YOOKA-LAYLEE
A Perfect ‘Second Purchase’ for the Switch?

HANDS ON PREVIEW
By JAY TEE
06/02/17

THE BASICS

Old school 3D platformer, featuring a cast of eccentric characters and loads of collectibles.

PLATFORMS

Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC, Switch

PLAYERS

Offline - up to 4, Online - 0

CO-OP / MULTIPLAYER

Campaign co-op and a whole host of split screen multiplayer modes.

DOWNLOADABLE CONTENT

Free DLC was offered as a Kickstarter stretch goal, and will be made available at some point later this year.


TAKEAWAYS

- For anyone familiar with N64 era platformers, playing with an Xbox One gamepad on PC felt really good. You can transition between abilities like the high jump and hovering very quickly, without feeling like you’re fighting the mechanics. Jump height has been significantly increased (when compared to classic Rare adventures) which lends itself well to the greater verticality found here. So long as additional unlockable moves retain this level of comfort in the final release, we’ll be on to a winner.

- Yooka and Laylee themselves are a wonderful cocktail of endearing animations and cheeky expression. The ‘sprint’ move, for example, sees Yooka rolling up into a ball whilst Laylee runs on top like a bat out of hell [sorry], in much the same way as Kazooie popping out of Banjo’s backpack and giving him a lift. I was also thrilled to find ‘idle character’ animations that kick in when you don’t move the control stick.  Characters also make ‘speech noises’ when text is appearing on screen, as another wonderful nod to Banjo.

- The music is amazing. Grant Kirkhope has outdone himself here. These tunes will be eating your brain alive within seconds of booting up. The simplicity of the notes themselves will strike a nostalgic chord [again, sorry], and feel very reminiscent of Donkey Kong 64.

- The variation in the platforming, even in the Toybox demo, was very pleasing. Navigating mazes, manipulating physics objects, finding secret entrances, bolting through wind tunnels, and even sliding Super Mario 64 style through obstacles helped keep things fresh throughout.

As a love letter to the platformers of yesteryear, Yooka-Laylee is a curious oddity. This exact kind of 3D ‘collect-athon’ has been largely ignored by publishers for fear of irrelevancy. It also happens to be one of the biggest crowd funding success stories of the last few years. It sends a message, loud and clear, to the cheque writers and bill payers that not only do gamers want this kind of experience, but it should absolutely have a place on our current machines.

The April 11th release day fast approaches, and after spending more time than is socially acceptable with the ‘Toybox’ demo on PC, I am more and more convinced that the final product is going to be great. Stripped of the environmental detail on display in recent trailers, the game is presented here as a bare bones proof of concept. Despite a lack of polish, the tight controls and good vibes have cemented my faith in Playtonic Games that their debut effort will have been worth the wait.

DISCLAIMER: As a huge fan of Banjo Kazooie, Conkers Bad Fur Day etc… I personally backed Yooka-Laylee on Kickstarter when its crowd funding campaign began in 2015. I am in no way affiliated with the publisher or developer.

- The wide array of multiplayer modes (another stretch goal successfully funded) makes this a perfect fit for the Switch. Some people are a tad salty about the Wii U version getting canned, but the prospect of being able to play Yooka-Laylee mini games on the go is too good to pass up. I honestly believe this could be the perfect ‘second purchase’ after Zelda for many Switch early adopters. And although I’m extremely excited by the potential of offline co-op in the campaign, I am concerned by how vaguely it has been described. Does a second player control a ‘clone’ of the Yooka-Laylee character model with an identical moveset (which would be ideal)? Or is this a Super Mario Galaxy type situation where your buddy is relegated to a non-corporeal cursor tasked solely with gathering collectable's?

- I do have a couple of reservations. The swimming controls are horrible, at least in the Toybox demo. Directional control seemed really fiddly, and I was constantly fumbling to make even the slightest adjustments to my position. Trying to grab collectibles underwater was a miserable experience. However, it is entirely possible that this will have been tweaked for the final game. I’m also not a fan of the bland looking enemy character designs featured in the demo (the blue creatures in the banner at the top of this page).

The mine cart has a moustache. GOTY.

This is absolutely as fun as it looks. Even in the Toybox demo, without any bells and whistles, I couldn’t help but smile. It makes such a difference and creates a genuine attachment to the characters.

JTGA

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CONCLUSION

Even within the confines of the sterile, blocky Toybox demo space, Yooka-Laylee radiates personality from every facet of its old school design. There’s so much here that builds upon the successes of the past, and at the same time updates and revitalises a forgotten genre for a new beginning. For any fan of retro cartridge era gaming, this will absolutely be worth your time and attention.

For more information, check out: http://www.playtonicgames.com/
Or follow @PlaytonicGames on Twitter.


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