Colourful 3D platformer a frustrating experience
Like its equally stupidly-named predecessor, Yooka-Laylee is a 3D platformer decked out with colourful and vibrant characters and environments. Playtonic changed the face of platform gaming forever with the seminal Banjo-Kazooie, but could they reach the same dizzying heights with their latest offering?
Like the iconic 3D platformers of the 64-bit era, Yooka-Laylee follows a very familiar and much-appreciated formula. You have your hub world, which acts as a sprawling maze that teaches you the basic mechanics before allowing you to really stretch your legs in a handful of huge, colorful stages. You explore the spaces, gather hundreds of different knick-knacks that can be used to purchase new abilities, discover new worlds, and unlock fun retro-arcade games that can be played locally with up to three other pals in a mode separate from the main campaign.
Yooka and Laylee are our two protagonists and not only is their relationship both cute and functionally similar to that of Banjo and Kazooie, but they serve as one of the high points of the entire game. This sounds like high praise, but it quickly became evident during my time playing this game that my quest for that long-lost feeling of awe and wonder at the sheer brilliance of 3D platforming has still not come to an end.
The whole time, you will be wrestling with the fact that the controls and physics never feel up to par with the old-school Mario, Banjo or Ratchet and Clank games. There were several times where I failed challenge, not because of a fault of my own, but because of slight collision, timing, and camera issues. That's a problem, considering that platforming is the crux of everything you do here, including the exploration. While it's never outright bad, there are moments when it becomes increasingly frustrating when it stacks with a camera that occasionally gets locked in geometry and actively fought back as I tried to get a better view of my surroundings and challenges.
Outside of the woeful controls, the actual content side of Yooka-Laylee is massively lacking. There are only five worlds to explore outside of your main hub, and one of those worlds is so unbelievably tedious that it should be expunged from the record entirely, leaving us with only four worlds of any note.
Yooka-Laylee isn't a terrible game. There are times when the right amounts of fan service and charm combine to give us the game that Yooka-Laylee should have been all along. Unfortunately, rushed level design, a lack of content and some shoddy camera work put the brakes on the whole experience.
Xbox One / PS4