Yooka-Laylee is an open-world action adventure platform game available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. Yooka-Laylee is a much anticipated game as it is a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie given that six of the original Rare development team responsible for Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong Country and Perfect Dark have formed Playtonic Games. The formation of Playtonic Games sent gamers into a frenzy when a Kickstarter crowd funding page asked for £175,000 to finance the development of a platformer inspired by classic 3D platformers which went on to raise a sensational £2.1 million. Can Yooka-Laylee replicate the nostalgia of 3D platformers from yesteryear, while achieving the quality of a game with a £2.1 million budget?
The story revolves around a magical book that was in the possession of Yooka and Laylee which flies away as it has been stolen by the evil Capital B who plans on collecting powerful books, although the pagies contained within this particular book have fled the book to go into hiding in an attempt to stop Capital B from having enough power to re-write the universe; therefore it is up to Yooka and Laylee to get their book back and save the day by defeating the evil Capital B.
The adventure starts in a tutorial world named Shipwreck Creek before moving onto the HUB world called Hivory Towers which contains portals known as grand tomes to five worlds including Tribalstack Tropics, Glitterglaze Glacier, Moodymaze Marsh, Capital Cashino and Galleon Galaxy. Every world has its own unique themes such as Glitterglaze Glacier being covered in snow and ice with igloo villages, while Capital Cashino has a large scale golf course and a dance floor. There are quests scattered throughout the worlds as Yooka and Laylee encounter characters that require their help such as helping Sir Scoffsalot find his ally knights, while other quests include smashing certain objects or collecting a pagie that had been separated into multiple pieces.
Collectibles are important as they each have their own specific purpose to unlocking major features including 1,010 quills which is effectively the in-game currency for unlocking abilities and 145 pagies for unlocking new worlds. There are also 25 ghost writers spread across the five worlds that are the original creators of the Grand Tomes portals to each world who will reward Yooka and Laylee with a pagie after finding every ghost writer trapped within a world.
Rextro’s Arcade is a collection of 8 mini-games comprising of an arena brawler in which players must collect quills in addition to stopping enemies from stealing your quills for a duration of two minutes in Glaciators; Kartos Karting is a top-down kart racer in which players can use power-ups in a 5 lap race around a single track; Bee Bop tasks players in defending a swamp for two minutes by using an aerial stomp attack; and Jobstacle Course provides an obstacle course to be completed with as many quills collected as possible. Further mini-games include Gun-tlet Run which sees players tasked with shooting corplets in a chaotic shoot ‘em up; Hurdle Hijinx provides a six lane obstacle course full of smaller objects to jump over and larger objects to avoid by moving to another lane as you also attempt to collect quills; Up ‘N’ Nova tasks players with collecting quills while simultaneously dodging space debris, although 6 quills will be lost totalling to 600 points for even just accidentally grazing the top or bottom of the environment in what is certainly the hardest to master mini-game; and Blag the Flag in which players compete to gain control of a flag in a beat ‘em up.
Yooka is a male lizard which from a design point of view looks akin to an updated Gex character model which consumes butterflies for energy as a throwback to Spyro the Dragon, while Laylee is a friendly female bat, alongside meeting certain characters such as Yooka’s dialogue upon meeting the loveable Rextro is a pleasant surprise.
Yooka progressively learns new abilities such as being able to roll up slippery surfaces with the majority of the unlockable moves being purchased from a snake named Trowzer in exchange for a specific quantity of quills which is effectively the in-game currency in a gameplay element that is reminiscent of Moneybags from Spyro the Dragon. For instance, upon reaching 30 quills earlier in the game; players will either be able to purchase a Sonar Shot which shoots super sonar shots to show secrets; a Slurp Shot which allows edible objects to be shot as projectiles or a Buddy Slam as a slam attack against enemies. Tonics are available from a character named Vendi which essentially further upgrades Yooka and Laylee’s abilities as a reward for collecting a certain amount of an item, defeating a particular enemy 10 times and more besides for such upgrades as buddy slam becoming super slam; livewire provides faster regeneration of power; baller upgrades the rolling move to use less power; and much more. Laylee comes into her own with the unlockable Flappy Flight ability that allows her to fly as Yooka holds onto her as a method of aerial transportation albeit for a limited time.
Enemy design seems to have been borrowed from elsewhere as Capital B has an uncanny likeness to Gru from Despicable Me and even Dr. Quack is somewhat of a re-telling of Donald Duck.
The environment design is colourful in a fashion that is reminiscent of Banjo-Kazooie, while being quite expansive as each of the five worlds is open-world with many areas to explore and quests to complete. Worlds can be expanded by using pagies as a form of in-game currency that specifically relates to worlds which is a clever design choice as it provides new paths to explore containing new characters to help by completing their quests and more secrets to find.
The camera was a point of contention during version 1 as the camera angles would be a little off-putting in certain areas such as being too close to a surface or a door, but version 1.03 has introduced a variety of improvements in relation to the positioning of camera angles. Classic camera mode allows the camera to drift back to show the player the path ahead, while the manual camera mode remains in the position the player had rotated it to.
Yooka-Laylee’s remote play performance produces the same quality of graphics, audio and general performance as the PS4 version. However, none of the control scheme has been optimised for remote play with crouching being mapped to the top left of the rear touch pad and rolling is mapped to the top right of the rear touch pad, while an over the shoulder view is mapped to the bottom left of the rear touch pad and re-centring the camera is mapped to the bottom right of the rear touch pad. It would have made for a more comfortable remote play experience by re-mapping such regularly used abilities as crouching and rolling to L and R respectively when considering L is unused and R re-centres the camera in the same way as the bottom right of the rear touch pad.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of pressing X to jump; pressing square to perform a spin attack; pressing O for Yooka to eat a butterfly for energy; holding R2 to roll; holding L2 to crouch; pressing R1 or R3 to re-centre the camera; pressing L3 to enter an over the shoulder view; pressing up, down, left or right on the d-pad for Yooka and Laylee to perform a different animation; changing the direction of the left analogue stick to move; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to pan the camera; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Vibration occurs when an enemy lands an attack or stepping into a hazard, while there is no touch pad support which could perhaps have provided an alternative to movement by swiping across it and there is no light bar, although it could have produced an alternative heads-up display in the form of a variety of colours representing health and energy as well as a light shade of blue gradually darkening as underwater air runs out.
Graphically, the character models for the two lead characters Yooka and Laylee as well as the supporting allies and enemies are all worthy of being in any platformer. The environments mostly look very good, although there are some rough edges to the environments such as parts of the ground and walls having flat or blurred textures that are inconsistent with other areas that have clearer, more detailed textures, while shadow pop-in regularly occurs when moving towards a previously distant area. There is also an odd shader effect in which it seems as though Yooka and Laylee have a spotlight shined in their nearby radius that shows up on most surfaces, almost as if the resolution within that radius is highlighted in comparison to everything else around it; it is strange to have not seen this patched out as of the time of publishing.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the main menu, Rextro’s Arcade menus, options menus and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left and right analogue sticks, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the touch pad. The background of the menu screens show plenty of colourful foliage before zooming the camera in on the lead character Yooka happily sitting down on a summer’s day as Laylee flies around him during the main adventure and Rextro’s Arcade menus.
Disappointingly, character voice-overs are limited to repetitive mumbling, although that may be appealing to some fans of Banjo-Kazooie, but it means players will have to read speech bubbles in order to follow the dialogue instead of hearing world-class voice-over artists such as Nolan North, Troy Baker, Brian Bloom, Gideon Emery, Laura Bailey and Tara Strong bringing further life to each character. Despite some of the dialogue being humorous with clever references; I feel it would have benefited from channelling the approach of classic 3D platformers such as Gex 3D, Gex 3 and the Spyro the Dragon trilogy by having a full voice-over cast voicing all dialogue as some players may potentially find the repetition irritating. However, version 1.03 has introduced the options to completely mute or shorten the dialogue which removes the problem of potential irritation from repetitive mumbling. Sound effects include running, jumping, rolling, swimming, Yooka performing a spin attack, Yooka eating butterflies, Yooka and Laylee being playful and sounds to provide hints that collectibles are within a close vicinity as well as ambience from the surrounding environments such as machinery and flame lit torches; accompanied by adventurous music during the main adventure with retro themed music throughout Rextro’s Arcade mini-games. Surprisingly, there is no productivity from the DualShock 4 speaker which could have showcased sound effects for nearby collectibles, collecting collectibles and the character’s mumblings for player’s who prefer that type of speech or perhaps even the forthcoming developer commentary.
The trophy list includes 36 trophies with 16 bronze trophies, 16 silver trophies, 3 gold trophies and 1 platinum trophy. Easier trophies include the Turning A Pagie bronze trophy for collecting your first pagie; the When I’m 64 bronze trophy for successfully completing one of Rextro’s arcade games and the What’s A Leaderboard bronze trophy for getting the high score in one of Rextro’s Arcade Games which are both obtainable in the Glaciators retro game; and The Adventure Begins bronze trophy for unlocking the first grand tome world. Harder trophies include the From Someone Else’s Book gold trophy for collecting all 145 pagies; the Had One’s Quill gold trophy for collecting all 1,010 Quills; and the Out of Business gold trophy for defeating the end game boss. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 20 to 30 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are no difficulty levels; although the difficulty curve is initially moderate it certainly follows the tradition of retro platformers by implementing difficulty spikes during later worlds in comparison to the first two worlds, therefore players should be prepared for some challenging gameplay in particular areas.
The highlight of the multiplayer is Rextro’s Arcade which supports same screen local competitive multiplayer for 2 to 4 players throughout all 8 entertaining mini-games that are easily capable of fulfilling an entire multiplayer gaming session between friends. However, the same screen local co-operative multiplayer for the main adventure is extremely disappointing as it does not allow the second player to be part of the platforming action as Laylee; instead controlling a reticle in the guise of a small swarm of bees. For players who were anticipating split-screen independence for both players to have total freedom in exploration of open-world environments will find local co-operative multiplayer is beyond non-existent and is in no way engaging for the second player.
Yooka-Laylee’s replayability stems from collectibles as forms of in-game currency, learning unlockable abilities, the ability to expand worlds by gathering pagies provides reason for further exploration and local competitive multiplayer in Rextro’s Arcade featuring 8 fun mini-games for 2 to 4 players. Yooka-Laylee will be supported post-launch with a 64 bit graphics mode, developer commentary, an orchestral soundtrack and downloadable content which will keep the game feeling fresh for some time to come.
- Title: Yooka-Laylee
- Developer: Playtonic Games
- Publisher: Team 17
- System: PS4
- Format: Blu-Ray Disc/PSN Download
- Cross-Buy: No
- Cross-Play: No
- Players: 1-4 (Local Competitive Multiplayer in Rextro’s Arcade)
- Hard Drive Space Required: 5.94GB (Version 1.03)