Everything about Yooka-Laylee makes me happy. From Playtonic’s story to the addictive collectibles, Yooka-Laylee is great in almost every aspect.
Developer: Playtonic Games
Consoles: PC (Reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
MonsterVine was provided with a Steam code for review.
From the get-go there are a number of things in Yooka-Laylee that you don’t see as often nowadays. Multiple save games! Non-regenerative health! Yooka-Laylee takes all the best things from yesteryear and mashes them with a witty, self-aware tone and modern improvements. Namely, auto-saves and a convenient camera system that rarely feelconfusing or unresponsive.
Yooka the chameleon and his bat-bud Laylee don’t have much back story to them. The two friends camped out in a old pirate ship with a fancy book. That fancy book, known as “The One Book,” gets sucked away by the evil corporate head, Capital B, but before the book is taken all of its magical pages, Pagies, escape. Yooka and Laylee want their magical book back. That’s basically all the exposition given for but it doesn’t need much else to go on.
Before you can get on with your adventure you’ve got to get some help from Trowzer, the snake. And yes, that joke is intentional, and is indicative of much of the game’s clever humor, the kind that kids won’t understand but adults will appreciate. In return for opening a gate and teaching you a little bit, Trowzer asks for five Gold Quills, even though he never collects. These quills, are one of the many different types of items you’ll be collecting in Yooka-Laylee.
After a short, enjoyable, and extremely self-aware, tutorial the real game begins to pick up. Yooka-Laylee is divided into a hub world and various others, accessible via large book-portals known as grand tomes, whatever the heck a tome is. Each world has the same basic pattern to it: 25 Pagies, 200 Golden Quills, a health extender, move-energy extender and the same base set of characters. The aforementioned Pagies, those missing pages from The One Book, are the currency used to purchase and upgrade worlds, and quills are how you buy various moves from Trowzer.
Each world is familiar enough with its recognizable cast of characters that exist in every world but unique enough to stand out. Tribalstack Tropics is a vast, tropical island, Glitterglaze Glacier is a frozen fantasy land. There’s a Casino world and another that’s just one big, spooky swamp. After collecting increasingly large sums of Pagies you can expand worlds, which increases both the playable space and activity count in each world.
Even though standout characters like Rextro Sixtyfourus, Kartos and Dr. Puzz appear in every main world, each world is extremely distinct in both appearance and gameplay. In the Casino world you progress by playing Casino-like games that may or may not be rigged against you for casino tokens, for which you then exchange for Pagies. Tribalstack Tropics is mostly full of physical puzzles because of your limited moveset at the time, but the last ten or so Pagies require moves from later levels to obtain.
Yooka-Laylee features combats, but in a very basic sense like in Crash Bandicoot or Super Mario Sunshine. Most of the game is based off of large-scale puzzles and mental challenges mixed with skilled platforming and specific movesets. The rest of the game involves a variety of mini-games and boss battles, with varying degrees of difficulty. Not every one of these mini-games works out, specifically some of Kartos’s challenges can feel frustrating and more punitive than the rest of the game, but it doesn’t matter in the grand scope of things. Each world is so incredibly diverse in their activities and challenges that if you’re not a fan of one or two of them, you’ve still got over one hundred different activities to try out.
My favorite challenges involved changing the weather, fertilizing plants as a walking plant and traversing the isometric area of Glitterglaze Glacier known as the Icymetric Palace.
Something I hadn’t expected was just how addictive collecting things can be. There’s not much to the story and there’s nothing tactical or skillful about the combat, but the amount of mental energy required to solve any of the immense amount of physical puzzles is stimulating. Most of the timeI saw a Pagie off in the distance or in a Cagie and wondered how to get it. Often, I threw myself at the problem until I figured out what I had to do or until I learned I didn’t yet have the moves I needed. There’s nothing more tantalizing than searching for that single hidden Quill on a map, and nothing more satisfying than completing every single thing in a world.
In pure Metroidvania-style, there’s a lot of backtracking and activity restriction based off of what abilities I had at the time. Most of the Pagies on most of the world are obtainable by moves you must have by that point, but occasionally it is impossible to complete a world until you advance onto the next one. In Tribalstack Tropics there’s a gate locked by a movement sensor that can’t be passed through until after receiving the invisibility power after world three.
The abilities earned from Trowzer exponentially expanded Yooka & Laylee’s capabilities. In the first world Yooka and Laylee could only run and roll, but by the time I left they could reveal hidden objects, ground pound and shoot elemental projectiles. By the fourth world, I could turn invisible, fly, walk under water and change my molecular properties to match whatever elements I licked. The potential of each new move was extremely exciting and opened up a possibilities with both new and old puzzles.
The story does eventually expand a tad, but that’s not what Yooka-Laylee is all about. Yooka-Laylee is simply a great quality platformer with very few technical issues, the only issue I experienced was getting hitched on a piece of geometry, as well as a distinct presentation and a wacky world to run around in.
The Final Word
Yooka-Laylee is an extremely impressive platformer reminiscent of an older generation of games with the proficiency you’d expect from a modern purchase. There’s a little something for everyone in this diverse and colorful world built on solid and varied gameplay.
– MonsterVine Rating: 5 out of 5 – Excellent