Playtonic's highly underrated 3D platformer now has a 2D sequel so let's get batty and see if it offers as much lighthearted fun.
When I found out that Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair was a 2D platformer instead of a 3D one, I didn't quite know what to think. On one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the original; much more so than most people. On the other, I love 2D platformers so I was excited to see how it holds its own in the genre. Thankfully, this is a top-notch 2D platformer that'll satisfy any fan of the genre. In fact, I found it very difficult to put down so I could write this review.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair tells the tale of the titular chameleon and bat as they face Capital B whose dastardly goal is to brainwash hordes of bees with his Hivemind (get it?) device and take over the land. However, Queen Phoebee helps the duo out by allowing them to recruit members of her Royal Beettalion to assist them in their battle with Capital B in his Impossible Lair.
The campaign goes hand-in-hand with the story as you basically complete stages in order to rescue a bee which marks the end of each level. At any time you wish, you can challenge the Impossible Lair and each bee grants you 1 shield so essentially, if you rescue all 48 then you can get hit 48 times within the brutally challenging final stage. Therefore, the campaign is basically set up so you can play it as much as you wish then once you're confident, you can attempt to complete the game. If you fail, it's no big deal as you can always try again with your bees remaining intact. This also means that perfectionists can go nuts trying to unlock every single bee as well as the huge array of other collectibles. I must say; I've never played a game with such an ingenious and unconventional structure. My hat is off!
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair's gameplay is divided into 2D stages and a 3D overworld. First of all, the overworld is exploration-based as you try and uncover as much ground as you can while discovering oodles of secrets. Next, the bulk of the campaign is spent in the 2D stages and the gameplay there is spot-on for tight and challenging platforming fun. You'll find yourself rolling, attacking, jumping, climbing, and ground-stomping your way through a vast variety of scenarios in each level and the stages themselves are brilliantly designed to provide consistent enjoyment that almost never feels flat. On top of all this, you can alter many of the stages from the overworld by freezing them, pouring honey on them, or flooding them which changes up the levels in impressively clever ways.
As I've touched upon, completionists will find a ton of replay value in Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. For example, I've played it for over 8 hours so far and I still haven't uncovered half of the collectibles. Aside from bees, you'll unlock 62 tonics that you can equip to provide boosts or fun visual effects such as adding more checkpoints, making Yooka roll faster, applying a Game Boy colour scheme, or making the game shrink to fit a 4:3 aspect ratio. It may sound weird but collecting these quirky effects is great fun. You'll also acquire T.W.I.T. coins that you can give to Trowzer to lower overworld paywalls; oh, the industry commentary is strong in this one!
Although I clearly absolutely loved my time with Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, it does have its downsides. First, I found that there are way too many instant death traps, especially in the later stages. Usually, when you get hit, Laylee simply flies away and you have to grab her again to regain your only health point, sort to speak. However, if you get snagged in certain traps or fall into pits, you will perish instantly. Why can't I just jump back to the last platform I was on and have Laylee fly around? It can get super-frustrating.
Speaking of frustrating, I found the overworld to be incredibly satisfying to explore but sometimes, being able to progress was far too tricky. Once, I navigated through all sorts of puzzles and secret paths only to uncover a single tonic. After frantically running around the entire map, I found out that I needed to pull a tree trunk that had a barely visible handle on it to unveil the next stage. Sure, I felt silly not noticing it earlier but should you really require such a keen eye to simply move on in the campaign?
As a huge fan of the original game, I'm amazed by how much more fun Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is. It's a wonderful 2D platformer that provides plenty of challenge and completionists will spend a long time trying to unlock everything.
- + Incredible and challenging 2D platforming gameplay with a cool 3D overworld
- + Loads of replay value and unlockables
- + Rewarding campaign structure
- - Instant death traps are super-annoying
- - Uncovering the overworld can be tricky