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Yooka-Laylee is living proof that our fondest memories should remain in the past. Back in 2015, developer Playtonic created a Kickstarter promising a new version of classic Rare-developed titles from the Nintendo 64 era. The title set to recapture our memories of games like Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64. The game’s Kickstarter exploded reaching their intended goal in no time flat. Now that game, Yooka-Laylee is finally here and ready to bring our nostalgic memories to life. But after spending some time with Yooka-Laylee, it seems that the nostalgic formula remains unchanged. Yooka-Laylee remains too true to that original formula, holding the game back from it’s true potential.
The premise of Yooka-Laylee is exploration and collecting. The game begins as the titular duo lose their magical book and must venture to find its missing pages (or Pagies) and restore it to its original form. These Pagies are scattered across five different worlds leaving it up to the duo to gather them all back up again.
These five worlds each have their own unique theme. From a standard ice world to an absurd space pirate world, seeing each new location is exciting. Not only are these worlds diverse, they also offer numerous different activities and locations to explore. Each activity is designed to reward the player with Pagies. Once the player has collected their share of items, more activities can be accessed by expanding each world using some of your Pagies. These expanded worlds offer more activities, which in turn, results in more Pagies.
Players can explore each of these worlds in any way they’d like. Platforming can often be a hit and miss. Too often did I find myself fighting the camera trying to properly maneuver throughout the world.
Unlike older platformers, players are only limited to the moves they have. The openness is welcome, but I felt each world was in desperate need of a map. When I originally explored each world, I thought they were pretty massive to begin with. After I expanded it, it only became more confusing. Trying to backtrack and locate new locations while remembering what I’ve already done became more of a hassle then it was worth.
Each world also contains a unique boss battle. These battles aren’t mandatory, which works in the games favor since combat is often a chore. The worst of it is the game’s first-person shooting. While locked in first-person, players can’t strafe or move at all. A minor compliant, but annoying when you catch yourself in the middle of a skirmish. Its 2017, there’s no reason to be planted in place with no movement controls.
Not only is each location house numerous Pagies, there are tons of other collectibles as well. Quills, the form of currency, are scattered everywhere and are easy to snatch up. You’ll also find Mollycool, which can be used to transform Yooka and Laylee into hybrid creatures. Play tokens can found to unlock a minigame within the world. Lastly, five hidden ghosts roam each world that offer a Pagie when all are located.
These activities aren’t without their flaws though. The arcade minigames sound good on paper, but aren’t enjoyable and don’t control well. Same goes for the minecart minigame. The minecart controls are janky and feels unplayable. Don’t even get me started on the golf game! I like the thought of these different activities being in the game and offering players new things, but no one can honestly play these without screaming in frustration.
The major collectible, Quills, are used to purchase new abilities. I like expanding my arsenal of moves, especially since each move can open new areas in previous worlds. That realization is exciting, reminding me of classic Metroid games. Although, I like unlocking new abilities, the ability pool dries up too soon. Players can collect all the powers before you reach the 1,010 Quill cap, making this collectible pretty useless pretty soon.
Now all this sounds like a classic platformer? That’s because it is. Playtonic truly did what they said they would by bringing us a game that says as true to these games of old. But Yooka-Laylee is a double edged sword. While it is exactly an old platformer in the modern age, that’s also it’s major flaw. All the issues that these old Rare platformers had remain in this game as well.
When the game starts, you feel like nostalgic, everything feels right. But then you slowly get further into the experience and begin the see Yooka-Laylee’s true flaws. Sometimes, the game looks great, other times it look grotesque. Sometimes the controls are precious, other times absolutely sluggish. When you’re playing the game, you can often see its less technically sound than the games that came before.
Yooka-Laylee ends up feeling like a fan tribute than a spirit successor. It looks the part of an updated platformer, but some mechanics should’ve stayed in the era it came from. Fun dialogue and shiny characters can’t save Yooka-Laylee from the dated framework it’s built on.