STAFF REVIEW of Yooka-Laylee (Xbox One)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017.
by John Elliott

Yooka-Laylee Box art When looking at the latest list of games that I could potentially review I saw the title Yooka-Laylee and was intrigued because of the play on words. I love bad puns and lame dad jokes, so I did some research and found a game trailer to check out, and I was instantly entranced, thinking to myself that this game reminds me so much of Banjo-Kazooie back in the Nintendo 64 days. My Editor informed me that a good chunk of the Playtonic team are former developers of Rare who actually worked on games like Banjo-Kazooie.

With that little tidbit I did some more research and not only found out that some of the developers worked on Banjo-Kazooie, but they have also worked on Viva Pinata. One of the artists even had a hand in creating the modern day Donkey Kong characters that we've come to know and love. This simply means that Playtonic has the experience and motivation to bring a true spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie. With this fact being known there will obviously be some comparisons to Banjo-Kazooie but I will do my best to not bury myself into the nostalgia that much.

When jumping into Yooka-Laylee you are immediately presented with lush, bright and detailed environments that are not only reminiscent of Banjo-Kazooie, but it's almost like they took that world, shook it up in a barrel and threw it on a canvas. They must have had the framework already done, and then they went through and brought it up to modern day standards with new textures, colours and more details than ever before to create a familiar, but whole new world for the characters Yooka and Laylee to explore.

Yes, the two characters that take on the role of the heroes are a duo again, but this time they are represented as a Chameleon and a Bat. They are quite adorable, so much so that I wish I could have the pair as stuffed animals of these two for my young daughter. The other characters in the game are just as vibrant and detailed with nothing overlooked in this cartoon stylized world. The developers at Playtonic have nailed it 100% in creating a stunning and vibrant setting that gamers of all ages can enjoy.

Along with the visuals, another aspect that really stands out is the musical score that has been created for this colourful game. Music can make or break a gaming experience, especially if it doesn't create the right mood, and it can also make games frustrating because it can be quite annoying. That being said, Playtonic has knocked it out of the park and has created an emotional score that is somber and peaceful when exploring the quieter parts of the world, but it ramps up to a frantic pace when in battle, and even more heart pumping when fighting in boss battles. The musical score of Yooka-Laylee is a journey in itself and I am jealous of the Kickstarter backers that will be getting a soundtrack CD to enjoy.

The game starts of with Yooka and Laylee relaxing and enjoying the sun when suddenly Capital B and Dr. Quack unleash a powerful machine that sucks up all the books in the world, taking them to their factory known as Hivory Towers. To prevent the evil duo from having a monopoly on the worlds literature, Yooka and Laylee set out foil the plans of Capital B and Dr. Quack.

One of the books taken is a magical book that has its “Pagies” all fall out, leaving them scattered all over the world. If Yooka and Laylee can collect all these Pagies and reconstruct the book they will be able to stop Capital B and Dr. Quack. How are they to do this you ask? Well, they enter the magical worlds inside these Grand Tomes that are hidden away in the Hivory Towers by using all of their abilities, along with some new ones they learn along the way.

The controls are fairly simple to use with your typical fare (e.g walking, jumping), but you will learn some new skills from a somewhat helpful snake named Trowzer. His help is not free though and he will require payment, via the in-game currency called Quills, for learning new moves that you'll need to progress through the game. Trowzer also teaches you a new move every time you enter a new Grand Tome so he can expand his merchants reach across all these worlds. The tutorials for learning these moves are detailed enough that you pick them up quickly and put them to use right away. For example, Yooka can roll into a ball to climb large inclines, eat berries off of trees to shoot ice and fire, or do a ground pound. Laylee can use her sonar (she is a bat for goodness sake), which comes in handy in stunning enemies and opening new areas.

There are a multitude of other ways to enhance your characters. You can do so using an item called "Play Tonics". You get these from a character named Vendi. These tonics are unlocked by performing objectives in the game which will give the duo some well deserved stat enhancements. Another character in the game, Dr. Puzz, has you collect Mollycools so that he can help transform the duo, giving them even more abilities to solve the wonders of the world.

You also have a health and power meter to monitor. Your health can be restored by eating butterflies that spawn all over, often appearing after you defeat an enemy. Your power meter does restore over time, but you can also eat butterflies to replenish it too so you can get back to using it when adventuring. All of these abilities work well in the platforming world that you set out to explore. They are incorporated into the game stages so that as you explore you'll learn as you go along.

One thing worth noting regarding the overall gameplay is that in some areas that you will get frustrated due to how the camera sometimes flips back and forth to a different angle at key moments. This can happen when fighting simple enemies all the way up to bosses. The bulk of the game is quite flawless when it comes to camera work, but unfortunately when it does fail it seems to be at critical moments that cause some frustration. As a gamer you can adjust for the flaw, so keep that in mind when you come across it as it doesn't break the game, but does cause a few "What the heck!" moments.

Along with the core gameplay there is Rextro's Arcade, which does take place in the campaign. You have to earn credits to play the arcade games found here; however, there is a separate menu where you can gain access to immediately play these arcade games in the single player or multiplayer styles. There are 8 games in total and all are very simple party style games with my favourite being Kartos Karting, which is obviously a racer. Other high points in the arcade are the Gun-tlet Run where you play an on rails shooter to get the highest score. There is no difference in the gameplay of these arcade games if you're playing solo or multiplayer, except for in multiplayer you are duking it out for bragging rights.

Aside from the annoying camera work, Yooka-Laylee is a whole lot of fun that will keep platformer fans busy for hours on end as they explore every nook and cranny throughout the world. This is nostalgia done right. Playtonic Games have used their past experiences and brought them into the hear and now. They have managed to keep the core elements that everyone came to love in Banjo-Kazooie while managing to ramp everything up to the next level. Yooka-Laylee is a game that is a pleasant surprise, an enjoyable experience, and one we highly recommend for gamers of all types.

Overall: 9.0 / 10
Gameplay: 9.0 / 10
Visuals: 9.0 / 10
Sound: 9.0 / 10


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