March 5, 2019 at 6:35 AM #1440
Rating: 2.0 – Poor
What a disappointment
I am a big fan of Rare and some of the studio’s earlier work, particularly on the Nintendo 64. As you might imagine, I was thrilled when it was announced that a group of former Rare employees were setting out to start their own game company in the form of Playtonic Games. I was even more thrilled when it was announced that the studio’s first game would be a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie, and I was eagerly awaiting its release. Sadly, Yooka-Laylee has failed to live up to the hype, and I can’t recall many times that I’ve been this disappointed with a video game experience.
Before I get into the bad stuff, let me say what I like about Yooka-Laylee. I think the main thing I like about it is that the main characters Yooka and Laylee are actually quite fun to control. They start out with almost no moves, but as players progress through the game, the duo obtain a number of neat tricks that make it an absolute joy to play as them across the games various worlds. Since control is such an important part of any platformer, it’s a real win for Playtonic that they nailed the controls in this game and made the characters themselves fun to play as. However, the problem is that these characters really don’t have many interesting things to do, so their cool suite of abilities just goes to waste.
The most apparent problem in Yooka-Laylee is that the worlds are just way too big, without many big areas of interest. Players will spend most of their time in the game wandering around aimlessly as they look for Pagies (this game’s equivalent of Banjo-Kazooie’s Jiggies or Super Mario 64’s Power Stars), and that does not necessarily add up to a good time. It doesn’t help that when players finally find a puzzle or other objective to complete, most of the time they are just not fun to play. And again, that’s if players can even find anything of interest.
Yooka-Laylee suffers from a lack of direction, with it rarely giving players much guidance on where to go. On the flip side of that, the game gives too much guidance when players actually do find an objective. Often the camera will slowly pan through an entire platforming challenge, so there is no surprise for the player as they complete basic 3D platforming challenges. Other games in the genre employ a similar method, but they move the camera fast enough so players don’t become bored with the level or have a chance to memorize exactly where they need to go to beat the level.
So while the controls and the main characters are fun, what they do in the game is not fun, which is a big reason why I have left this game so disappointed. Another reason is that Rextro Sixtyfourus, a blocky dinosaur that is meant to be a throwback to retro games, is a complete dud in Yooka-Laylee. I was looking forward to this character and I was expecting the mini-games he brings to the table to be fun or at least reminiscent of some of the mini-games Rare put in its older titles back in the day. On the contrary, Rextro’s mini-games are dull and boring, offering little in the way of challenge. They can be played in multiplayer as well to make them slightly more amusing, but be warned that players actually have to play through the main game to unlock these mini-games for multiplayer.
Gameplay is mostly a bust in Yooka-Laylee, and I’m sad to report that other areas of the game aren’t very special either. The graphics are hit and miss, with some areas and characters looking very well-done, and others looking unfinished or uninspired. Yooka-Laylee’s art design is disappointing, with the worlds themselves feeling rather lifeless, even though they’re populated with lively and memorable characters.
The audio is another area where Yooka-Laylee falls short. The audio is mostly annoying, with jarring sound effects all over the place. The voice acting just consists of the random grunts and mumbling that Banjo-Kazooie characters spoke back in the day. It’s fine for nostalgia, but the voices in Yooka-Laylee sound like they’re even more repetitive than the voices in the older games. That could just be me not remembering correctly, but regardless the voices in Yooka-Laylee are especially annoying. The dialogue itself can be fun at times, though there’s a lot of wasted time with pointless conversations that go nowhere and serve only to keep players from playing the actual game itself.
Another big issue I have with Yooka-Laylee is its trivia game. To get to new worlds, players have to answer trivia questions, not unlike Banjo-Kazooie. The problem is Yooka-Laylee’s game world is a lot less memorable, and so the trivia questions are just a chore. For those that really aren’t enjoying themselves, they can be frustrating as well, as they keep players from reaching new areas in the hub world. The hub world in general is a disaster, and an absolute nightmare to navigate, by the way.
Yooka-Laylee also suffers because it doesn’t feel like a loving homage to Banjo-Kazooie. It feels less like a spiritual successor and more like a cheap knockoff or ripoff. At the end of the day, players can avoid a lot of the frustrations and headaches from Yooka-Laylee by simply going back and playing the games that inspired it. That being said, I can tell Playtonic is a passionate bunch of developers, and I hope that they can eventually make another game that reminds everyone of the great games they used to make a few console generations ago.
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