Wise, and Steve Burke are all involved with Yooka-Laylee‘s soundtrack. The music is everything you could ever want in a Rare-style 3D platformer. It’s one of the most magical parts of the game. Despite all of the music being brand new, listening to the tracks took me back to my childhood. The word that describes it best is soothing. I even found myself humming some of the music while driving. The official soundtrack will be in my collection when it comes out.

Get those Pagies!

Yooka-Laylee does a lot of good, but there is one glaring problem that needs to be addressed: the game’s framerate. Running on Unity, Yooka-Laylee suffers from a lot of framerate drops and hiccups on console. For the most part, the game runs fine enough, but there are particular worlds and areas that suffer in the framerate department. These drops happen frequently enough to where its noticeable and annoying, but infrequent enough to where the game always remains playable. I also ran into a few bugs during my time playing Yooka-Laylee, but none of them are worth bringing up in detail. It’s possible that Playtonic Games will patch the game when it officially launches, but even if that doesn’t happen, the game is still playable despite those issues.

I love 3D platformers. They were an important part of my childhood and remain one of my favorite genres in gaming. In fact, I consider Banjo-Kazooie to be one of my favorite games of all-time. I had high hopes for Yooka-Laylee, and I really believe Playtonic Games has created a worthy successor to the Banjo franchise. Despite the framerate issues, I know this is a game I will return to again. If you’re a fan of the genre, the team at Playtonic Games deserves your time and attention. I believe Yooka-Laylee is the start of something great.

Final verdict: Buy It. Despite issues with the framerate, Yooka-Laylee is a worthy successor to 3D platformers of past days. Yooka-Laylee was played on Xbox One for this review.

[Note: This product was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review]

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