Yooka-Laylee is now old news, it’s at least two weeks old and that means that the time for talking about it has passed. Yet, here I am talking about it. A lot of critics have lowered the score due to it feeling too 90’s… I’m not sure that is a fair criticism, so here I am with my Yooka-Laylee review… Hold onto your bats, fellas.
On the Kickstarter page backers were promised a game with the charm and charisma of Banjo-Kazooie (duh. It’s ex-Rare staff) and thousands of people raised millions of sweet, sweet cash to see it happen. Now a whole bunch of critics are claiming it is “old-school” to a fault.
Excuse me… Can these people not read?
I went into this game tentatively. Reviews hadn’t been great. So far this year we already had at least two 90+ games so to see this scoring 70’s drove a game cartridge through my heart. I had been so bloody excited to see this little chameleon/bat combo in action, and now it was potentially not great.
Fuck, I thought, I’ve fallen prey to the pre-order hype… Again.
Lo and behold, on that fateful Friday night my PS4 Slim gratefully received the brightly coloured disk and I cringed through laggy loading screens and witty hints and tips as I waited for the appearance of our new duo… I saw Capital B and his evil accomplice Dr. Quack as they gave us, the audience, a rundown of their evil plan to steal all the books in the world, in search of one particularly important piece of literature… And then there they were. Lounging on beach towels on a big ol’ rock, enjoying the sunshine… Yooka and his sassy bat compadre: Laylee… And the two of them just happened, by complete chance… To have the all-important book. How unlikely!
The first thing I thought when I booted up this game and finally got my mitts to controlling the charming little bastard Yooka was “Eureka! They’ve got it!” This game feels like it’s 20 years old. The graphics are a bit rough around the edges, it does that annoying compensation thing when you run so you travel just a little bit too far, there is no constant UI so you must use your memory to work out how many more times you can get ‘oofed before you have to start from the nearest checkpoint. When you jump, you are constantly trying to correct yourself and thus end up falling to the floor… To your death.
BUT I have yet to tell you the very best part of this game: the hub area.
You are dropped into the game, given a brief fourth-wall-breaking tutorial, and then they throw you into the hub. Hivory Towers, this is Capital B’s EVIL lair.
You enter and are greeted by shady dealer, Trowser. He directs you to collect your very first Pagie. From here you are pretty much lead by the hand to the first world which (surprise surprise) is inside a book, and you are told to unlock more of these worlds you’ll need to collect more of the adorable/highly irritating Pagies…. But wait, there’s more: with enough Pagies you can expand your current world instead of moving to a new one.
Expanding an area can make a whole load of collectibles way more accessible to you, but of course also means an area can be even more dauntingly expansive; something I experienced pretty early on. So used to detailed UI’s are we that we instinctively look for a map, a health bar, a log of objectives. Without this direction that we have come to take for granted, the world can feel huge and I can understand why this might negatively impact on someone’s experience of Yooka-Laylee.
I’ve decided to review this game from a different perspective: I’ve taken all the information I can gather, first hand, about how the game plays and looks and feels, and then I’ve gone back in time. I never played Banjo-Kazooie so while the rest of the player base had their nostalgia goggles firmly in place I decided to look back at the spiritual predecessor to Yooka-Laylee with my modern gamer brain. I booted up Rare Replay and I waited. Waited to be shown what all the fuss was about.
Honestly? What I got was Yooka-Laylee with a more polygonal appearance. Everything down to the menus, controls, and feel of the game is… Exactly the same…
But I wasn’t disappointed. Because, as I will continue to reiterate: This is what I expected.
So, what is the problem?
If the new game ramped up the graphics, gave you a UI, corrected all the “old-school” gamer issues we know and love… Well, that would not be the game that Playtonic promised backers. That would be new platforming for a new era… But if lovely little indie games like Tearaway can’t do very well in a modern environment, then I believe taking platforming back to basics is probably the best way to go. It is so nice to play a game which is both challenging and not too serious.
So, if you’re looking for something fun with slightly charmingly sloppy controls, lovable characters, and a whole fuck-tonne of collectibles? This is definitely for you. Just don’t go into this with high expectations that it’ll bring back your childhood; you’re still going to be a 20-something sitting in your parents’ basement in your pants.