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During the Nintendo 64 era I was never a huge fan of the Banjo-Kazooie games. I always found them slower and not as fun as Super Mario 64. Then Rare went on to make Donkey Kong 64, a game that, to this day, I truly dislike playing due to its collect-a-thon nature. So, when Yooka-Laylee was announced to be a spiritual successor to the original two Banjo-Kazooie games, I was immediately turned off to the idea. However, Playtonic Games, a company of former Rare developers, has actually surprised me and far exceeded my expectations.
The evil Capital B with the help of Dr. Quack have built a device to steal all the books in the world and have a monopoly on the market. However, our friends Yooka the lizard and Laylee the bat, are not about to just let their precious treasure book be stolen and infiltrate the headquarters of Capital B to get it back.
Yooka-Laylee is a 3D-platformer and collecting game much like its predecessors from the Nintendo 64 days. You guide our heroes through 5 worlds and the main hub world Hivory Towers in search of Pagies. Pagies act as the main collectible in the game and are earned by finding them in the world or by completing tasks for other characters. Pagies are then used to unlock new worlds and expand available worlds. When you first enter a world, they are somewhat small and unfinished, but after expanding they are vastly different than your first visit. I love the theme of restoring the lost pages of a book to get the full story at play here. Other than Pagies the other main collectible in the game are quills. Once found, quills are then used to buy upgraded moves from Trowzer the snake… yeah, it’s what you think. There are of course a few other collectibles scattered throughout the world, like health bar upgrades.
Yooka-Laylee’s controls are interesting. Movement is extremely responsive, almost too responsive, and the camera can be controlled by either the right analog stick or by pressing RB/R1 to auto-center it behind you. The most interesting thing to note about camera control in Yooka-Laylee is that it does try to auto-center behind you while you move around the world. Yooka-Laylee of course includes jumping and as you progress you can even use Laylee to fly for brief amounts of time. My favorite mechanic though, by far, is rolling. Rolling is introduced in the first 10 minutes of the game and I just love to use it to get around. Rolling does use up your power bar, a meter that determines how long you can use special moves. To refill the power bar, you can either collect butterflies or just run around for a few seconds. On top of restoring your power bar, butterflies are also used to refill your life if eaten rather than collected.
The last set of mechanics I want to touch on are combat. Combat is simple and as you learn more moves from Trowzer you can mix up your attacks, like using a ground pound instead of a normal spin attack. As you progress through the game you also gain the ability to eat certain plants that give you an elemental attack like fire, ice and water. These elemental attacks are also used in puzzles and I enjoyed that Playtonic added in an aiming system to help make shooting more precise.
I think Yooka-Laylee is a pretty game. While not extremely detailed or realistic, the art fits the tone of the game. Worlds and characters are bright and colorful, giving the game an extra level of charm. Draw distances are okay, but things get blurry fast the further you are from them.
By far the strongest point of Yooka-Laylee is in its music. While there are a few tracks that are less than amazing, the overall soundtrack is phenomenal. Characters are also voiced with their own gibberish language for all lines of dialog.
This game is a collect-a-thon. With 147 Pagies and over 1000 quills you can spend quite a long time grinding out each one. Keep in mind that this doesn’t even count other level collectibles like ghost, health and molycools. Either way, if you are a completionist, be prepared to spend a lot of time hunting.
What Could It Have Done Better
The biggest downfall of Yooka-Laylee is camera control. While it doesn’t break the game, it is slightly annoying to have to battle the constant auto-centering. Hopefully Playtonic removes this look centering in a future update. An option to silence the character dialogue for those who might get annoyed by it also wouldn’t hurt.
Yooka-Laylee is a charming game with tons of throwbacks to its predecessors. While I am still not a huge fan of collect-a-thons, the awesome music, charming characters and witty dialog kept me hooked, wondering what the next interaction would be. I also love how the game isn’t afraid to make fun of itself for references to past games. If you are a fan of the genre, you will enjoy Yooka-Laylee!