Yooka-Laylee is a bit of an odd ball for me, I was hyped for the revival of 3-D Platforming and giving Mario and Sonic some competition so I crowdfunded Playtonic on Kickstarter. I then promptly proceeded to mostly ignore the game until the reviews came in and the verdict looked bad. Especially if you read popular internet personality, Jim Sterling’s review, in which he gave the game an abysmal 2/10. So I was prepared to go into Yooka-Laylee expecting the worst, espically as someone who never played Banjo Kazooie, the predecessor to this game. But then I saw other people either praise the game or simply call it “good” so my expectations became mixed over time until I finally tried it. So let’s see if it’s a massive turd, absolute gold, or just kinda good.
The story may just be the best part of Yooka Laylee, namely in how little of a fuck it gives about the fourth wall. The story follows a lizard named Yooka and his bat friend named Laylee, who are out to get their book back after it’s stolen by the capitalistic Capital B; who is, yes, a bee. Of course by about half-way through World 1 that pretense drops and you realize the real reason your doing this, because it is a video game and there needs to be a point to all this.
Normally just dropping the plot like a red-headed stepchild or Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog comic would be upsetting but they do replace it with irreverent humor that makes me chuckle a bit so I don’t mind. In fact, the plot is relatively airtight with few problems; of course this is coming from a guy who likes Deadpool so maybe it’s just my love of irreverent humor that let’s me give it a pass. Plus I’m pretty much convinced that the main villain exists as a “fuck you” to Microsoft, who Platonic worked with back in their days at Rare.
Yooka Laylee at times can look fantastic and sometimes it can look like it escaped from the PS2 era of gaming, specifically with the characters who’d you expect just a bit more detail out of. But then again I believe that good gameplay trumps graphics so at the end of the day I’m not counting it against the game. Heck, the environments can be downright beautiful at times; except the swamp level, fuck that level on an aesthetic level for being worse than a sewer.
But if there’s one thing that’s consistently awesome it’s the soundtrack by gaming legend Grant Kirkhope, who was a composer back when Playtonic worked for Rare. Kirkhope brings his a-game with some great atmospheric pieces and medleys, with my favorite being the boss themes. Also, a ridiculous rap that references one of Kirkhope’s cheesiest soundtracks ever.
In terms of design you travel to 5 worlds, collect pagies in order to advance and expand worlds, and collect quills in order to gain moves from a penis joke. You can find rare pagies by completing tasks while quills are more common and can be found everywhere. The odd thing is that the recurring characters who give out tasks have their appearances be inconsistent between worlds. Sometimes they appear in the expanded version of the worlds and sometimes they appear in the base version of the world. It’s very inconsistent, except for the penis joke character, he’s always in the base version.
Thankfully Yooka and Laylee function and play rather well, they’re a bit floaty but given the nature of 3-D platformers it’s acceptable and works in the games favor. It’s when they have to do things beyond the usual jumping and running that the game pisses me off and makes me wanna throw my controller out the window. The flying controls? Shit. The pushing controls? Shit. The swimming? Slightly less shit but still not fun.
Luckily the moves you get from the walking penis joke don’t suck as you get moves like a grapple, a glide, fart bubbles (no, seriously), and much more that actually control decently. They’re actually pretty fun to use and add incentive to back to the worlds from before and get stuff you couldn’t have before without the items.
Of course that is all thrown out the window when you get to the worst part about the game; the minecart sections with Kartos, which will make you wanna punch a game dev in the face. You have to ride a minecart and collect a set amount of gems in order to get the pagie but the thing is that the minecart sequences were designed by madmen. You will come to hate the minecart sequences because of how poorly they control, and you will die, die, die, die, die, and die again. Oh, and the best part? You have to fight a boss with it, and it took me two hours to beat which, let’s be honest, is unreasonable. I don’t mind difficulty but two hours for a boss fight is bullshit, a record that not even the final boss can beat. The final boss came close but he didn’t, but at least he’s the ultimate challenge for the player to take on. The minecart boss wan’t even the penultimate boss.
Overall, Yooka Laylee isn’t a bad game, but it probably needed a few more months to iron out the kinks. The things that some people hated I don’t mind so much but I’ll agree that it’s not fantastic or even great. The biggest issue is control for me, if they worked that out and maybe simplified the minecart stuff the game would be much better.
Overall rating: 7/10 Good
Although this does remind me of another game I kickstarted that came out recently….