The employees over at Playtonic have been through a lot to say the least, many of them coming from backgrounds at the ever-celebrated developer Rare that was responsible for such timeless classics as Donkey Kong Country, GoldenEye 007, and Donkey Kong 64 to name a few. So there's a pedigree to these people to say the least, but have they been able to maintain the magic of arguably their most critically acclaimed original IP? Banjo-Kazooie is a hard act to follow, so have they managed it?
Yooka-Laylee is an obvious spiritual successor to Banjo in so many ways that it could almost be considered plagiarism if it wasn't the work of many of the same people. If you know the adventures of the bear and bird, you'll feel right at home the very moment you're given control – from the weight of the characters to the make-your-eyes-bleed colour popping off every character and environment. You start off in Yooka and Laylee's home, a beached pirate ship surrounded with lush greenery and with the words 'Bat Ship Crazy' supposedly scrawled by the former, more bat-themed character that makes up the game's title. That should be enough to give you an idea of the tone Playtonic is going for.
Each world we entered was meticulously designed and absolutely gorgeous in its own distinct way. From vibrant plantlife and crumbling ruins to the hub world's factory interior that feels like a cross between Gruntilda's Lair from Banjo-Kazooie and Frantic Factory from Donkey Kong 64, and that's no bad thing. And the variety in level design doesn't stop there, as anyone who has been following the game's progress will know. Sadly we only got to see a fraction of what the final game will have to offer, which was frankly gutting.
So the level design emulates Banjo's world well, but what about the humour and tongue-in-cheek self-awareness? Well worry ye not, as Yooka has this in droves just like the team's previous titles under the Rare banner. Expect double-entendres and euphemisms by the bucketload, and even the occasional breaking of the fourth wall sprinkled in amongst all the running, jumping, and puzzle solving.
As is to be expected, the controls are just as you'd anticipate, except not quite as tight as they were back on the N64. Jumps are lovely and responsive, but Yooka and Laylee move around with a lot more weight than we were expecting. While Banjo and Kazooie could turn on a pinpoint, the lizard and bat move a lot more like the Kings from Donkey Kong 64, with a much more natural curve. While this does add an additional degree of realism and doesn't really affect platforming or any other aspect of the game, it did take us a while to get used to, especially considering the fact we'd been gearing up for this game by playing Banjo-Kazooie and its sequel.
The collectibles have been stripped back quite a bit in order to streamline things and while its not 'traditional' per se, it's a breath of fresh air and helps to smooth over the whole experience. On the flipside, however, the ways in which you attain the primary collectables – called Pagies – is far more varied than previous efforts by the gang, which is saying something.
Overall our time with Yooka-Laylee – although criminally short given the amount of content the game teases – was positive, and if the final product can deliver on all of the fronts it promises, it'll have a hard time disappointing any Banjo fan. Oh, and yes, there are quizzes.
Are you looking forward to Yooka-Laylee? Will you be picking up the platformer for your PS4? Double-jump into the comments section below.