Release Date: 10/8/2019
Publisher: Team 17
Developer: Playtonic Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4,
Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Review By: Roger Harper
Disclaimer: Review copy provided by Team 17. We are not sponsored by Team 17 in any way
Yooka-Laylee was conceived back in 2014 as a spiritual successor to the popular Nintendo 64 series, Banjo-Kazooie. Playtonic, a new upstart company, turned to kickstarter in order to have the game financed by crowd funding. The project excited fans, and it became the fastest game ever (at the time) to hit one million dollars on kickstarter. When the game released in 2017 however, it was met with mixed reactions by fans and critics. Despite this, Playtonic has decided to take another crack at the series, but this time – they would do it in the form of a side-scrolling platformer, channeling inspiration from games such as Donkey Kong Country. This review is based on my time with the Nintendo Switch version – courtesy of Team 17. Let’s see how Yooka-Laylee does in its sophomore outing.
Without actually stating when this game takes place – it seems to take place shortly after where the original title left off. Our titular heroes – Yooka the lizard and Laylee the bat, are once again in pursuit of the evil Capital B. This time, Capital B is attempting to use the hive mind in order to take control of the entire Royal Stingdom. It’s up to Yooka and Laylee to make it through the impossible lair and stop him.
One of the first things that popped out to me about the game is what seems to be a bit of an homage to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Like Breath of the Wild, you can attempt to clear the game’s final area and bring peace to the kingdom at any time you wish. Also like Breath of the Wild, it’s not going to be an easy task. Once you finish the short tutorial section and boss fight against Capital B himself, you’re given some story about his use of the hive mind, and thrown straight into the impossible lair. During this tutorial section, Queen Phoebee has granted you use of her mighty beetallion (Side note: How many bee puns are going to be in this review?). The beetallion grants you the power of invincibility. Invincibility, which is, until Capital B uses the hive mind to strip you of this power – spreading the beetallion throughout all parts of the game world. You are then immediately thrown into the Impossible Lair, where if you’re like me – you quickly die and are tossed out to the game’s world map.
It’s now up to you to traverse the game world. The game features twenty levels, each of which has two versions – an A version, and a B(ee) version. You don’t have access to the second version of each level right away however. You typically must complete an in game task or puzzle of some sort to transform the level. This is much like the original Yooka-Laylee where the game worlds had multiple versions. You can choose to tackle the final level – the Impossible Lair, at any time during the game. However, you unlock a beetallion member with every level you complete – allowing you to take an extra hit in the Impossible Lair. Trust me, you’re going to need as many of those bees on your side as you can get, because getting through the Impossible Lair is a difficult task, featuring lots of enemies, and some extremely difficult platforming.
In terms of gameplay, this game is a lot of fun. Playing the game often reminded me of playing games such as Rayman Legends. The levels are littered with checkpoints, and you have unlimited lives, which really helps take away the sting of dying too much. The game, because of this, offers quite a fair challenge. As the game progresses, there are quite a few platforming sections that provide you with a bit of a challenge, and the enemies don’t always bee-have themselves either. In particular – there are spider enemies that litter several stages of the game that are impervious to your normal attacks. Fortunately – the game provides you a number of different methods of attacking your enemies, be(e) it finding items to throw at your enemies, or unlocking different moves to help you along the way.
Tonics once again play a big part in the game. You find them lying around different parts of the world map and you unlock them by spending the quills you earn in stages. Using these tonics can make the game easier, or harder – but, this also affects the amount of quills you keep from your findings in each level. You can also spend your quills to unlock hints on finding hidden tonics, as well as access to several other areas along the way. Another form of currency is the coins you find in the stages. Sometimes, these can be well hidden, while other times they’re in plain sight. This really helps refine the game as something that’s accessible for gamers of any level, to a challenge for completionists.
The graphics of this game look great. They have translated well from the original into the new side scrolling setting. The game world seems to be as alive as ever – with several witty side characters making their return from the original – and they really do look just as good. My favorite of these returning characters is of course, Trowzer the Snake. Aside from the pretty graphics, the game runs well and there are no noticeable stutters. I spent time playing this game in both handheld mode and docked both of which look and run ever-so-smoothly.
The only issue I found in the game is with the sound. In some levels, the music does tend to cut out here and there. This is a minor annoyance. The game’s soundtrack is great – with Grant Kirkhope returning from the previous game to once again contribute to the games’ soundtrack. The witty voice acting even makes a return here, with the animal sounds for voicing – just like in Banjo-Kazooie. I continue to love the care that Playtonic puts into this series when it comes to paying tribute to the games that inspire it.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a GREAT platformer. It’s a game that during my time away from it – I continued to think about. As much as I wanted to boot up my switch to play some of the other games I’m currently enjoying in my free time – I couldn’t keep myself away from this title. IT’s a perfect game to pick up and put down as the levels are just the right length for gaming on the go. I would go as far as to say that this is the best platformer that’s released since Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Super Mario Maker 2 aside of course). It’s DEFINITELY a game that’s worth your time, and at a price point of $29.99 – it hits a real sweet spot, almost like honey. Okay. These bee puns are getting out of hand. Pick this game up and see what the buzz is about.