Yooka-Laylee is strange. It has everything I would want in a game, and yet when I finished it I felt hollow. There was some relief, but it was mostly due to the fact that it was over, and not because I had fun playing an old school collectathon. Initially, I was having a blast. The entire game just bursts with color, and Yooka (a green lizard) and Laylee (a purple red nosed bat thing) are good foils for one another. The personality disconnect between the two works, with Yooka as the somewhat intelligent straight man, while Laylee is a darkly cynical creature who is seemingly on death's door until she sneaks in another horrible pun.
And... that's it. There really isn't much to these characters, as they are painted with a very broad brush. It's not a bad thing per say, but I was expecting something more memorable from former Rare developers. The whole game just passes by and nothing really sinks in. Even now, only a day or so after I beat it, I'm struggling to recall anything that really stuck out. It's relatively one-note. Yooka-Laylee's storyline is much the same, as while it gleefully leaps over the absurd and straight into Monty Python territory, there really isn't much to it. Hivory Towers, which is run by a bee named Capitol-B (see what I mean with the puns) is in the process of taking all of the world's books. As the player, your task is to comb through the five levels of Yooka-Laylee while beating everyone up, collecting everything in sight, and smashing Grandma Lucy's prized vase. Well, maybe not the last one, but you get the idea.
In my First Impressions for Yooka-Laylee, I stated that I was aggravated by the fourth world's boss. I found it to be incredibly difficult, requiring about an hour and a half of in-game time to finally beat. Why did it take so long? The same floaty controls bugged me throughout the entire experience, and it is something that has to be addressed. Yooka-Laylee is all but unplayable on mouse and keyboard due to lack of, well, control, but even when switching to a controller it feels like you are steering a boat. It's not the end of the world, but it was a source of consistent frustration for me. For example, the player has the ability to use an ability called Reptile Roll, which is basically Yooka's 'sprint' ability. It works, but turning is slow, especially when you are in a rush trying to complete a task with a time limit or something similar. A 3D platformer like Yooka-Laylee demands precision, and that's hard to accomplish when you are fighting the game itself in order to complete objectives.
There are bugs as well. From myself, while it was a relatively smooth experience gameplay wise, the most egregious bug that I found was that the camera could get stuck on objects, grinding the entire game to a halt, whereupon I would have to restart the game in order to fix the camera. It's not something that came up a lot, only early on in the first two worlds, but it is still something worth noting.
However, Yooka-Laylee is not terrible. The game is gorgeous, especially if you're playing on PC and have the rig to back it up. Under ideal circumstances, the title will positively explode in vibrancy across the screen. On the first map, you can climb up to the top of a mountain and look down across the entire map. It reminded me vividly of Uncharted, where sometimes the game just lets you sit and observe once in a while. The same goes for Yooka Laylee's soundtrack, which ranges from very decent to excellent, with some catchy tunes that keep your attention, but nothing else. I'll probably listen to the soundtrack maybe once or twice, but there isn't anything that makes me sit up and say, "Wow, that's impressive."
When Yooka-Laylee works, it's a ton of fun. Solving puzzles, talking to strange characters, and sitting back and just enjoying the experience is something that was definitely present during the first third of the game, but it felt like a chore to play after that. This is because while the controls were iffy, there is an annoying difficulty creep. Besides the fourth world's boss, the game as a whole decides to stop holding your hand and suddenly throws you headfirst into the action. Not that there isn't anything wrong with that, but it is a jarring experience shifting from a pleasant collectathon to an experience that demands your attention. One or the other, please.
It's not as though there isn't much to glean from the game, however. My total play time is at eighteen hours, and I could easily spend at least another four to five looking for things that I missed. There are some local co-op games to play with some friends, but it is something that reminds me of the cooperative mini-games from Rayman Legends. They're fun, but not something to really sink time into.
Overall, Yooka-Laylee is a game that I have mixed feelings for. The controls, pacing, and characters are paper-thin, but I still cannot help but enjoy the game for what it is: a nostalgia-fueled trip back to when the 3D platformer was the gaming genre. This an experience suited for those that either wish to return back to the late 90's, or for those who are dying of curiosity. Otherwise, wait for a sale and some patches to help make both Yooka-Laylee a better experience and an easier pill to swallow.
- Beautiful Graphics
- Dense Worlds to Explore
- Fun Atmosphere
- Clever Writing
- Paper-Thin Plot and Characters
- Floaty Controls