1998 was a fine year the UK was actually positive about Politics, in the football world The France 98 world cup even seen an appearance by my very own Scotland so beyond that not much could really top it. However there was one other thing that graced us all with our presence and provided something to warm the winter nights, that was the arrival of Banjo-Kazooie on the Nintendo 64. Produced by Rare Ltd it was an icon of its generation and another example of Nintendo developing and delivering outstanding new IP. So fast forward to 2017 and we find ourselves with Yooka-Laylee and if I can avoid referring to it in comparison to Banjo-Kazooie it frankly will be a miracle. Its a new team (old faces) some new consoles and plenty of new if not familiar protagonists. So here it is our long expected much anticipated Yooka-Laylee review.
Now if you weren’t as old as me and playing games back in 1998 and enjoying the charms of jigsaw hunting then you probably wont have played the outstanding Banjo-Kazooie games. So let me give you a brief low down. Banjo was a 3D platformer set within a series of open sandboxes. You played as a bear and a bird that lived within your backpack. They Yack’ed a lot and made zero sense but that was the charm. The gameplay was in its puzzles and its variety of colourful graphics and gameplay mechanics. So thats enough of the history lesson. What’s important to know here is that if you did play those games then Yooka-Laylee is the Banjo-Kazooie title you’ve been waiting for just not in any way referenced as Banjo-Kazooie. All hyphenations aside.
Yooka-Laylee is developed by a few ex Rare Ltd devs who surprise surprise worked on the original Banjo-Kazooie games and was born from an incredibly successful kickstarter campaign. Heck it gained around £2 million pound in record time and stands as one of the more famous crowd funding campaigns in the video gaming industry.
So lets get to the game and find out if this Rare Revival is really up to the task to bringing us the buddy duo gameplay we have all been craving. Well in a nutshell it absolutely delivers. Launched into one of the many hub areas and worlds you are quickly thrust into mastering the gameplay and the puzzles in no time. You will quickly become familiar with some of the crass humour and slapstick remarks and if that isnt enough of an initial nostalgia jolt for returning players you should probably stop right there.
For me Yooka-laylee is a triumphant return to a genre I loved as a kid and felt missing from the slew of shooters and open world titles we have today. It has absolutely everything you would expect from a bear and bird follow up but it goes several steps further in just about all areas whilst preserving the charm like quirks their inspirations had. The gameplay and movement are incredibly simply to grasp however the game does a great job of challenging you in the right way to master those basic skills, rolling up hills, shooting and spinning attacks are all part and parcel of the core game. Applying these skills and the many others you unlock across the game worlds will help you explore new areas but also encourage you as a player to go back and seek out previous worlds hard to reach secrets.
Gone are the jigsaws and in come the Pagies and Quills. For those potential new players wondering what the actual addictive nature of this game is its found in the hunt for Quills scattered across the hub worlds and in solving puzzles to unlock and gather Paigies. Gathering quills will help you unlock new skill moves from Mr Trouzer snake ( the names don’t get better) around 30 at a time will see you grab something different and these all tie in nicely to the ability to reach each area of the hub world. Paigies are the more interesting and valuable item to capture. These are typically found behind a variety of quests or mini games. For me this is where Yooka-Laylee really delivers and avoids the game feeling far from a fetch quest title. The variety charm and fun had in solving the mini puzzles or games keep you active and playing for a lot longer than you probably set out to do.
One thing that will curb your play time is how acute you are to audio and in game music. Just like the N64 titles the character narration is a series of yacks and chirps vs any voiced dialogue. I’m certainly fine with this and reminds us all of the charm the old titles had however there may be some newcomers that would question this and probably get rather infuriated by it after around an hours play as it can be a bit annoying. Theres also not a lot of hand holding but plenty of pointers to help you and more importantly encourage you to explore the hub worlds openly.
Theres secrets and easter eggs littered everywhere from characters to locations theres always something you didn’t expect to see at each turn. One thing I really like about Yooka-Laylee is its play at breaking the 4th wall and it also isn’t afraid of taking the Michael out of itself in the process calling out all too often how gaming has changed over the years. This alone will certainly see you get your money out of the game with 5 hub worlds to explore and mini games challenges and collectibles all over the place.
Get bored of the main adventure in Yooka-Laylee and theres still plenty more to uncover, with retro arcade modes available straight from the main menu and multiplayer all be it local also available if you want to switch things up. The mini games are deceptively brutal in difficulty and will certainly take a bit of patience to master and beat those top scores. Expect to see us stream many horrible failures on this front.
Our review was undertaken on Xbox One and as you would expect it runs superbly with only a couple of moments where I seen a slight hick up in frame rate. To be clear this happened about twice in around 15 hours of gameplay and I noticed this more when I was flying than anywhere else. Im sure it runs equally as well on PS4 and PS4 Pro. My only concern and something we haven’t had a chance to test will be how well it runs on a Nintendo Switch but the game is made for that platform and could well be the best place to play. One thing I really didnt enjoy about Yooka-Laylee was how it operated its checkpoint systems. When falling of a platform edge or dying for any number of reasons you are sent back to the hub world spawn point rather than an area nearby your death location. For me this just results in some wasted time and nearly every time resulted in me being distracted by other things in the world. Theres so much to see and do that operating a checkpoint system in this manner doesn’t really add to my exploration in the game but hinders it. Boss fights suffer the most from this for example in world 1 theres a boss at the top of a mountain if you get killed or fail the boss fight you start from the initial stage of the boss fight however if you fall of the side of the mountain in error your back at the hub world spawn. Its these little things that can frustrate what is otherwise a masterful experience.
There is an overarching story to Yooka-Laylee to keep you mission focused but its a sideshow really to the gameplay and variety on offer in the game. I wouldn’t recommend this as the next story driven masterpiece but its got enough in it to keep you mildly amused. That being said the side quests and cameo appearances from other gaming characters are simply more enjoyable and will bring the odd smile to you during your playthroughs.
Yooka-Laylee is a master stroke at bringing an old genre back to life. It has filled me with ours of gaming joy and something refreshingly nostalgic to play through. it will probably be a love it or hate it game for newcomers who probably won’t understand or get many of the nuances in the game but for those that do you can expect to be rewarded with hours and hours of fun and charm with some crisp colourful visuals to boot.
Yokaa-Laylee was provided for review by publisher Team 17 on Xbox One.