Yooka-Laylee Review

Yooka-Laylee Review
Developed by Playtonic Games
Published by Team17
Reviewed on Xbox One (also available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC. and MacOS)

 
Yooka-Laylee is a 3D action platformer that draws inspiration from Banjo-Kazooie and other video games of the 64-bit era. It features the chameleon Yooka and the bat Laylee as they embark on a colorful adventure full of collectibles and humorous characters. Throughout their adventure, they use over-the-top abilities to traverse expansive locales and overcome obstacles. Although Yooka-Laylee often overly embraces its 64-bit sources of inspiration, its whimsicality and sense of exploration provide some thrills.

The game’s plot and characters feel like they could belong in a ’90s era cartoon. The quirky villain Capital B wants to create a monopoly over the world’s books, and he activates a suction device that draws the world’s books into his lavish headquarters. Yooka and Laylee are relaxing when their prized book is suddenly snatched away, which spurs them into action. Unfortunately, their beloved book has been split into over a hundred separate Pagies, and they have to undergo a considerable variety of trials to retrieve them.

Yooka-Laylee‘s mascot-driven nature is straight out of the ’90s, and meeting the considerable variety of characters is entertaining. Yooka’s straightforward good-willed speech grounds the experience, and his companion Laylee is sarcastic and regularly pokes fun at other characters. The non-playable roster is staggering. It includes talking weather phenomena, plants, and appliances. Even the collectibles talk and have unique lines depending on the situation. This off-the-wall cast may baffle some players, but it provides an element of surprise while exploring new worlds. The characters’ frequent use of puns and fourth wall breaking humor is also fairly amusing.

The game revolves around collecting Pagies throughout multiple worlds. Players have to traverse a hub area to find the giant books that serve as entrances to these worlds. These worlds present all sorts of tasks for obtaining Pagies. Some examples include completing timed platforming sequences, fulfilling requests, and playing mini-games. Generally these challenges are fairly built, but repeating sequences after missing a platform or falling off an edge may not feel intrinsically exciting. Occasionally the camera angles can also occasionally create difficulties in knowing where to jump, which is slightly troublesome.

Furthermore, the obstacles are diverse, but their familiarity may be off-putting. Jumping onto floating platforms, hitting switches, and going through a series of hoops can feel somewhat dated by today’s standards. As a result, it can sometimes be hard to be deeply invested in the process of finding more Pagies. The enemies are also not particularly engaging. Many seem too passive or too easy to breeze through, and enemy encounters generally do not feel too different from world to world.

The game has a bit of a slow start, but it does have interesting moments. Much of the game is freeform and it usually does not direct players towards any particular location. As a result, the flow of moving from one world to the next can occasionally feel disjointed. The game eases players into the action by slowly introducing moves. Early moves, such as close range spin attacks, ground pounds, and double jumps, are standard platformer fare. Once players acquire quirkier moves that fit Yooka’s chameleon motif and enable access to new areas, however, the exploration becomes more thrilling. An interesting mechanic is that players can choose to expend Pagies to unlock new worlds or expand existing ones. Players eventually have the opportunity to experience worlds in any order, and this freedom of choice is welcome.

Yooka-Laylee‘s visuals are arguably among its most striking features. It is often marvelous looking at the game’s picturesque worlds and vibrant characters. The sheer scale of many worlds is fantastic, and being able to see so far into the horizon is captivating. Some of Yooka and Laylee’s animations are also energetic and full of charm. However, the game utilizes well-trodden 64-bit visual elements such as blocky dialogue boxes, bouncing and spinning collectible icons, and large bold text. While these choices may create a nostalgic effect, it nonetheless seems somewhat underwhelming relative to the rest of the visuals.

Generally the audio is mostly functional and thematically appropriate. Dialogue consists of spoken repeated gibberish sound bytes, which is another element of the 64-bit era. This speech style certainly feels dated, but experiencing the vast number of sound bytes across the expansive character cast is still amusing. The hub area song sets a proper tone for sneaking around the villains’ upscale tower, and each world’s tune is upbeat and holds up after hours of exploration. Interestingly the music will change depending on players’ circumstances. Songs retain the same melody while underwater, but the instruments will appropriately become more serene, which is a nice touch.

Yooka-Laylee certainly sticks to conventions of the bygone 64-bit era, but it nonetheless has some of its own ideas that are fun to experience. It initially seems like a run-of-the-mill platformer and takes some time to get rolling. Furthermore, it occasionally feels confusing on what to do at certain points. However, the acquisition of quirky powers makes the game a thrill to play. Using collectibles as a way to drive progress may restrict the game’s appeal to platformer aficionados and patient players, but the vibrant worlds and characters are enjoyable and worthy of players’ attention and time.

Vincent Lai

Vincent Lai

I'm a gaming enthusiast who enjoys a variety of platforms! I also love wisps, rainbows, and gardens!

Graphics
16out of 5
Sound
14out of 5
Gameplay
14out of 5
Story
12out of 5

Overview

+ Vibrant worlds full of fantastic sights and unique characters
+ Amusing humor full of puns and fourth wall breaking references
+ Diverse range of tasks and abilities

- Dated, occasionally ambiguous game progression
- Enemies can feel extraneous and uninteresting
- Some sequences feel gimmicky and lack a sense of payoff

3.40

3.4 out of 5
Average

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