Yooka-Laylee is a 3D platformer developed by Playtonic Games, a company that consists of many former staff members from Rare. It’s development cycle is an interesting little story because it was built from the ground up through a Kickstarter campaign organized by the company. The group made it public that they were working on a spiritual successor to the Banjo-Kazooie games complete with similar characters and gameplay. In no time flat, the project reached its monetary goal in less than 24 hours and it was even able to receive full funding for its stretch goals. Thus, Yooka-Laylee was born and it not only serves as a successor to the Banjo-Kazooie series, it is a loving tribute to N64 platformers in general.
Yooka (the chameleon) and Laylee (the bat) are the stars of the game and they make their way through different worlds to collect pages (Pagies as they are called in-game) of a magical book that was stolen from them by an evil corporation called Hivory Towers. Capital B, an unscrupulous, suit wearing bee, runs Hivory Towers along with his hilarious looking associate Dr. Quack who is literally a duck being preserved in a gumball machine. He wants this book so he can basically rule the world. Hivory Towers also serves as the hub world in Yooka-Laylee where the duo can access every world at the cost of Pagies. Despite Yooka-Laylee’s generic plot, its gameplay is what really makes it shine as it contains all of the inner workings of a good 3D platformer. Yooka-Laylee’s gameplay parallels that of Banjo-Kazooie while at the same time pays homage to other famous 3D platformers of the Nintendo 64 era like Donkey Kong 64 and Super Mario 64. Every world is open-ended and the duo is free to explore it at their own pace. The main objective in each world is to collect as many Pagies as possible, but there are dozens of other collectibles to uncover as well that will allow Yooka and Laylee to unlock new things. Obtaining these collectibles range from simply finding them, completing challenges, or doing tasks for characters. To navigate a world, Yooka and Laylee must purchase special moves from a sleazy snake named Trowzer in order to reach new areas or get through hazardous obstacles.
Yooka-Laylee’s simple gameplay makes it easy to get into and I am always a sucker for exploration in video games, more so than actual platforming. Some gameplay problems include slippery controls and an annoying camera. Yooka Laylee’s visuals are some of the most beautiful I have seen on the PlayStation 4. I could not get over how much visual eye candy this game has. Every world in Yooka-Laylee is teeming with colorful characters and environments, making it a very appealing to look at. It is evident that the developers made sure to put care into every detail of the game to make it as faithful as possible to the Banjo-Kazooie games. Grant Kirkthrope, the composer for the Banjo-Kazooie soundtracks, returns to compose the music for Yooka-Laylee and he absolutely nails it. When I heard the music I instantly became nostalgic and was reminded of times when I was a kid where I would watch my brother play Banjo-Tooie for hours on end. I am sure that was the effect Kirkthrope was going for with the music and it totally works.Aside from its gameplay, visuals, and music there is really nothing more to Yooka-Laylee. It is definitely a game that caters to the nostalgia of Banjo-Kazooie fans and in a way that kind of works to its detriment. Don’t get me wrong, that does not make Yooka-Laylee a bad game by any means; it just does not bring any substantial innovations to the platformer genre. Some innovations that I like is the option to expand existing worlds so you can explore more of it and physical modifiers that grant Yooka and Laylee special powers. However, these innovations do not do much for the game as it still feels very short. Again, Yooka-Laylee is mostly geared to appease the nostalgia of Banjo-Kazooie fans which makes it harder for the game to attract anyone looking for a deeper and longer platformer. If you are a fan of the Banjo-Kazooie games or any of the N64 3D platformers then you will like this game just fine otherwise you can skip out on this chameleon and bat.
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