Yooka-Laylee (PlayStation 4) Review

By Drew Hurley 04.04.2017 3

Review for Yooka-Laylee on PlayStation 4

The prospect of beloved things from yesteryear and childhoods long past receiving new life is always a chilling prospect. For every Dragon Ball Super there is a Dragon Ball Evolution. For every Doom there is a Duke Nukem Forever. The N64 fans out there have also tasted plenty of disappointment with sequels to Banjo-Kazooie and Perfect Dark. That's the problem, though, when a property is no longer in the hands of those that created it. Now, with the team at Playtonic, could Yooka-Laylee be the spiritual rebirth Banjo-Kazooie deserves, or is it just nuts and bolts?

For those who are unaware of the story of Yooka-Laylee, it all began with six ex-Rare employees - six friends with a passion for gaming - who decided to risk it all and go indie. Creating their own studio, Playtonic, they began their work on the spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie in 2012.

The game has changed a lot since then, and was launched on Kickstarter in May 2015, with a goal of £175,000. In 24 hours it had raised over £1,000,000. At the time, it was the highest funded game on Kickstarter, and is still one of the highest today, with a final tally racking up an astounding £2,090,000! There is an audience that wanted this game.

Screenshot for Yooka-Laylee on PlayStation 4

Set in a world where all the characters are well aware they're in a game, Yooka (the Chameleon) and Laylee (the Bat) are chilling out and minding their own business when a book Laylee has been using as a costa gets whisked away, just as they had realised they could flog it for some big cash. This leads into the rather perfunctory story where Capital B (a corrupt evil industrial capitalist Bee… Fitting, no?) attempts to take all the books in the world to make money, somehow… The overall story is simple enough, but where it really shines is in the writing. The whole game is overloaded with more fourth wall breaking than Deadpool guest starring in Animaniacs, as the characters comment on the state of the game, talk to the audience, and comment on games in general. The writing is legitimately funny and filled with some quite sharp satire about the industry, too.

Now, when it comes down to the gameplay right off the bat - pun intended - it's hard to judge the game. While Yooka-Laylee is instantly fun and perfectly emulates the experience of the N64 generation, it throws so much out right at the start that it overloads and detracts from the overall quality. Each world is filled to bursting with things to do, and the style of gameplay means that it's all very open. There is no system to guide the player through all of these activities; instead, every part of the map is overflowing with so many things to do that it's overwhelming. It feels like every zone should have been much bigger, and occasionally some sort of system to point players in the direction to go would be very welcomed.

Screenshot for Yooka-Laylee on PlayStation 4

This avalanche of content is amazingly enjoyable, of course. There are the usual aspects pulled directly from Banjo-Kazooie: the music notes are quills, the Jiggies are Pagies, for example. There are in total 145 Pagies to track down and a whopping 1,010 quills for the completionists. Quills are scattered all over, hidden in some difficult to find places. Pagies are unlocked by completing all manner of activities, including jumping challenges, hunting down hidden piggish knights, and taking on waves of enemies. There is a huge amount of things to do and plenty of replay value in revisiting worlds, as new special abilities are unlocked.

On top of the quills and Pagies, every world has some bonus collectibles to hunt down. Particular highlights are special Play Coins, which, when handed in to a gaming fossil named Rextro Sixtyforus, will unlock an old-school arcade game and a special item called a Mollycool, which, when given to the tentacled scientist Dr. Puzz, allows the pair to transform into some wild and weird new forms.

Screenshot for Yooka-Laylee on PlayStation 4

Rextro and Dr. Puzz are some of the many fantastical comedy inhabitants. There's also Trowzer the Snake, a Del Boy-esque dodgy dealer who sells special moves, and Kartos the God of Oar, a mining cart that takes the pair on scrolling bonus stages. Even the enemies and bosses are all part of the comedy styles, evidenced by the second boss' final line "Tell my family I went out doing what I loved… Firing projectiles at an interspecies buddy-duo." These characters all contribute to the wonderfully eclectic world - a beautifully colourful and vibrant world that completely captures the style it was aiming to duplicate. The music, too, helps to craft this world, with veteran composers Grant Kirkhope, Steve Burke and the super talented David Wise all collaborating to produce some great themes.

Perhaps fittingly, even the problems with Yooka-Laylee harken back to the old N64 days, too, with the biggest being its performance. There are numerous issues with stuttering, even within Rextro's little arcade games. It's horrendously choppy at points and is hugely impactful to the overall experience. The writing of the dialogue is great, but the delivery flawed; it can feel like it's crawling through at a snail's pace. As do the loading times - although that's almost forgiven when even the loading screen itself acknowledges it, saying "If cartridges were still popular, this game would have loaded by now." There are plenty of little flaws here that all feel like they should have been ironed out. Hopefully, there'll be a quick post-release patch to address these issues.

Screenshot for Yooka-Laylee on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Yooka-Laylee is the perfect collectathon game for veterans of the N64 and a true spiritual successor to the spectacular Banjo-Kazooie. It is exactly what people were hoping it would be, but there are a few critical flaws that are impossible to ignore. It feels like a title taken from the N64 and polished up to this generation, but games have changed a great deal since that era. Arguably, had this incorporated some of those changes, it could have been even better, but instead it has embraced its concept and stayed true to its roots. Regardless, the low price point, inviting gameplay and pure fun of the game means this is one that everyone should try.

Developer

Playtonic Games

Publisher

Team17

Genre

3D Platformer

Players

2

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Sad to hear that those technical issues actually present quite an issue on the PS4. Hopefully a patch? Must say it was nice to play at 60 fps on PC.

Interesting point you make about how the abundance of things at the start overloads- I'd say this was down to the differences in how we expect games to be designed these days! 

I wonder if this is why some PS4 reviews are coming in so low. The average on Metacritic so far is looking like heading towards 64...which would be quite apt for a N64-style game Smilie

From the looks of it, though, it sounds like a lot of media just don't get the whole idea behind the project, which is a real shame. For fans, this is exactly what was expected. It was never meant to be a reinvention of the 3D platformer.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Indeed. I expect a similar reaction to the likes of Shenmue 3 - if not worse with that one. Fans knew what they were putting their money towards, and Playtonic has delivered it. Job done. It's great to hear that fans of the Rare N64 games have been pleased with how this has turned out.

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