The spiritual successor to the ever popular Banjo-Kazooie franchise first hit the news in 2015, when it’s Kickster goal of £175,000 was successfully achieved in just 38 minutes. The campaign eventually managed to pull in over £1,000,000 of donations in under 24 hours, making it the fastest earning video game in Kickstarter history. This was a monumental medal to have earned but more, a shining example of the loyalty of a fan base.
Playtonic Games, some of whom were part of Rare during the Nintendo 64 era and reign of Banjo and Kazooie, have worked tirelessly over the past couple of years to bring us a familiar and missed world of cooky characters, colourful landscapes and bizarre, wacky storylines. This reminiscent journey to play spaces full of life, humour and good vibes appealed not just to the young gamers of today, but those too who remembered the adventures of the late 90s and early 2000s.
Yooka, a chameleon and his compadre, Laylee, a bat, take off from their home in Shipwreck Creek after they gain knowledge of a plan being undertaken by the local “bad guys”. The pair set off around the lands collecting “Pagies” before the baddies, Capital B and Dr Quack can get their hands on them. Whilst it won’t go down in history as having one of the most intriguing and engaging storylines, Yooka-Laylee gives a motive and sets the stage fairly early on, giving reason behind the international hike and mass collection of self-aware book pages.
Visually, Yooka-Laylee is stunning. It’s colouring bursts from the screen and every world you enter is an absolute treat to the eyes. The lush green grass, against the calming blues of the sky or crystal clear water, makes this look more like a high-budget animated film or cartoon. Each of the worlds has its own unique theme which is clearly presented in the detailed and well-planned design.
Alongside the beautiful graphics and visual themes, the music is just as fantastic. The playful trills and melodies assist the visuals in creating this nostalgic yet modernised feeling. Together the pair creates a goulash of traditional themes found in the modern adventure title but with the retro theme.
Sadly not all sounds are as great as the music, as the spoken dialogue can at times grate. Sticking true to the Banjo-Kazooie-ness of the game, the dialogue is made up of sound bites mashed together to sound as though the character is talking. Fans of the original games would know exactly how this sounds, but new players to the franchise may find it a little jarring or off-putting.
Whilst most of the game’s mechanics are fairly well developed and glitches are few and far between if at all present, the camera angles can at times cause an issue. The auto-repositioning as you walk into an area or on a run up to a long jump can cause some pretty bad results. Pitfalls, fire traps and other such nasties litter the play spaces and an auto-positioning camera can really throw you off.
Overall, Yooka-Laylee has a few shortcomings but is otherwise a fantastic and respectful hat tip to a loved and acknowledged franchise. Whilst it won’t quite go down in history as a masterpiece, Yooka-Laylee is a beautiful, well-crafted and traditional collect-athon that deserves a space in everyone’s library.