Review: Yooka-Laylee (PS4)

Review: Yooka-Laylee (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC, Mac, Linux

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Yooka-Laylee
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (2.9 GB)
Release Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: Team17
Developer: Playtonic Games
Original MSRP: $39.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
PEGI: 7
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
As much as eighty percent of Playtonic, the developer behind Yooka-Laylee, is made up of ex-Rare employees.

Rare, a studio with about as much history as is chronologically possible for a video game developer, is partly famous for their brilliant work with the platforming genre.

People of a certain age can thank them for crafting their childhoods with the Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong Country franchises.

Playtonic Studio Head Gavin Price formed a team with a vision to breathe new life into the dying 3D platformer genre.

With humble crowd funded beginnings, the Kickstarter project quickly garnered popularity and it seemed that Price was correct in his assumption that there existed a thriving market for this type of game.

Yooka-Laylee was born and it was backed by a pedigree like no other. Unfortunately, the promise also came with a dooming hype as fans couldn’t help but expect the next modern classic, even if that seemed unlikely. The actual result is a very good game with quirky characters, massive worlds, and an incredible variety of tasks to complete and collectibles to discover.

Much like Banjo and Kazooie, Yooka and Laylee harness complimentary abilities that allow for some entertaining platforming. Upon entering each of the five worlds, the duo is faced with a magical playground to explore.

Whether the setting is a lush jungle, marshy swampland, or frozen fairy tale, the sense of wonder is captured and passed onto the player with the utmost in admirable design.

Completing objectives throughout the adventure will earn you Pagies, the currency used to either unlock a new world or expand an existing one. Just when you think you’ve exhausted all there is to do in an area, it nearly doubles in size upon expansion and new tasks appear.

… cleverly written into existence through witty dialogue and precarious situations …
Perhaps this mechanic was included to make the worlds less overwhelming as you would have already familiarized yourself with much of the map before expanding it.

Another form of currency collected throughout the worlds can be used to buy new abilities from fast-talking salesman, Trowzer the Snake. Doling out new moves in this fashion follows the game’s tendency to reveal everything it has to offer at a controlled pace.

One particular purchased move allows Yooka to take on the properties of certain items that he licks. Licking a pile of cannonballs to assume their weight and density. Now those pesky fans that blew you away in midair, not allowing you to reach a certain platform, are no longer a threat.

You will cross paths with so many zany characters on this journey, many of them cleverly written into existence through witty dialogue and precarious situations. Race a depressed cloud, climb a mountain full of deathtraps, and ride minecarts on impossible tracks to slowly progress toward taking down the evil Capital B.

If that isn’t enough, back out to the simulated arcade that allows you to play co-op mini-games with up to three friends.

… There is great diversity in the terrain traversed …
Visuals:
While the animation is beautiful and the art style remarkable, navigating the camera around to get a better platforming perspective within the environment proved difficult. My view would become obstructed and the game would push back on my right-stick camera controlling efforts a little too often.

Humanizing inanimate objects as NPCs came with a Beauty and the Beast-like quality and made the world all the more whimsical. There is great diversity in the terrain traversed. Each type of environment, influenced by real world locales, finds itself right at home in this universe.

Because of the distinct look, if I were shown a series of random, non-descript screenshots of creatures or foliage, I think I’d be able to identify the ones from Yooka-Laylee.

Audio:
At first, I was quite perturbed by the murmurs, mumbles, and growls that make up the characters’ voices while subtitle dialogue is displayed. I warmed up to it after realizing that it was yet another call back to the Banjo series.

An evolution into proper voice acting, if not done properly, could have very well ruined the script. It does however become annoying when you’re reading quickly, advancing the dialogue, and continually looping a character’s verbal nonsense.

The game is chock full of fourth-wall-breaking jokes that start out funny but eventually overstay their welcome. Yooka-Laylee pokes fun at video game tropes, crowdfunding, and the games industry as a whole. I will say that I couldn’t help but smile at most of them before they became cringe worthy.

… it falters among the minutia of gameplay mechanics …
Online/Multiplayer:
Besides the mini-games, there is very limited multiplayer support in Yooka-Laylee. Throughout the campaign, player two can control a small swarm of bees with the ability to help collect Quills but cannot do much of anything else.

Perhaps this feature was included as a passive experience so that Banjo fans who may now have very young children could enjoy the game with their families.

Conclusion:
While Yooka-Laylee absolutely nails the charm of its spiritual predecessors and reaches the heights of polished platformers, it falters among the minutia of gameplay mechanics.

In this type of game, the camera is much too important to exist with its current problems, thus putting a damper on the otherwise enjoyable platforming and exploring. Beneath the surface is a r/Rare magic that I’m certain only a team such as this one can capture.

If nothing else, this game proves that the 3D platformer is not dead and we’ve yet to exhaust the genre’s potential. I believe that the marginal success, both critically and commercially, attained by this title will certainly carry Playtonic through their next project be it Yooka-Laylee 2 or a new IP.

With devs as capable as these, ironing out the wrinkles and addressing the community’s feedback may very well produce this generation’s next timeless classic.

Score:
7.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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