Yooka-Laylee Review: For the Hoard(ers)

April 8th, 2017 -

Hearken back to the days when Rare was one of the biggest developers in the industry, with the likes of GoldenEye, Perfect Dark, and the Banjo-Kazooie games. Now that you’re thinking of Banjo-Kazooie, when’s the last time you played a collect-a-thon game like that? Been a while since one has come out, huh? The last one that stood out to me was Jak and Daxter. Well, if you’ve been hankering to play one, but you don’t want to bust the Nintendo 64 out, there’s good news – alumni of Rare have just finished up a new game in the genre, and it was made possible by fans such as yourselves.

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You follow the journey of a Chameleon (Yooka) and his Bat (Laylee) friend on a quest to take back their book. Yes, really. In a ploy to retrieve a book with the ultimate power, Capital B has worked alongside Dr. Quack to create a device that will suck up all the books around the world so that they can move on with taking over the world, as antagonists do. Be honest, you’ve played sillier plot lines.

The pages of the book, better known as Pagies, have fled the book in hopes of not being used for evil. They serve as the main collectible to progress the game – if the only game you played in the genre was Super Mario 64, think of them as the stars. The more Pagies you collect, the more worlds you can open up for exploration. You start out in the hub world, with Tomes that you can enter if you have the Pagies to open them. Additionally, you can expand these Tomes with even more Pagies that you’ll find within, which will open up new areas to explore in the world. Whether this opens up new continents or merely gives you a couple of keys depend on the Tome.

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In your time exploring levels, you’ll obviously need new abilities to continue on. Luckily, Trowzer is just around the corner to offer abilities in each Tome for a small price: quills. These are one of the other collectibles you’ll come across while playing, with 1010 in total to collect – 200 per tome, and 10 in the hub. Trowzer not only provides abilities in the Tomes for a cost, but also gives you new abilities for free while in the hub with each world you open up. He’s not as snaky as he seems, regardless of how he comes off. In each level you’ll also come across a scientist by the name of Dr. Puzz, who was once a great scientist working alongside Dr. Quack, but was betrayed as every good scientist is. Find the Mollycool in a level, and she’ll let you use the D.N.Ray to change your form, which is good for a Pagie or two.

The game has a lot of charm, with its quirky characters, as well as its constant 4th wall breaking humor. If you’re not one for a character talking about other characters appearing in future games, or selling moves to a boss in another level, the dialogue may fall flat. Even if you do enjoy the witty banter, chances are you’ll be less enthused with the “voice work” which you’ll no doubt be familiar with from games that couldn’t really afford the space for fleshed out voice tracks.

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Of course, when you say you want to bring back a genre that was popular on the N64, it’s hard to do so without bringing a myriad of problems along with it. People look back at those games with rose-tinted glasses, typically because they were at an age that they made a large impact on them. While this certainly brings the game to the current generation in terms of graphics, controls and cameras can be just as infuriating as they were in 1998. While there are some issues that were resolved by leaving and coming back to the game later, or even coming back to the world after learning new abilities, it’s frustrating knowing exactly what you need to do, yet the character fails to do it.

An example of this is Rampo in the first Tome – you simply need to dodge the logs rolling down, hover over any fire he breathes, and then knock out his teeth. You’ll be hard pressed to make it past those logs though, because heaven forbid you jump over them, or be able to maneuver in a way that would make sense. And occasionally you can still roll your way up after hitting one, but more often than not you’ll find yourself falling back to the start. And if you hit logs on the way down, you’ll take damage for that too. There are a decent amount of butterflies hanging about to replenish your health, but a boss battle shouldn’t be difficult because the controls are inconsistent.

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Aside from that, you have the regular pitfalls of 3D platforming. While jumping and hovering from floating platforms, you’re tasked with watching where your shadow is if you want to have a chance at landing. Granted, this gets easier once you get back into the mindset of this type of game, but it’s definitely something that isn’t as prevalent in games that use platforming nowadays.

The game does offer a lot to do though. Beyond the mass amount of collectibles (several not even mentioned here), as well as the secrets in each level, it’s hard to say you’ll be hard pressed to find things to do. On top of the tasks you’ll be presented with in collecting everything, you’ll also have time to visit Rextro for some mini-games that take inspiration from other games you may have played in the past. These offer leaderboards, and add yet another level of depth to the content provided – sadly, I didn’t find myself enjoying the controls here either.

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If you’re looking for the third Banjo-Kazooie game (Nuts and Bolts not counted), you’ll no doubt find what you want here. It’s that in everything but name. Just be prepared for everything that entails, as you’ve no doubt forgotten the bad parts of those games as time has a way of doing that to us. If you have no problem picking up a game that’s fun, but is needlessly frustrating from time to time, you’ll be right at home here. If you think this just looks like a neat 3D platformer, be warned, while it is definitely a fun entry and possible revitalization of the genre, it’s going to make you angry. I do believe it’s laid out the ground work for a successful series though, with a sequel improving on all the missed opportunities, should they decide to continue on.

RENT

Pros

  • Characters
  • Powers
  • Expansive Levels

Cons

  • Certain Controls
  • Camera

Yooka-Laylee was developed by Playtonic Games and published by Team17. It was successfully funded with Kickstarter on June 16th, 2015. The game launches on PS4, X1 and PC April 11th, 2017, and the Switch later in the year for $39.99. The game was provided to us for review on PS4. If you’d like to see more of Yooka-Laylee, check out the official site.

 

Here at FFoP we use a rating method that you may be unfamiliar with, so allow us to clarify. When we review a game, we see what sort of BRA fits. Buy, Rent, or Acquire is the rating we give out – we’ve boiled it down for simplicity. A Buy is worth the full retail value; a Rent is something you may want to try before you buy, or grab at a discount; an Acquire is something you can play, but we’d suggest borrowing it from someone, grabbing it in a game bundle, or some other means. If you want further clarification, please feel free to get in touch.

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