Oh Yooka Layleee, you’re trying so hard to be Banjo Kazooie. I know you think that’s what I want. I thought that’s what I wanted as a Banjo Kazooie fan. I’m sorry, but your desire to be your predecessor has made you really uninteresting. I wanted to love you, but I just couldn’t.
Yooka Laylee is an N64-style puzzle platformer by Playtonic Games, a studio mainly made up of ex-Rare employees who left Microsoft wanting to make a new Banjo Kazooie game without the Banjo license attached.
Playtonic Games ultimately managed this, but to their own detriment. Yooka Laylee feels like the template for Banjo taken wholesale and pasted over with new replacement characters and assets in a way that seems to lack much of the creative passion of the game that inspired it.
Mechanics are transparently reused with unexciting repaints to make them seem new. Environments are artistically polished, but flawed in design; often large, sprawling, unmemorable and lacking in progression signposting. The game ignores two decades of lessons learned by newer games in the genre, suffers many of the mechanical flaws that Banjo suffered from, and often allows players to spend large amounts of time bashing their head against puzzles that are, at that time, impossible to complete, without signposting that information.
Yooka Laylee ignores two decades of lessons learned by newer games in the genreust have to take Adata’s word for it.
Yooka Laylee’s protagonists, Yooka and Laylee, consist of a male creature who usually walks on all fours, but here is standing up on his back legs, and a small, female, flying creature who lives on his back and grants him additional abilities (sound familiar?). The pair have to venture inside a large hub building, containing several themed, smaller, worlds, each containing multiple objectives, in order to progress. Each of the objectives within these smaller worlds rewards the player with an item which can be used towards unlocking further worlds. Collecting a different collectable currency will allow the duo to be transformed into a new form that grants them different properties and abilities. The final boss is preceded by a quiz show.
Our bear and bird are now a lizard and bat. Our villain is stealing fiction and turning it into profit instead of stealing a girl for her beauty, golden Jiggies are now golden Pagies. Mumbo Tokens are now Mollycools. It’s all the same, just with a new coat of paint very thinly applied over it.
Puzzles requiring specific power ups to complete no longer feature in-game warnings telling you to return once you’ve got the power up.
The world design is far less cohesive than Banjo Kazooie, providing fewer visual clues as to progression paths and requiring a lot more brute force exploration to work through. Puzzles requiring specific power ups to complete no longer feature in-game warnings telling you to return once you’ve got the power up, leaving players to often try futilely to progress on something seemingly, but not actually, achievable.
Oh, it also more than once took me multiple hours to find where in the hub world a new mini world was. The world design is seriously that poor.
Yooka Laylee’s content is also front- ended in terms of quality. It starts off meh, and gets more poorly and infuriatingly designed as it goes. It doesn’t start in a great place and it only gets worse from there.
While the core collectathon is, in some ways, replicated well enough from Banjo Kazooie, the formula itself has aged pretty poorly. While I can still go back and enjoy a full playthough of Banjo Kazooie today from start to finish, a lot of that enjoyment is tied into nostalgia for the setting, cast and levels. Without that nostalgia, many parts of the formula now feel dated, twenty or so years on from their introduction.
Sure it looks visually nicer, and the ability to play it with a dual analogue controller fixes some of the control issues Banjo had on N64, but that’s far from enough to redeem this game.
I don’t know what else to say. Yooka Laylee, you’re just a poor facsimile of something I used to love. You really didn’t impress me.
Code was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review.
Platform: PC [Reviewed]/PlayStation 4/Xbox One/Nintendo Switch
Developer/Publisher: Playtonic Games/Team 17
Release date:April 11th (Switch Version TBC)
- Polished visual style
- Dual Analogue Control
- Tries far too hard to be a 20 year old game
- Tries far too little to modernise its formula
- Poor overall level and puzzle design
A game stuck twenty years in the past, hoping a new coat of paint will hide an otherwise unchanged dated core structure.