Release Date – April 11th, 2017
Platforms- Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PC
Developer / Publisher – Playtonic Games
Genre – Platformer
Price – $39.99
It’s not often that a title comes along that can say it was developed by both a team who helped shape a genre, let alone boast that the team responsible for that accomplishment is at it again with a new IP. The new Game Yooka-Laylee developed by Playtonic Games and published by Team17 is about to blast onto consoles, Macs, and PC’s come April 11th – with Nintendo’s Switch not too far behind. But let’s not put the cart before the horse. In order to be able to take in the grand design of this piece of nostalgic heaven, one must have a brief lesson in gaming history: Playtronic Games is a development company comprised of a group of several key personnel from the Nintendo 64 era – also known as Rare.
This team brought us Banjo-Kazooie, a title that picked up where Super Mario 64 left off, and further pathed the road ahead for 3-D platformers in the 90’s. Director Chris Sutherland leads his team into new waters with Yooka-Laylee expanding upon the tried and true path of Playtronic’s past success stories; while bridging the gap between what would initially appear to be more of a children’s title, but with the humor and fun that can draw fans of all ages in. I for one, was instantly drawn in by the unique characters that populate Yooka-Laylee’s worlds. One such character you meet early on is a salesman who just so happens to be a snake wearing pants… The art team did an amazing job on all aspects of the game, creating beautiful set pieces to explore to your heart’s content – but my God, this character has to be the icing on the cake. His long snake body loops through one leg of the pants creating a flat base for him to stand on, then loops up through the other leg. The best part yet? His name is Trowzer. That’s right friends. Your move-selling salesman is in fact a trouser snake.
Okay, aside from our pants-wearing snake friend… Let’s dig deeper into what this game is, shall we? Yooka-Laylee keeps with the music instrumental theme being a Spiritual predecessor to Banjo-Kazooie, as well as having the two title characters being both a ground-based, and a flight-based pairing. The game centers on the adventures of Yooka, a green chameleon that plays like he is a mix of Mario, Banjo, Sonic, and Yoshi. Laylee is a purple Bat that is selfaware that she is in a video game, and constantly breaks the 4th wall in some very comedic ways.
You will progress along in the HUB world and the mission worlds by accessing “pagies” (little characterized pages of a magical book you are on a quest to restore). You use the pagies as currency to unlock these giant books that act as gateways to various biome-style worlds filled with multiple quests, puzzles, and trials. Much like the stars of Super Mario 64, pagies are littered throughout both the HUB world and the mission worlds. Some are out in the open, and all you have to do is figure out how to solve a jump puzzle to get to them using various skills acquired on your journeys. Others require you to accomplish a set task by one of the various NPC characters.
These abilities include Yooka’s Yoshi-like tongue moves – which enable him to suck up various items in order to then allow him to shoot ice balls, breath fire, and even glow to illuminate a dark area. Some of Yooka’s other moves allow him to roll into a ball (circa Sonic style) and spin up hills that would typically have him sliding down the sleek, steep surface of. Pair these abilities with his loud companion (Laylee’s Sonar stun and gliding moves to name a couple) and you’re bound to have some entertaining adventures.
Thus far, I have spent most of my in-game time playing around the HUB world. For example: Shipwreck Creek, Hivory Towers, Tribalstack Tropics (world #1) and Glitterglaze Glacier (world #2), and I can say that all of these areas offer unique game play mechanics that make use of a multitude of your collected skills. The different biomes not only treat the player to brilliant visual changes, they also offer variables for the player to overcome – such as environmental dangers. Check out this video of Glitterglaze Glacier on the left.
Yooka-Laylee also offers fun, retrostyle mini games for up to 4 players in Bomberman isometric-style views. Though fun, the story mode is where I’ll be spending the most of my time with this game. All in all, I could only find two downfalls to Yooka-Laylee. The first, and probably easiest to fix, is the audio representing the characters talking. After the initial scenes (which had me laughing out loud with how closely they mirrored my time with the Nintendo 64) it quickly led to me searching the menus for an option to mute that particular sound – to no avail. Others have found if you time it right you can skip most of the audio by mashing the button stating you have read the text. This isn’t really a fix though, because by doing so, you miss out on some perfectly executed comedic moments between the cast of the game. The other issue I had was during a few jump puzzles – the camera wasn’t as snappy as I would have liked, and led to me failing multiple times before I figured out a way around it. The pros however, completely outweigh the cons, and at a $39.99 price point – this title will pull both kids and parents in alike for a great 30+ hour adventure. Playtonic Games hasn’t only given us a great game to play, they have started a new franchise I hope to explore for years to come.