REVIEW – If you lift over the past in one piece into the present, it might not be getting the attention or result that the publisher (or the developer) would expect. Yooka-Laylee happened to run into this issue: it kept the mistakes of the past, and unfortunately, behind the charm, something lacks that the original Nintendo 64 games had: the heart.
As Rare became part of Microsoft’s empire (let’s not get into detail on that topic), the developers that left the team (which eventually became Playtonic) had no way of creating a new Banjo-Kazooie with the original characters. Banjo became Yooka, Kazooie turned into Laylee, and as the project got a lot of money (over two million British pounds, about 12x of the amount of the original target), the game got a lot of attention, and thus, the pressure game was on. The result – sadly – shows its marks on the product.
Let’s start out by stating that the characters didn’t get proper voice acting. They just repeat a few syllables with added subtitles (otherwise you’d have no clue what they are saying). In the Nintendo 64 era, it made sense: the developers were limited by the cartridge size, meaning they had 64 megabytes of space at most for the game. However, in the era of the PS4, X1, PC (and later the Switch), it just looks and feels stupid.
Sure, it’s understandable that Playtonic wanted to have that retro touch with Yooka-Laylee, but it becomes annoying in no time, and if you had to hear it for fifteen, twenty hours, you’d be mad by the end of the game. Throughout the six (okay, five, plus the hub) worlds, you will hear that over and over, but at least Grant Kirkhope’s team got the soundtrack right – they managed to bring over that classic vibe from the past, and seeing the lack of technological limitations, they had their wings open. Great stuff!
The gameplay tries to recreate the typical 90’s platformer approach, with several detours off to try something else, and I wish Playtonic didn’t do that. Somehow, things like a pachinko just don’t fit into Yooka-Laylee. (The pachinko also reminds me of Konami and their antics of remaking MGS 3 with pachinkos…)
Don’t get me wrong, the basics are there, but I think if the developers tried to do less than what they ended up doing, the result would have been better than what it is now. You’ll have to collect the Pagies, and your skills/abilities will expand a bit throughout the game, which – of course… – means the return of that good old backtracking… If you want to get everything and go for a 100% completion, prepare to see the same levels a few times.
If you mostly just saw the Tribalstack world, which was the focus during the pre-release marketing, allow me to quickly say that Yooka-Laylee has more than meets the eye: it ended up following the formula of the N64 and PS1 days. Obligatory ice world, an almost required casino level, and after a while, you might feel that the experience isn’t full. Did we just grow out of this style of games? Did we get used to the current/modern generation of gaming with a ton of re-releases and a lack of experimenting? Maybe, maybe not. Ambience-wise (if we strictly ignore the way the characters talk…), Yooka-Laylee comes back from the past, but it also brought along something extra that shouldn’t have been in it.
The camera is ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE. The last time I remember seeing such a weak camera was around in 2000, in Gex 3D: Enter The Gecko. It may just be the biggest flaw of the game, and it IS the reason you will end up dying so many times that you might end up waking up at nights. Oh, and the game also has such a gigantic bug that you could use to skip about HALF of it. Have a look:
OK, now what? I’d honestly give Yooka-Laylee a 7 because the basics are mostly there, but the voice acting (or lack thereof), and the terrible camera pulls it down. If I gave it a 6, it’d be unfair. Alright, middle ground found – let’s give it a 6.5. I’d rather tell you to play Conker’s Bad Fur Day, which is not only a better game, but it’s also a much dirtier one than Yooka-Laylee. Or hell, give Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie a try. I only recommend you Y-L, if you can get it for less than twenty bucks, and have painkillers nearby. (At least the characters are joking around.)
In the end, both animals have been crushed under pressure. So was I.
+ Nice ambiance
+ It offers what it promised on Kickstarter
+ I like the soundtrack
– Oh F OFF with that camera!
– The voice acting…
– It tried to turn away from the basics, but it mostly failed with that
Publisher: Team 17, Sold Out
Developer: Playtonic Games
Genre: Platformer, 3D, Action
Release date: April 5, 2017