Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair Review – Aping the Greats
Yooka-Laylee was a runaway Kickstarter success that resulted in a platformer that gloriously threw back to the days of the N64. While I personally loved it, it wasn’t a runaway critical success. However, it was commercially successful and well-loved enough by fans to justify another game in the franchise; Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair.
Where the first game was a love letter to 3D platformers like Banjo-Kazooie, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is Donkey Kong Country. By that I mean, it’s a 2.5D platformer with ridiculous difficulty.
Just like Donkey Kong Country’s characters, Yooka and Laylee operate as a team. When you have control of both characters, you’re able to take an additional hit and perform extra moves.
However, while Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a decent copy of a Donkey Kong Country it’s not a patch on the real thing.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair Review
Let’s start at the beginning. Capital B has created a new mind-control device called the Hive Mind. Using it, he has taken over the entire Royal Beettalion Guard. Without them, Yooka and Laylee stand no chance at completing Capital B’s titular lair.
The lair is the final level in the game but is playable at any time. And it is a doozy. It’s filled with traps and tricks, enemies and…well, doom. It’s super, super tough.
The easiest way to get through the Impossible Lair is to collect the members of the Beettalion. They act as a shield for Yooka and Laylee and give them additional hits. With 48 bees to collect, that’s 49 hits you can take before Yooka bites the dust.
So, while you can attempt the Impossible Lair at any point, you’re going to want to play through the other levels in the game and collect the members of the Beettalion.
Yooka-Laylee has unashamedly worn its influences on its sleeve and Impossible Lair is no exception. For all intents and purposes, this game is Donkey Kong Country with a Yooka-Laylee skin. Except, Playtonic Games has not created a single level that reaches the same lofty heights.
Yes, Impossible Lair can be fun and is decent but the level design is all over the shop. Sometimes it’s too simple, sometimes infuriatingly difficult and never cohesive.
Even Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, while developed by Retro instead of Rare, was a masterclass in level design and platforming. Playing Tropical Freeze is a joy as there is a rhythm and cadence to the gameplay. Once you get into the groove of a level, you lock in and go with it.
That rarely, if ever happens in Impossible Lair. Instead, levels are broken up into micro-platforming sections. As you play, you’ll complete a section of jumps or puzzles only to move on to the next section that bears no connection to what came before.
Because of this, you can’t ever get into a rhythm.
You’re constantly trying to understand the way the levels work and the overall mechanics. It’s a real bummer. In addition, far too often, it seems as though Playtonic have deliberately designed mechanics or levels to be purposefully frustrating.
Thankfully, in spite of (potentially) deliberately nasty level design and less than stellar platforming, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is still fun.
Like in Donkey Kong Country, you can roll out into mid-air and jump at the last second. You can punch and jump on baddies and if you lose Laylee, you can recall her when you find a Laylee Bell.
You can also spin/hover in midair to slow your descent. Each level has five, well-hidden, coins for you to collect in addition to tonnes of Quills. Coins are used to pay Trowzer to open his Paywalls and allow you to progress. Quills are used to buy hints from signposts and to unlock Tonics.
Overall, there are 20 levels in Impossible Lair though each one has a second form with a second Beettalion member, five additional coins and more Quills. To access each level’s second form, you’re going to need to explore the Overworld.
This top-down map is where you’ll unlock levels, find Tonics and solve puzzles to help find more Beettalion members. The Overworld is actually the best part of the game and I found myself trying to play in the Overworld for as long as possible. It was more fun than the levels and I preferred it.
Meh and Tonic
Tonics have been billed as these big, game-changing items in Impossible Lair and in some ways they are. But really, they’re more of a novelty. Many of them simply make the game a bit easier in a variety of ways.
For example, you can give yourself an additional jump or make it so that Laylee floats around the screen for longer when hit so you can collect her again more easily.
Others make the game a bit more difficult. Others still, simply make cosmetic changes. When you equip Tonics that make the game easier, you’ll earn fewer quills, while you’ll earn more for those that make it harder.
It’s fun to mix and match the Tonics but after a while, I just played without them as the novelty had worn off.
Where Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair absolutely shines is in visuals and audio. The music is amazing with jaunty themes joined by great quality recordings. The music throughout the levels really throws back to Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong and Playtonic well and truly nails this part of the game.
As for the visuals. They too are incredible. Looking more and more like an animated film, Impossible Lair is stunning and running at 60fps makes it look even better. There’s a lot of depth to the levels, lots of stuff going on in the background and some truly detailed art design to boot.
For me, the audio, visuals and overworld are the standouts of this game. Sadly, the platforming is a bit of a letdown.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair was reviewed on PS4 using a digital code provided by the publisher.
Game title: Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair
Brilliant, colourful visuals - 8.4/10
60fps at all times - 8.6/10
Overworld is lots of fun - 6.1/10
Overly difficult level design - 3.5/10
Overworld is more fun that platforming - 2.5/10