Yooka-Laylee – It’s not terrible!

Quick note, I backed this on Kickstarter.  Ok, that’s out of the way.  On with the proper words!

Colourful characters!  Pretty animations!  Jokes clearly aimed at grown-ups (such as a snake called Trowzer.  Trouser Snake. PENIS JOKE!)  No, it’s not the latest movie from Pixar, it’s Yooka-Laylee, the well publicised collect-a-thon revival from (most of) the people who made the genre what it is (was?), funded through Kickstarter.  The team is mostly comprised of people from Rare, those clever sods behind Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong Country and Conker’s Bad Fur Day.  Those games have something in common, and it’s not just that they’re very successful collect-a-thons.  They’re also from around 20 years ago…

Yooka Laylee
The first world you enter is bright and vibrant. Each environment is completely different to the last.
I’ll get this out of the way: Yooka-Laylee is far from perfect.  But it is fun in spite of the flaws it contains.  Most of those flaws are hangovers from the games that it is so clearly trying to imitate.  It’s great to play a game with the same gameplay style and sense of humour as those classics, but it’s not so great to be struggling with some of the same issues that those games suffered with.  It’s nostalgia without taking into account how gaming has evolved since the glory days of the genre.

Yooka Laylee
The characters look great, but the incredibly annoying sounds instead of voices means there is no lip syncing. It’s a shame as I think the animation here could have been excellent.
Anyway, we play as Yooka and Laylee, a heroic duo like so many others before them.  Their peaceful days beside their shipwreck they call home is spoiled when the local business start sucking up all the books in the area, including their special golden book they found in the shipwreck.  Of course, this book is the true target of the corporations scheme, as the One Book’s pages allow the owner to rewrite the universe!  During its theft however, the pages escape and are scattered throughout the business’ tower.  Cue our heroes leaping into action to find the pages and save the day from the dastardly Capital B!

Yooka Laylee
I don’t know why, but this boss’ utter hatred of double-glazing salesmen really gave me a good chuckle.
The story is all fluff really, although the characters in it are mostly fun to read the dialogue of.  The “voice acting” though is as it was in Banjo-Kazooie et al. with silly noises rather than actual words.  It made sense 20 years ago, but these days it made me want to skip all the dialogue (you can’t) just to avoid horrible sounds.  The characters are all unique in design and often poke fun at one thing or another.  Kartos the God of Ore (a mine kart), Shovel Knight (of Shovel Knight fame) and Trev the Tenteyecle (amongst others) all stand out as being quite different to each other and offer unique challenges in each world.

Yooka Laylee Glitterglaze Glacier
Obligatory ice level!
The worlds are contained in books hidden in the tower’s hub area (which is horrible to navigate due to poor signposting) and each one is quite different to the last.  From the bright forests of Tribalstack Tropics to the grimy swamp of Moodymaze Marsh, everything looks very distinct and fits within its environment.  The Marsh contains broken old shopping trolleys as characters whilst the casino has anthropomorphic slot machines.  These characters will give you tasks to earn more pages that will allow you to access and expand further worlds.  Ranging from simply completing a race against the clock to complex platforming puzzles and the occasional boss, there are plenty of different challenges to undertake, and its easy enough to find one to do in any given level.  Some are a bit irritating though, such as navigating slides using you roll skill (tough and a bit annoying) or using physics to guide a ball into a hole (unbelievably frustrating).  If you’re going for 100% completion, which is something a lot of people like to in collect-a-thons, be prepared to take the rough with the smooth.

Yooka Laylee Shovel Knight
Totally want this guy’s autograph.
Special mention must be made to the absolute ARSE of a final boss.  I’ve already mentioned that relying on old fashioned gaming tropes is pretty hit and miss here, but this was certainly a miss.  A multi-stage boss battle that lasts nearly 15 minutes, with easy early stages and very difficult final phases and NO CHECKPOINTS!  I cannot stress how annoying this was.  Unless you’re Dark Souls, put checkpoints in your multi-phase boss fights developers.  Don’t make me waste another 10 minutes redoing the early parts to get to where I screwed up last attempt.  Don’t waste my time!

Yooka Laylee
I’ll be honest, if I’d spent long in this area I’d probably have developed a headache.
The thing is, in spite of the silly design decisions, the often cheap humour, the final boss debacle and all the other nostalgia driven features that have been ironed out through years of progress in the industry, I still found myself having fun.  Perhaps it was a return to that childlike enjoyment of a brightly coloured environment, or each mini open world having mini challenges in them to find all the items.  Maybe I’m a closet kleptomaniac.  whatever it is, for me this game was fun in spite of the missteps.  I’d read the negative early reviews and expected utter toss, but I was pleasantly surprised to find an enjoyable experience.

Yooka Laylee
This was a rather cute find: Laylee’s (the bat) TV and arm chair on the ceiling.
Yooka-Laylee was developed by Playtonic Games and published by Team 17.  I played the game on Xbox One and would recommend it if you’re feeling nostalgic and don’t mind some of those old irritations still being present.  It’s far from perfect, but it’s nice to have an updated Banjo-Kazooie to play through, dodgy camera and all.


39 thoughts on “Yooka-Laylee – It’s not terrible!

  1. Despite the tepid response to this game, I’m still oddly drawn to it. Maybe it’s because these types of games are so rare these days. Your review may have just pushed me over the edge on the purchase.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Okay so I’m basically the only person who owned the N64 that hasn’t played the Banjo games. How large a disadvantage is that to me? I would love to see more of this sort of game, but everything I’ve heard has been down the line of ‘I guess if you liked Banjo….maybe you’d accept this game for its many shortcomings?’

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Even if you haven’t played those games you’d probably still enjoy it. It has a lot in common with Mario 64 too, and the same downsides. I’m not sure if there’s a demo, but take a look at a Let’s Play as it’ll give you a stronger idea of the gameplay and flaws it has.


  3. It’s the dodgy camera that would get me. I might see if I can find a let’s play of this game. For some reason I can watch games with wonky camera movement, but playing them gives me a headache. Hm, I can see why they’d want to stick with the nostalgia of the noises instead of voice acting, but I agree. The reason Banjo-Kazooie had that was because technology wasn’t available to have voice acting so it was just an acceptable part of the situation. But now that they can, it just seems like they’re trying to force the nostalgia too hard at that point. I do like the aesthetic though. You can tell they did a lot to pay homage to the source.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The voices are reeeeally annoying with this one. Too loud and irritating sounds rather than being cute.
      The camera is alright most of the time but it does tend to get stuck on the scenery from time to time and it doesn’t let you look up as well as I’d like. If a wonky camera will annoy you then you’d be right to stay away.
      Music’s lovely at least!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I also funded the Kickstarter and I’ll get around to playing this, eventually. This last boss sounds like a nightmare… If nothing else, my name is in the credits of a video game, and that’s something I can cross of my bucket list 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I watched through the credits to find myself (which I’m sure everyone does!) so that was nice. There were a LOT of backers though.
      The last boss just doesn’t work very well and it really did give me a negative final impression. The controls aren’t sharp enough for the second and final phase, and it was the final phase that killed me repeatedly. Hours it took me!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am glad to hear a take on the game that leans more towards the positive. Despite all negative words I have read about it, I am still looking forward to checking this one out and, hopefully, having fun.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. There was bound to be lots of lackluster reviews on a game playing on hype and nostalgia, but I’m still really looking forward to it and was happy to see your mostly positive review amongst a sea of mediocre ones.

    It looks like a good, silly fun time. Sounds perfect to me! Too much in-depth analysis goes on sometimes when at the end of the day, it’s all about having some fun.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There have been a few valid points raised by a few outlets, the most interesting one being when a AAA game is released with flaws, they’re often overlooked (Fallout 4 being one mentioned regularly) whereas a lower tier Kickstarter release is butchered for the its flaws.
      I fear a lot of people will ignore this due to it receiving lower than expected scores and write ups. It has its issues, but it got a lot going for it. Just know that it’s a prettier version of those classic games, warts and all.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. >Just know that it’s a prettier version of those classic games, warts and all.

        Just what I’m looking for! 🙂

        Side note, I hope Playtonic doesn’t take this too badly and give up. I think there is huge potential for improvement on a followup game, perhaps rebranding as something else and not trying the same formula gain. They clearly made bank on this game and probably learned a lot from the experience. I don’t know how well received a Yookah-Laylee 2 would be in light of the lackluster reviews but something along the lines of a classic Rareware game with modern additions would work. They have the talent, they just need to keep using it.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Agreed, going for something in a similar vein but different would be the way forward. I’m not sure how much profit they’ll make. If most people are playing via a Kickstarter copy then the cost was much lower. I’m hoping enough people pick up a version from somewhere (this would be so well suited to Switch) so that it’s at least somewhat successful to allow future games from the team to be released.


      3. I’ve been banking on LimitedRun putting out a physical copy of it on Switch, but I’m starting to think that will never happen. However I do know that GOG has a DRM-free copy that I might grab on a sale, and then double-dip if it ever comes out physically on Switch.

        I like to do that whenever I try to support a company, and I absolutely think their heart is in the right place and they have a passion for what they do. It’s important to me to support future development, like you said! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  7. cool review, as said already despite a lot of the complaints, I still really want to play this. I had very fond memories of Banjo Kazooie and Conkers Bad Fur Day.

    One of my favourite silly aspects of the original Banjo Kazooie was the silly voice acting. All the voices although were noises were hilarious! I remember my dad loved watching me play because he would crack up at how silly Banjo sounded. I remember that one fat pirate who talked with burps, too funny.

    I have to ask since you mention your dislike of the voice acting quite a bit. Do you not like it because with today technology, doing proper voice acting should have been mandatory? Or is the particular noises they used this time around just plain out annoying? Basically if you were to compare the qualtiy and character of each of the noises between the original Banjoe Kazooiie and Yooka Laylee, would you say Yooka Laylee does it justice despite the technology available?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not that voice acting should be compulsory, in fact in some games NOT having voice acting is the smart choice (The Sexy Brutale is a great example). The types of sounds they use really irritated me during the game. Yooka and Laylee weren’t so bad, but Trowzer and Capital B had very annoying sounds. My wife kept on pointing out how much she hated the sounds whilst I was playing.
      Having said that, if you’re looking for an experience like you used to have with those classics, this is pretty much it. Collectibles are found partially through exploration, partially through challenges, the bosses are fun (bar the final one) and the worlds varied and interesting to explore. It’s absolutely worth a look.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Awesome review! Great to hear what you think! Definitely aimed at people like me who loved the original Rare games regardless of any problems. I’m still excited about Yooka-Laylee and plan to get it as soon as it comes out on Switch!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Well it’s about time I left a comment here.

    I actually really, REALLY like Yooka-Laylee. It has some glaring flaws (the camera being the most frequent, but those damn Rextro mini-games being the worst), but I think much of the flak it has received is largely unfair (but then again, professional critics conveniently fail to mention how sluggish Bethesda games tend to be, so there’s obviously something not right there). In fact, I’d say it’s currently a distant second as my favorite game of 2017 (BotW is obviously my favorite by a longshot). I do need to get to Nier and Persona 5 though…

    Funny thing, I only died on the final boss once, but I definitely understand where you’re coming from about the second and third phases. I managed to avoid getting hit in the second phase, but hitting the boss was another story. And that flying part of the third phase… dang!

    Still, I’m really looking forward to what Playtonic does next. I kind of hope they just do a straight-up sequel first, since they can iron out the kinks and add more to it, but I wouldn’t mind if they did something slightly different, either (am I the only one who thought there is some BattleToads-esque potential from the Blamphibians?). Hopefully this also means we’ll see other such collect-a-thons from other developers, though that’s tough to say given how (often unfairly) mixed the reception to Yooka-Laylee has been.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funnily enough, when you mentioned the camera in your review and how it’s not quite as bad as Sonic Adventure, but I did get a little feel of that from world 4. That might have been due to it being similar to a world from Sonic Adventure though.
      Now, a Battletoads-esque game is something I would like (a reboot if they can get the license) a lot. Bring me back those 2.5D brawlers!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Overall the game looks funny, but they went too far with the price. Maybe it’s one more try to earn money from the nostalgia of Nintendo 64 and Banjo Kazooie players. Nice review there, by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think £35 for getting it digitally might be a bit much for some (I don’t know how much it’s going for in stores). I was fortunate as I kickstarted it for £15 which is a much more comfortable cost! Thank you for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Definitely agree with the final boss being obnoxious. I’m glad you enjoyed Yooka-Laylee as well, I 100%ed it and I gotta say, despite it’s flaws I think it’s a very fun game. Oddly enough I hated the repeating voices the first time I played Banjo, but now I love how stupid they are so seeing them come back was funny to me. The camera bugged me rarely but it was enough to note.

    Liked by 1 person

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