-by Dylan DiBona
It couldn’t have been more than three years ago when I first discovered the Rare classic, Banjo-Kazooie. There was a sale on the original and it’s sequel on the Xbox 360 marketplace and I decided to pick it up. Being about 16 or so, the ship had long since sailed for Banjo to be a “childhood gem”. I hold no nostalgia for Banjo-Kazooie, which is why I say proudly that it’s one of my very favorite games.
When the KickStarter for Yooka-Laylee was first announced, I was on a half-sized school bus going to school from a volunteer field trip. I gripped my phone with joy. I remember my utmost excitement, I wanted to contribute to the fundraiser but I had no money at all. I was pumped for about a year and then forgot about the game entirely
Finally it released last month to some questionable reception. Some hated on the game for being what it was advertised. Some didn’t like it’s technical flaws. Others absolutely adore the game. What exactly is Yooka-Laylee?
It becomes clear for Banjo fans that Yooka-Laylee is less of a homage and more of a “let’s pick up from where we left off”. Granted we have new heroes but this is a very self-aware game, it knows very well of the era it exists and the era it’s trying to replicate by constantly cracking next gen and old gen gaming jokes.
From the first second you play the game, it feels pretty perfect. Yooka has a correct sense of weight to him, there’s a double jump which Banjo didn’t even have, a spin attack, and Yooka’s tongue works to pick up health in the form of butterflies. Much like it’s spiritual predecessor you can get new abilities the more you play the game. Each ability was useful and made backtracking to old worlds feel exciting. All of these abilities control well except for the flight mechanic, for some reason Yooka and Laylee always leaned left in the air. Yooka-Laylee is a platformer with tons of possibilities, but thankfully I never felt as if the amount of powers were overwhelming. I’m going to use the word ‘overwhelming’ to jump into another topic: the collectibles.
Now these “Collect-a-thons” obviously should offer a good amount of goodies for the player to grab. I couldn’t find a reliable source telling me all of the totals in Banjo-Kazooie, but if memory serves right, there were 100 Jiggies, 1000 music notes and 50 Jingos. The equivalents to those items in Yooka-Laylee are Pagies, Quills, and Ghost Writers respectively. There are 145 Pagies, 1010 Quills and 25 Ghost Writers, not so bad until you realize that this new game has half the amount of worlds as Banjo’s. Every new world felt slightly intimidating my first time entering it because each one had 25 Pagies and 200 Quills, doubling the amounts in each world in Banjo. Another part of the worlds I wasn’t too fond of were the “expansions”.
You can unlock a world for a price of Pagies, but that’s not the whole world actually. You have to come back more with extra Pagies to expand it fully. It seemed like the developers tried making this mechanic slightly strategic as they explain it to you as a crucial choice: “explore for new worlds or expand old worlds”, but honestly there is such a surplus of Pagies that it never felt like I had to make a big decision. It also doesn’t help that the worlds themselves are gargantuan and make finding items a pain towards the end of your hunt. Certain Tonics (game alterations) can help you find tricky items, but nothing can stop the inevitable hour long search for the last Quill in a world. I think it worked a bit against Playtonic to make five giant worlds instead of seven or eight small ones. This brings me to my last issue with the worlds, the themes. How many times can we explore a grass world or an ice world? And I never understood the appeal to explore gross swampy worlds. I will give credit however and say there’s one world in particular that I found truly unique.
So the gameplay is great, the worlds are good at best and the collectibles are certainly manageable, but may intimidate newcomers to the genre (I 100% completed the game and it wasn’t too brutal, it took about 30 hours). How’s the presentation? Everybody remembers Banjo-Kazooie’s legendary music and colors.
Luckily the almighty Grant Kirkhope returns to compose Yooka-Laylee and once again he’s written some classics. Not all songs are a home-run but some like the title theme are instantly catchy. The world themes are also dynamic and change slightly depending on where you are. With post-release updates adding stuff like a pause menu theme and a N64 graphic style Tonic, there is reason to come back to Yooka-Laylee after a first run. The graphics themselves are pretty but nothing I felt the need to write home about. It’s the Unity Engine, something anybody can use, and it felt like that with certain areas.
It may seem like my reception of Yooka-Laylee is lukewarm, but it genuinely isn’t; I had real fun with this game and it also made me physically laugh a few times, something a game can almost never makes me do. Playtonic wholeheartedly deserves a shot at a possible Tooka-Laylee. Imagine how solid a sequel could be if they had the backing of a major company this time. Thank you Playtonic for keeping your word and filling a very huge void in the world of modern day gaming.
Yooka-Laylee is a good game.
Any Yooka-Laylee fans here? How do you compare this game to Banjo-Kazooie? Do you believe there should be a Tooka-Laylee? Let me know down below and I’ll try my best to reply! As always, thanks for reading.