A throwback to ’90s gaming
Yooka-Laylee is a game on a mission. While most developers have long given up on 3D platformers, Playtonic’s crowdfunded game is out to prove this forgotten genre still has life. For the most part, it absolutely succeeds.
Playing Yooka-Laylee you can’t help but think of platforming classics like Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong Country. It’s for good reason too—Playtonic Games consists of several former Rare employees from the golden Nintendo 64 era. Now they’re back doing what they love most: creating irresistibly charming characters, beautiful, colourful worlds, and good old-fashioned platforming fun.
A corporate crook strikes
Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4
The story begins with the nefarious, bumbling corporate tycoon Capital B hatching a plan to steal all the world’s literature. Using the Noveliser 64 device he snatches up countless books, including a magical tome belonging to Yooka and Laylee. The duo then heads to B’s “Hivory Towers” to retrieve their book.
However, it turns out their prized possession got mangled somewhere along the line. Over one hundred pages of the magical tome were shredded and strewn over five different worlds. Naturally, our charismatic heroes go a mission to retrieve the pages and reassemble their book.
Taking a “pagie” out of Banjo-Kazooie’s book
Of course, much like Banjo-Kazooie, the silly intro sets up the main purpose of the game: collecting tons of goodies. Your main objective is to find magical sheets of paper, called Pagies, which have a cartoony face and can talk. There are 147 in all to locate, and finding them is half the fun.
Once you do spot a Pagie, nabbing it is often no easy task. Many times you’ll have to help out the lively inhabitants of the five worlds in exchange for one. This involves participating in dozens of entertaining activities, like beating a cloud in a race, or navigating tricky obstacle courses. There’s even a talking wooden mine cart character that sends you on wild roller coaster rides like those in Donkey Kong Country.
The sheer variety of challenges is great to see, and even when they repeat themselves, new curveballs are always thrown in. Plus, collecting Pagies encourages you to speak with every NPC, many of whom have hilarious things to say. From a talking bathtub in need of bubbles, to a saucy cauldron named Potty Mouth, vibrant characters are everywhere.
Complete you collection
Above and beyond Pagies, there are a jillion other collectibles just waiting for you to discover. For starters, you have over 1000 Quills, which are cute feather pen creatures that act as the game’s currency. Quills are the most abundant item you’ll find, and often lead you to secret areas filled with even more rewards.
Next, every world contains five Ghost Writers who are supposedly the original writers of Yooka and Laylee’s magical tome. Each ghost has a unique personality that must be considered as you attempt to nab them. For example, the pudgy pink one must be fed berries, and the playful green guy runs away on sight. Figuring out the trick to collecting each ghost is a lot of fun, as is revealing their well-hidden locations.
Finally, there’s a whole slew of rare items to find scattered around every world. Play Coins are tokens that enable you to play retro arcade games created by a polygonal T-Rex named Rextro Sixtyfourus. Mollycools power up Dr. Puzz’s D.N.Ray machine, transforming Yooka and Laylee into things like a snowplow or a piranha. Tonics are unlockable game cheats that give you more ammo or health, or even change the graphics to 64-bits.
For completionists like me, Yooka-Laylee offers hours and hours of goodie-searching fun. Thanks to ingenious level designs, items can be found around every corner—but they’re often tricky to locate and obtain. Uncovering the secrets to nabbing those hard to reach items is gratifying, and rewards you in a variety of ways.
Inspired level design
Jumping into Yooka-Laylee’s five worlds is like stepping foot into a Saturday morning cartoon. Levels are bright, vast, and full of intriguing characters and locations. Over the adventure, you’ll venture through lush tropics, a bitter cold glacier, a somber marsh, a glitzy casino, and a pirate-themed galaxy.
Each area is pretty huge to start, but you can nearly double their size by cashing in Pagies. This will add whole new areas to explore, containing new Pagies to collect, and new characters to meet.
You also have a main hub world to dive into, which includes Yooka and Laylee’s home of Shipwreck Creek. Here you’ll learn gameplay basics, like using Yooka’s tongue to gobble butterflies for health and attacking with his tail twirl. You’ll also soon venture into the menacing Hivory Tower where our book-snatching corporate bigwig resides.
As much as I love all the areas and worlds you can explore, I do wish there was more. Five worlds isn’t not a whole lot, especially when you consider most old-school 3D platformers offer close to double that. With that said, worlds in Yooka-Laylee are larger than you see in other games, so it becomes a trade-off.
Cool abilities to master
Much like in classic 3D platformers, Yooka and Laylee can also obtain a cool suite of new abilities. These all come from a slimy (literally) snake entrepreneur named Trowzer who offers abilities in exchange for Quills. With that said, as a goodwill gesture for opening up new worlds (and new areas for him to expand his business), Trowzer coughs up abilities for free.
There are more than a dozen skills to learn, each one expanding you capabilities in various ways. A lizard leap enables you to reach higher ground previously inaccessible, while your bubble buddy move lets you breathe underwater. In order to collect all the goodies contained in each world, you’ll need to backtrack after you gained new abilities. For me, it was part of the fun, though having to revisit familiar ground may not be for everyone.
Every aspect of Yooka-Laylee is a not-so subtle nod to the illustrious platforming games of yesteryear. If you enjoy games like Super Mario 64 or Banjo-Kazooie then you’ll absolutely love what this games has in store. If you’ve never tried a 3D platforming game before, this is the perfect one to start on. Yooka-Laylee is bright, cheerful, exciting and fun—Playtonic Games has captured lightning in bottle.
+ Colourful worlds to explore
+ Fun-loving characters to meet
+ Oozing with personality
+ Great platforming segments
+ Challenging puzzles to solve
– Occasional camera issues
– More worlds would be nice
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4/5