Fans of a golden era of 90s gaming can rejoice, Yooka-Laylee is here to offer a trip down memory lane without the need to dust off your old N64 controller. Billed as a spiritual successor to the likes of Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong Country, the game was brought to life by a group of ex-Rare staffers and hundreds of nostalgic 30-somethings who pumped £2 million into their Kickstarter.
With its cheeky script, googly-eyed talking objects, and catchy soundtrack, this is a third Banjo game in all but name. But despite its charm, Yooka-Laylee doesn’t quite match up to its predecessors.
You play as both Yooka and Laylee, a patient lizard and mouthy bat who round up missing Pagies to keep them from the grasp of baddie Capital B, a Donald Trump-esque publishing mogul who’s stealing books for profit. Tracking these down sees the duo explore a series of ever-expanding worlds, including an icy castle and gloomy bog. While the first area initially seems brilliant – a sprawling, Aztec-style land with platforms stretching into the sky – some of the later worlds are disappointing (I sense budgetary issues might have contributed to the uneven quality).
Yooka and Laylee also collect Quills along the way, trading them with the slippery salesman snake Trowzer (ahem) for new moves. These begin with simple smash and spin attacks but soon become much more entertaining as the duo unlock unique abilities. Chameleon Yooka can lick objects to take on their properties, becoming sticky like honey or as heavy as a cannonball. Meanwhile, Laylee can take out enemies with a bat sonic boom. When working together the pair make an undeniably cute team, the best being when Yooka learns to roll up slopes with Laylee dancing precariously on his back as if on an a runaway treadmill.
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Puzzles range from racing a talking cloud to smashing the teeth of a furious boss who assumes Yooka and Laylee are attempting to sell him double glazing. However, as the game continues, some of these elements start to feel repetitive, particularly the classic platformer tropes like racing through hoops against the clock. (Laylee jokes at one point “They clearly blew the budget on proper boss battles” during a quick-fire quiz challenge – a mechanic recycled several times throughout the game.)
Another frustrating element is the in-game camera, which has a tendency to zoom to unhelpful angles while you’re halfway up a mountain trying to jump between moving platforms. Though the pun-heavy script is a highlight, the grunting dialogue might have you mashing the keypad for a skip button during cutscenes.
A few quibbles aside, Yooke Laylee does what is says on the tin. This isn’t a reinvention of the platforming genre, more a celebration of a golden era. While older players will love the game’s throwback elements, newcomers to the genre may take more issue with its shortcomings. But, problems aside, Yooka Laylee is proof this style of game still has an audience, let’s hope there’s more to come.