For a lot of people, Yooka-Laylee is all about nostalgia. Playtonic’s new Kickstarter title is pretty much a carbon copy of the N64 Banjo-Kazooie games by Rare, and that is by no means a bad thing. As a huge Banjo fan myself, Yooka-Laylee has been on my radar for awhile. Going into PSX though, I didn’t know how I should set my expectations. After spending time with the game, I am more excited about it now than I was before.
During my time with Yooka-Laylee I explored the game’s first of 5 worlds which was called Tribalstack Tropics. I had 15 minutes to play the current build and I spent almost the entirety of those 15 minutes with a big grin on my face. Games like this don’t come around anymore and it was comforting for me to return to a world that felt so familiar.
My goal in this demo was to collect as many Pagies as possible. Pagies in Yooka-Laylee are essentially the same thing as Jiggies from Banjo-Kazooie. There were 30 Pagies in this first world and I collected 2-3 of them in my short session. I climbed to the top of a tower to receive one Pagie, while another was given to me by a character in the world after I defended him from attacking enemies. In typical collectathon fashion, items were strewn around the environment and the Pagies specifically will take some searching and traversal to find. Each world in Yooka-Laylee will contain 30 Pagies and 200 Quills, which are the currency in this game used to upgrade Yooka and Laylee’s moves. Other collectibles like health and power extenders were also tucked away somewhere in Tribalstack Tropics, but I didn’t find them in my demo.
One of the cooler mechanics that I got to play around with involved some interchangeable abilities that Yooka can acquire. There are multiple plants in the environment that Yooka can eat from with each of them giving him access to a unique ability for a short period of time. One plant gave me the power to spit fire from my mouth which helped me quickly dispatch enemies. Another plant allowed me to shoot projectiles from my lizard mouth at various targets or switches in the environment. Each of these special moves felt unique and they were all fun to experiment with. I’m curious to see just how many of these different plants are strewn throughout the game and discover the different abilities they give Yooka.
Another one of my favorite moments from this demo was when I transformed Yooka and Laylee into a flower. This transformation is very similar to the ones that Mumbo would perform on you in Banjo-Kazooie. So now as a flower, I bounced around the world and could interact with other plant characters in the environment. I could also now pollinate other flowers in the world. After pollinating a certain number of flowers, I received one of the highly coveted Pagies I was searching for. Transforming your character was always one of the things I loved the most about the Banjo-Kazooie games and it was just as fun here. I’m excited to see what other forms Yooka-Laylee will take throughout the course of this game.
If I had any complaints about my time with Yooka-Laylee, it would be that the controls felt a bit too sensitive. Moving my character around the world was often times difficult and I had some trouble platforming in certain areas. More specifically, one of the moves you can do with your character allows the bat character, Laylee, to ride on top of Yooka — it’s similar to the Kazooie run from the Banjo series. However, when I used this move, I felt like I was out of control. Moving my thumbstick just a hair to the left or right caused my character to wildly swing too far in that direction. This led to me constantly auto correcting and trying to swing back in the other direction. It reminded me a lot of the driving controls in GTA IV. Maybe I just wasn’t used to the controls yet, but they definitely felt too responsive. I’m hoping that character movement sensitivity is something that can be adjusted in the final game.
All of this aside, what stuck out to me the most while playing was just how charming and well designed this world was. I ran into 3-4 different characters in this first area of the game and found both their design and dialogue to be hilarious. I mean, come on, who doesn’t love a great pun? Playtonic has perfectly captured the magic that made the Banjo-Kazooie games so special. In an age where games have started to become grittier and darker, Yooka-Laylee shines due to its charm and unabashed self-awareness.
Yooka-Laylee is comforting and familiar, but more than anything, it’s just a lot of fun to play. Whether you have played the Banjo-Kazooie games or not, Yooka-Laylee should be on your radar simply because of how enjoyable it is to play. I have long missed games like this and I am so happy that Playtonic is essentially giving us the Banjo-Kazooie 3 we always wanted. My time with Yooka-Laylee at PSX went much too fast and I cannot wait until it releases early next year.
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