Review – Yooka-Laylee

I said it in my pre-review and I’m saying it again in my review, Yooka-Laylee is the only game in years to touch me like games of older generations. Perhaps it’s nostalgia, perhaps game design or perhaps it’s a combination of both. Yooka-Laylee, even with its flaws, is one of the finest games of this generation.

If you ever spent anytime playing the Rare classics Banjo-Kazooie and Tooie on N64 (or even on Xbox 360) nothing in Yooka-Laylee will come as a surprise. Nor will it be anything new. This is not a criticism. Yooka-Laylee somehow manages to take players back in time, while remaining current. This is, in part, due to the original design of the titles it’s based on and partly due to the team at Playtonic.

These are the people who designed my childhood and likely yours too. Their passion for this project is equalled only by the fans’. Evidenced by the huge number of people backing the title on Kickstarter. Playtonic includes developers behind not just BK, but also Donkey Kong Country. There’s a huge pedigree and lots to live up to. Yooka-Laylee does so with aplomb.

From the opening cutscene to the closing credits, Yooka-Laylee is everything you want it to be.

It’s Ukulele, geddit?

On paper, it may seem that Yooka-Laylee is lacking in content, but put your mind to ease; there’s plenty to see and do. The titular Yooka and Laylee, fall foul of Capital B. and his devious plan to steal all of the books in the world. Laylee wants her book back, so the two set out to get it and along the way get tangled up in the adventure. It’s pretty basic, fairy tale fare. Just another thing borrowed from Banjo-Kazooie.

While older games had lots of different worlds, Yooka-Laylee only has five. It sounds like a small number on paper, but each of the worlds could fit any of the Banjo-Kazooie worlds inside it, many times over. On top of this, as you collect Pagies (Yooka-Laylee’s version of Jiggies) you’ll be able to upgrade each world. Doing so increases their size multiple times and adds lots more to see and do.

You can collect Pagies for all manner of activities. Some you’ll get from incidental exploring, others from mini-games and others from collecting. Each world is littered with Quills (Notes) and collecting all 200 will unlock a Pagie. The same goes for the five actual Ghost, Ghost writers in each world.

You’ll also need to collect a Play Coin to partake in Rextro 64’s arcade games and a Mollycool to have Dr. Puzz transform you. She speaks total gibberish, as do all of the characters, though she’s got a particular brand of Mumbo Jumbo.

Rextro’s arcade games sound like one of the best parts of Yooka-Laylee, but they were probably the least entertaining parts for me. The arcade games are tired classics with a pretty new skin. They’re frustrating, overly difficult and far more time-consuming than they need to be. They can also be played in multiplayer, but honestly; they’re really not worth it. Once I’d claimed both Jigg…err I mean Pagies from Rextro in each level, I never looked back.

Dr. Puzz’s transformations range from the very lame (the Flower) to the incredibly cool. One if downright game breaking, but I won’t give it away. In fact, if you play the levels in a specific sequence and unlock all moves from Trowzer the Snake, you can get through many of the challenges by the power of cheese.

Everything Old is New Again

Playtonic made mention of letting players play Yooka-Laylee without restriction. In the age of modern gaming, this is hugely important and gamers would likely not deal well with too many restrictions. On the other hand, having a move that basically lets you win without much effort is a bit too powerful. It must have been a difficult balance to get right. I’m not sure Playtonic nailed it, but Yooka-Laylee is still brilliant from start to finish.

That’s not to say it’s perfect. You’ll be fighting with the camera for the entire duration. It will veer wildly and sometimes go everywhere except where you want it to. It also seems a little too close. My tip, change the settings down a few notches before you take your first step. It will significantly reduce the motion sickness.

Yooka also feels like he’s running on ice. You can imagine what it feels like when you actually get to the ice level then. Technically, aside from the camera and slippery issue, Yooka-Laylee gets a gold star. It’s gorgeous and runs like a dream. There were very few dropped frames and the occasional screen tear, but in general it ran without flaw.

The visual style sits somewhere between Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts and Viva Piñata. It’s really innocent and colourful, but it’s hiding a darker interior. Well perhaps not dark, but like all the best family content, it caters for both adults and children. The comedy will, more often than not, fall flat, but that’s the point. It’s filled with Dad jokes and that’s a bit odd. Not because of the jokes, but because in the period of time between Banjo-Kazooie and Yooka-Laylee, many of the people who played the former have now become parents. It’s one of those weird circle of life moments.

Yeah, it’s good. It’s really, really good

For the most part, aside from Rextro’s challenges, Yooka-Laylee‘s gameplay is tough to fault. Later levels and challenges do tend to rely on some tedious fetch quests, though the worst sin it commits is ramping up the difficulty too high, too quickly. Later challenges tend to take something from earlier in the game, be it a mechanic, puzzle or mini-game and change it in a way that makes it much more difficult and much less fun.

It’s a real shame to have had so much fun doing one thing a certain way for over 20 hours, for it to all change for one Pagie. I understand the need to keep players captivated and motivated, but for me, Yooka-Laylee did that without resorting to cheap tactics.

In over 30 hours, these complaints are few and far between though. It took me less than 10-seconds to get back in the groove of platforming. When I was in that groove, I never wanted to leave. Initially, the similarities to Banjo-Kazooie seems like plagiarism, but when you realise the two were made by the same people, it’s not a problem.

I love Yooka-Laylee, unashamedly. I’ve only finished it recently, but already I want to start again and do it all over. It’s been far too long since games of this style and calibre have been released. Thank god for Playtonic and thank god for Yooka-Laylee.

Yooka-Laylee was reviewed on PS4 using a promotional download code given to PowerUp! by Team 17.

PowerUp! Reviews

Game Title: Yooka-Laylee

  • 9/10
    Gibberish Dialogue - 9/10
  • 10/10
    Old 'Skool' Gameplay - 10/10
  • 9.5/10
    Collectibles Out the Wazoo - 9.5/10
User Review
4.5 (2 votes)
Leo Stevenson
Leo Stevenson
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

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