Fans have been waiting for Yooka-Laylee a long time, and I don’t just mean since its 2015 Kickstarter. The Spaceworld 2000 Banjo-Threeie tech demo was a promise, one that was derailed by Microsoft’s purchase of Nintendo, and largely ignored by Nuts and Bolts. Yooka-Laylee is a fulfilled promise: Bear and bird are back, without infringing on anybody’s copyright of course.
Playtonic pitched Yooka-Laylee as a nostalgic platform game of old, with modern flourishes, and the game delivers. Yooka-Laylee is steeped in its creators’ history – Hivory Towers (the enemy hub-world) echoes Grunty’s Lair, the original music from Grant Kirkhope (Banjo-Kazooie) and David Wise (Donkey Kong Country) sounds like your childhood, and there is literally a character named Rextro Sixtyfourus who encourages you to play games from a bygone era.
The controls are intuitive and the gameplay varied. In the two hours I spent with the early build, I explored the hub and first two worlds, exchanging collectable Quills for moves from a snake called Trowzer (I know) and climbing, racing, shooting and puzzle-solving my way to Pagies that can be used to unlock new worlds, and expand old ones. The game’s first two worlds are distinct and demand different skills from players.
Tribalstack Tropics is the world we’ve seen the most of, but there are still plenty of surprises waiting for players, including a sneaky carved-rock cameo from a lesser-known Rare character. It feels big, but never empty (a concern I had coming off the back of a recent playthrough of Donkey Kong 64 and that Capital Cashino trailer).
Glitterglaze Glacier, seen in the video above, has ice-world music. What more needs to be said? Like Banjo and Kazooie before them, Yooka and Laylee can transform into other creatures in exchange for hard-to-find tokens. I’m hoping that when I return to the game, I do a better job of controlling their snowplough transformation. It gave me Nuts and Bolts flashbacks.
After two hours, I wanted two more. I wanted to explore more, meet new NPCs and solve their ludicrous problems. Yooka-Laylee is the exactly the game I wanted it to be. With all the infectious enthusiasm of Rextro Sixtyfourus, Playtonic has presented us with a game from a bygone era.
And I can’t wait to see what they serve up next. (*cough* Yooka-Laylee Racing *cough*)