Yooka Laylee Review – The Return of Collectathons?
Developer: Playtonic Games
Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC*
ESRB Rating: E10+
Release Date: April 11th 2017
*The PC Version was used to review this game
A retail copy was purchased by the reviewer for this review.
Nostalgia is a powerful thing in the gaming community these days, as it serves as one of the main factors of success in most kickstarted games. A few examples of this are “Shenmue 3,” “Mighty Number 9,” “Bloodstained,” and the newly released “Yooka Laylee.” Yooka Laylee serves as a love letter to the late 90s era of 3D platformers, but does it show the age of the games it tries to imitate? Today we take a look and find out for ourselves.
If you’ve played any of Rare’s classic Nintendo 64 era platformers, you’ll know exactly what to expect from this game. The story is an extremely small part of the game, and isn’t the focal point by any means. It serves its purpose as a basic plot device of “we have to collect all these items to get to the final boss,” and doesn’t make any crazy twists or turns. That being said, the story isn’t bad or lacking, it just isn’t a huge part in the overall game package. Unlike the story, the characters are extremely well written and are full of wit and humorous dialogue. The game knows its roots very well and makes fun of some of the more archaic game mechanics implemented in the early levels.
The art is truly the most inconsistent aspect of the game. The characters models are very well designed and the artstyle is fantastic. Some levels look beautiful, while others look straight out of a low budget, Steam “Early Access” game. This is mostly caused by the fact that the developers chose to use the low budget Unity engine so that it would run on Wii U, which they ended up abandoning anyway. Graphics aside the world designs are great and it stays true to the similarly styled “Banjo Kazooie“.
In the audio and music department, Grant Kirkhope and David Wise outdo themselves once more. The legends behind the classical melodies of “Donkey Kong Country 2” and “Goldeneye 007” come back to amazingly recreate the 90s 3D platformer sound design and musical landscapes. The sheer range in tone found in the soundtrack is blissful. From the bombastic boss battle themes, to the serene and coziness of the “Tropic Trials” track, they truly hit every nail on the head audibly. The soundtrack brought me back to my childhood mentally, and I could not be more satisfied.
Never since “The Last Guardian” have I reached such high peaks of enjoyment while simultaneously reaching the highest peaks of frustration. The core platforming controls are fantastic, and hold up 1:1 with the games it attempts to recreate. Unfortunately, those controls show their age a little bit with an absolutely unresponsive and terribly controlled camera. The camera can make or break whether you complete a jump or win a race, so the fact that it controls as poorly as it does is extremely detrimental. One character provides new abilities to buy every new level which upon purchase can open up new pathways in already completed levels; giving a very great sense of progression throughout the game. Speaking of progression, I almost forgot to mention minigames. Across the game worlds you can find a few arcade cabinets with various minigames that are sometimes mandatory for main story progression. This wouldn’t be an issue if they controlled even somewhat decently. Spoilers: They don’t. These minigames are some of the most frustrating, poorly controlled minigames I’ve ever experienced in a platformer. The Kartos sections feel like a watered down version of the minecart levels from the “Donkey Kong Country” series and the retro arcade adds nothing to the value of the story or world. The boss fights while nicely designed are all extremely underwhelming and poorly implemented into the scale of progression, not being mandatory in some cases to go to the next world allowing you to skip multiple boss fights before fighting the final boss. As you can probably tell, the gameplay mechanics are mostly hit or miss.
Given that this is a collectathon, there will never be a shortage of things to do in terms of gameplay. Whether or not that content is something you’ll enjoy completing is a matter of perspective. The game lasts anywhere (on average) of 15-25 hours depending on your pace. The second half of the game suffers extremely hard from forced backtracking, grinding, and repetitiveness. This might be considered a trivial complaint, seeing as how the collectathon genre is repetitive in itself. That being said, the first half of the game was a lot more lenient and allowed for a lot more player choice in exploration and progression. If you’re a completionist that loves seeing that 100% completion rate on your game, this one might take you months.
All in all, Yooka Laylee is neither as bad or good as most say. It’s a solid platformer that caters to the old school crowd while occasionally getting lost and muddled in the game mechanics of a time long gone. There is charm and wit in its writing, and frustration in its controls. For every positive, there is a negative. The takeaway is an extremely okay platforming experience with extreme amounts of nostalgia and decent potential for a future franchise.