Going Back To The 90’s!
By: Nicholas Catto – When you think back on the era of the Nintendo 64, the company that stands out the most is Rare. They churned out some of the best games the console had to offer. Their most prominent franchise was a little series titled Banjo-Kazooie. It was a cult classic 3-D platformer, that rivaled Super Mario 64 for the crown. Since then, Rare was bought out by Microsoft and has become a shell of themselves. Gamers nostalgia and want to connect to the past has no limits, so a little website called “Kickstarter” became a thing. Kickstarter is a website in which you can crowd fund a person or teams venture. Old developers used this to tap into the nostalgia power and create “spiritual successors” to beloved games. Mostly, we’ve been burned by this (Mighty No. 9), but when the old Rare team that created Banjo announced Yooka-Laylee, fans jumped on board immediately. I’m pleased to say that Yooka-Laylee is a spiritual successor that lives up to the hype! Let’s break it down.
A Sandbox That Never Gets Dull
The worlds that you explore in Yooka-Laylee are some of the best that any 3-D platformer has to offer. Each book you enter has its own unique flavor, sense of style and set of obstacles to overcome. These worlds are not only pleasing to the eye but are chalk full of things to accomplish. In this game, your main focus is to hunt down Pagies and Quills. Quills will be scattered throughout the worlds, and Pagies are found by completing various challenges. You can relate these to Stars and Coins in Mario. Quills allow you to purchase new abilities for Yooka and Laylee, while Pagies allow you progress the game and move on to upcoming worlds.
One of my favorite features of Yooka-Laylee is the “explore or expand” option. After you collect enough Pagies, you can spend them to go and unlock a new world to explore or expand the current world you’re visiting. Expanding your current world adds new areas and sets of challenges, allowing you to grab more Quills and Pagies. Explore or expand keeps the gameplay fresh because most of the time, you’ll end up mixing and matching the order you use. If you really are in love with the world, expand it and keep enjoying it. If you want a new experience, go open a new world and come back to the previous one at a later time.
Yooka-Laylee is one of the funniest games I’ve played. This adds to the overall appeal of each world. I constantly found myself laughing at the dialogue between Yooka, Laylee and the other characters. The jokes are corny but super smart and “punny”. While reading a few dialogue chains, I was thinking that the brilliant people at Playtonic Games must have been rolling over from laughter while writing out the lines. Yooka-Laylee is a sandbox that keeps on giving!
Old School 3-D Platforming
Yooka-Laylee is a love letter to 90’s 3-D platformers. Controlling Yooka and Laylee is some of the most fluid fun I’ve had in a long time. The steady upgrade system allows you to master each new ability at just the right pace. If all the abilities were thrown your way right at the start, it would be a confusing game, but Playtonic Games makes sure you have plenty of field time with each move. Transitioning between platforming and combat feels slick. Once you become comfortable with the game, you’ll be taking out a group of enemies in transition between floating platforms with ease. Yooka-Laylee controls just like an upgraded Banjo title. Slight frame-rate issues detract from the experience but never really gets in the way. Exploring the different worlds this game offers never gets old, and the fluid play is one of the main reasons why!
Playtonic Games delved deep into the nostalgia tank for Yooka-Laylee. This can be viewed as either a good or bad thing. In my opinion, it’s a good thing. This game is basically a brand new Banjo game in every facet that it can be. The art and style of this game breaths Banjo, the dialogue has the same corny but funny jokes as you remember and the gameplay loop feels right at home. Playtonic Games even used a familiar font style to Banjo! Some players will enter this game and argue that it’s stuck in the past and that Playtonic Games should have added some modern advancements to the blueprint. While those opinions are totally valid, the whole point of this game is to live in the past. The goal of Yooka-Laylee was to create a 90’s 3-D platformer with HD graphics. This is supposed to be an overload of nostalgia, and to me, Playtonic hit the nail right on the head!
Yooka-Laylee is a brilliant game that breaths new but familiar life into a style of game that hasn’t been used much over the last 20 years. The game’s progression is rewarding, the worlds you explore are beautifully crafted with things to accomplish and the gameplay is as fluid as a 3-D platformer can be. What sets Yooka-Laylee apart is its hilarious dialogue and nostalgic overload. Playtonic Games has given the fans exactly what they wanted when they launched the Kickstarter campaign for this game. If you’re a fan of 3-D platformers or Banjo, this is a must play title!