Yooka Laylee by Playtonic games is an adventure many gamers have been waiting on since Banjo-Tooie on the Nintendo 64. They are a studio that is made up primarily of old Rareware staff that are veterans in the genre of action platformers. When many gamers think of platformers they think of Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong Country and Conkers Bad Fur Day. Rare has also made other classics Goldeneye 007, Perfect Dark, Killer Instinct and the criminally underrated Star Fox Adventures for the Nintendo Gamecube. The studio was able to raise 2.6 million dollars in funding to make Yooka Laylee, the spiritual successor to their action platforming children.
The team behind this game is full of major talent, they have the capability to take ideas and elevate them to another level. Playtonic failed to do this with the release of Yooka Laylee. It has a few very genuine and hilarious ideas in its design but it’s held down by archaic mechanics, huge empty open areas, weird hit boxes and boring combat.
A platformer made by these ex-giants of gaming you should expect the platforming and level design of Yooka Laylee to be something amazing and maybe even revolutionary. The team at Playtonic had many years to ruminate ideas of what a dream platformer should be, with the access to more high tech gaming devices the sky is the limit. Sadly, Yooka Laylee could have been released on the Nintendo 64 in their golden age of platformers and would of blended in perfectly. It works flawlessly in the past but fails in the present.
Everything about this game feels archaic. There is a reason why this genre of game died out, because game developers found ways to do these ideas in different and more creative ways. I can understand people being nostalgic for these types of games, but beyond the nostalgia factor there is no reason for Yooka Laylee to even exist. The funding of the game is evidence enough to show that people are thirsty for another platformer from Rare, but is it nostalgia? Or is it the want for Banjo-Threeie that they never got? I think it’s both.
Yooka Laylee is almost an exact copy of Banjo-Kazooie or Donkey Kong Country, you go to different worlds, collect a special item that you use to unlock the next world. Along this adventure you unlock new powers that help you in that new world and then you beat the game. Yooka Laylee uses modern technology to make the areas more vast looking, but it doesn’t mean the game doesn’t look like a last generation port. There are times where the artistic design is actually quite beautiful during the first couple of hours in the game. As Yooka and Laylee in their adventure the game loses that sense of creativity and style that it started out with. My impressions of the game at the beginning compared to how I felt at the end are almost polar opposites of each other. Except for one thing.
If there is a saving grace for Yooka Laylee it is the writing, characters and its minimal tongue and cheek plot. Yooka Laylee is hilarious and witty and the humor and sarcasm at display with this game is immaculate and honestly above and beyond many games out. I found myself laughing outloud throughout the whole game and smiling like an idiot at the dad-joke tier puns. Yooka and Laylee are both cutely designed and show a masterful touch of aesthetic designing in a cartoon world, all of the other characters are equally as inspired and fun to look at; their design tell a story that is unspoken but easy to pick up on. Yooka Laylee’s overarching story is meta and tells a personal story about Playtonic themselves, the gaming industry and the world at large.
Yooka Laylee overall is a disappointing experience. Hardcore fans of Rare/Playtonic will have a blast in this world and people who have nostalgia for Banjo, Donkey Kong and Conker will feel happy about their purchase. But beyond this small core group of people I don’t see many others enjoying the game. Yooka Laylee is a whimsical adventure that is bogged down by old gaming designs and flaws. Playtonic didn’t take any big risks with this game and it suffers for it. Playtonic had the chance to redefine the genre and spark it with invigoration but they decided to stick with their old and dying roots.