Yooka-Laylee Xbox One Review

Publisher: Team17  Developer: Playtonic Games  Genre: Platformer

Players: 1-2  Age Rating: 7+  Other console/handheld formats: PS4, Switch

Yooka-Laylee can only be called a spiritual successor to the likes of Banjo-Kazooie, considering Yooka-Laylee has key staff who worked on Banjo-Kazooie. A bright and colourful game, Yooka-Layee is intended to recapture the old-school style of 3D platforming, and whilst for the most part this is something the game succeeds at, there are some things that really should have stayed in the past.

The music in the game is just as jolly as the game itself.

You’ll discover quite quickly that Yooka-Laylee is a very expansive game, consisting of 5 areas connected by a main hub world. Even though there is only a total of 5 areas to unlock and explore, finding all 5 areas is by no means an easy feat. Each area is very large, with lots of nooks and crannies to explore and many challenges for you to complete, all with the goal of collecting Pagies, pages from a special book that is torn apart by the evil Capital B and his crony, Dr. Quack.

These Pagies are used to unlock each area, and a novelty of the game is that they can also be used to expand a level once you have collected the required amount, adding more sections to an area and giving you more to see and do. As well as collecting Pagies, you’ll also be collecting quills, the main currency of the game, that is used for buying news skills and moves from snaky salesman, Trowzer, and there are a ton of skills and manoeuvres that can be unlocked.

The areas you get to play in are eye-catching and each area has its own characteristics and obstacles for you to overcome. The five areas include all the usual places you would expect from platforming games, with the first being a tropical jungle. Guessing which type of environment will be used as you play adds to the enjoyment, and I was quite surprised by the choices, some expected, others a bit of a surprise. Areas are hit-and-miss, with some offering room for lots of exploration and putting all your skills to good use, while others feel more contained and restricting.

Yooka can roll, and even has a Sonic-style spin dash.

Each area you discover is still fun to run around and explore and each offers a lot of variation in gameplay. The emphasis here has been placed on platforming; running, rolling, jumping – all the usual platforming mechanics are here. But I would go so far as to call Yooka-Layee a compendium of different games, as there is so much to do. You can play a multitude of mini-games in an arcade, with the character that resides over the arcade, Rex, being a nice little homage to blocky computer game characters of old. You can transform Yooka and Layee into different forms, and while in this different form it enables you to speak to certain characters who would otherwise dismiss you in your usual form. You can use your skills to race against a cloud, or hop inside a mine cart and hurry to collect a certain amount of treasure on a mine track. You can help one character grow crops, and another clean up the environment by collecting stray pieces of paper. The variety of challenges on offer is staggering, and is certain to keep your interest.

There’s so much do to, with the goal being to collect as many Pagies as possible, with everything rewarding you with one. There are a total of 145 Pagies, and finding and collecting them all will keep you busy no end. This also doesn’t include the plethora of other collectables to be found. You can try and collect all 1,010 quills – of which only a small portion will be used to buy Yooka and Layee’s skills – or you can try and find each Ghost Writer, 5 in each level. Finding the elusive Atom will help towards transforming Yooka and Layee into their other forms, and you can also find Butterfly Boosters and Power Boosters to increase the amount of Butterflies (here Butterflies being the health) and Power you can have.

Certain challenges also require Yooka and Layee to use the environment to their advantage. Scattered in the environments are plants that, once snatched up, will grant Yooka the ability to squirt water, fire, grenades and snow, which will be used in a number of different ways. To venture through dark areas Yooka can pick up blobs of light, and to help traverse tricky environments, Yooka can snatch up bowling balls that help weigh him down and allow him to walk through windy areas and honey which will enable him to stick to slippery surfaces.

To enter a level, first you have to find a certain number of pagies, then unlock the book, and then finally jumping onto the book.

Yooka and Layee also have the ability to swim and can venture down into murky waters to find other hidden areas, and here they can use a special bubble that helps them to breathe under water, and also helps them to walk under water by weighing them down. You unlock skills that are then used in the preceding level, though you don’t have to complete a level entirely. It’s your choice whether you complete each level as they come, or hop about between different levels and try to find challenges that are suitable for you to complete. Later skills you unlock can also be used to backtrack into previous levels, useful for helping to find new challenges.

However, with a game depicting old-school games, there are some issues that really should have been left in the past. The biggest issue is the camera, which moves about quickly and randomly, and it is a constant tug-of-war trying to get it under control and in the position you want. Another issue is the controls, and in some challenges it seems the developers have over-estimated the accuracy of these controls. Yooka can feel very slippery and this can lead to some frustrations and edge-of-seat moments as you try to manoeuvre certain platforms without dying and if you do die, it is uncertain where you’ll be placed, as checkpoints can also be rather random. Upon fighting a boss and dying, Yooka was respawned far from where the boss fight took place, meaning I had to go through the task of finding it again, and these levels aren’t the best to navigate either. It is very easy to get lost and each area could have done with much better signage, or even a map. Of course, in old-school games maps weren’t used, this mostly being present in open world games (which of course Yooka-Layee is) and considering the size of these levels, and the hub world itself, a map would have been very welcome.

Other slight nit-picks include the fact that, upon expanding an area, the camera insists on giving you a panning shot of where these have opened up, discouraging any kind of exploration, and some dialogue in the game cannot be skipped. Thankfully the developers will be putting this to rights with an update. There can also be moments where, upon finding most of the Pagies and quills, there may be a slight lull in gameplay as you wander around, wondering where on earth the rest of the Pagies are hidden. This can slow gameplay down as you try and think every which way where some of the Pagies and quills are hidden, becoming repetitive as you use all of your skills over and over to try to find a new area.

You’ll be quizzed by Dr. Quack at some points in the game. Hopefully you’ve been paying attention, though the questions aren’t the most brain-melting.

There is a story here, though it is very minimalistic. Yooka and Layee are quirky characters, as are a lot of the characters to be found, but don’t expect much depth from them. They are very much your typical kid-friendly characters. There are enemies littered about and bopping them on the head will reward you with a butterfly, which you can use to either increase your health or your power bar. Enemies are rather forgettable though, being placed there to do what enemies tend to do – hinder the main character’s progress. There is a boss in each stage, though I only defeated two of them, though these do manage to capture the rinse and repeat magic of boss fights of old.

The game is very lengthy, coming in at around 15-25 hours, depending on your play style. As well as the main game, there is also a 2-player mode and an arcade mode where you can play the mini-games; you certainly can’t complain about a lack of content.

For what it was aiming to do, it does excel at. Yooka-Layee does manage to perfectly capture the magic of those old-school platforming games and for those that persist through the annoyance of the camera, controls and random checkpoints, there is a fun game to be had. For a game that was funded through Kickstarter, the developers have certainly given backers and players a lot of bang for their buck, and that £2,090,104 has certainly been put to mostly excellent use.