What do you get when a bat and a chameleon team up for a colourful adventure? One heck of a good time. So, let's head over to Shipwreck Creek and get ready for a modern take on classic 3D platformers.
The late '90s and early '00s were full of fantastic buddy platformers such as Banjo-Kazooie, Jak and Daxter, and Ratchet & Clank. Yooka-Laylee plays very much like it's from this era, drawing heavily from Banjo-Kazooie specifically and it was even developed by much of the same team. You control a chameleon named Yooka and his goofy friend bat Laylee who usually rests her wings perched on his head. As you would guess, the two of them have an array of abilities that allows them to traverse stages and take on different missions. Along the way, there are more collectibles than you can shake a joystick at so perfectionists will spend quite a long time combing over each area carefully to uncover more goodies. The stages are impressively large, too, so being able to master them is a feat fit for platforming fanatics. Overall, this is bona fide 3D platforming that's genuinely enjoyable from start to finish.
Yooka-Laylee's open-world setup allows you to enjoy the journey at your own pace. Being able to unlock further areas is far from taxing which lets gamers of all skill levels wander around wherever and whenever they wish. This makes for quite a pressure-free experience. Whereas most other games keep pushing you along a path in order to advance the plot, Yooka-Laylee merely involves collecting book pages (known as Pagies) in order to prevent the dastardly Capital B and his henchman Dr. Quack from ridding the world of its valuable literature. I don't know what that bee and duck have against books but good thing Yooka and Laylee appreciate a good read.
The amount of variety featured in Yooka-Laylee is its best feature. Aside from exploring enormously complex stages and picking up found collectibles, you'll also come across many mini-games and areas that feature unique layouts. If you ever played an isometric adventure game (such as Lumo) then entering the ice castle will surely delight. You'll learn additional abilities from Trowzer (a snake wearing pants) that expand the basic gameplay with fresh concepts such as being able to take on physical traits of objects. Along the same lines, you can earn tonics that provide boosts from a talking vending machine. From getting transformed by a squid named Dr. Puzz to riding around in a mine cart named Kartos (the god of ore) to playing Rextro's vast collection of arcade games, there's so much to see and do. It all adds up to one varied and crazy adventure that remains exciting throughout.
As I've already touched upon, Yooka-Laylee's world is full of wacky characters. Each one is bursting with personality and many humorous lines. The pun-filled sense of humour may not be for everyone but it certainly put a smile on my face. I especially enjoyed running into Shovel Knight. The collectibles even have personality such as the adorable quills and the tricky ghost writers who each have distinct characteristics and methods of capturing. Each of the campaign's five stages is full of characters and collectibles that make exploring every nook and cranny a treat. It's fantastic to be able to play a 3D platformer for hours and not get bored once.
Although you may not get bored, Yooka-Laylee can be annoying from time to time. Considering you learn many different abilities, you'd expect there to be a reference screen that you can utilize whenever you forget how to perform particular moves. However, there are no instructions or a controller layout screen so remembering how to control Yooka and Laylee can be quite frustrating. On top of this, there is no map. Sometimes, being able to progress involves visiting a specific room in the hub and performing a sequence of events that's not intuitive at all. Seeing as you have to traverse long distances in order to reach the various stages, these two factors make it extremely easy to get lost. Finally, I found that the shadows are a bit too dark which makes being able to see your surroundings a constant chore. I found myself having to squint while navigating through caves and the like while enemies that I was unaware of attacked me.
Minor annoyances aside, Yooka-Laylee is a solid 3D buddy platformer that's full of variety, humour, and a fantastic cast of characters all wrapped in a laidback adventure. Who knew a chameleon and a bat could have so much fun together?
- + Traditional 3D platforming within a relaxing and open-ended adventure
- + Great humour and cast of characters
- + Loads of variety and unlockables
- - Could use a reference screen because memorizing the controls can be tricky
- - It's very easy to get lost
- - Shadowy areas make it too hard to see