Back in the days of the Nintendo 64, a particular genre of exploration-focused platformer emerged from the jump to three dimensions, and Banjo-Kazooie was arguably the greatest example of this. Since those days, it seems that the genre has fallen a bit by the wayside, but the developers of Banjo-Kazooie aim to bring it roaring back into the modern age with its new game, Yooka-Laylee. We got a chance to sit down with the game at PSX 2016 this past weekend and walked away feeling extremely confident in the potential of this new collect-a-thon.
The demo gave us a glimpse of the game's first world, Tribalstack Tropics, which managed to be a lovely throwback while still showcasing the benefits of a new generation of hardware. The vibrant world is more vast and packed with secrets than any such game that's come before it, and it lets you off the leash early to do whatever you want to do. Each world contains thirty 'Pagies' scattered about, all hidden behind a new challenge of some kind, and you can tackle them in just about any order that you please.
It can be a bit overwhelming when you first get dropped into the world, simply because you don't even know where to start. Do you climb that mountain in the distance which has a conspicuous path leading up to its summit? Or do you go explore the ruined temple to the left which has a small horde of enemies atop it? Really, it doesn't matter which one you do first, but the game is sure to suggest to you where to go next by its main currency, Quills. There's 200 of these things in each world, and they're usually placed in lines that will lead you to another objective or challenge. It's in your best interest to collect them all, too, because they can be used with Trowzer, the pantsed snake, to buy new moves that allow you to access new secrets.
In addition to this, Tonics are a new way in which you can upgrade and improve Yooka and Laylee's abilities, while also acting as a soft secondary mission system. They give you various buffs that help to make the journey easier, such as extending the breath meter when underwater or allowing you to sense when rare items are nearby. The only way to unlock them, however, is by performing certain actions or collecting certain objects. For example, if you want the Brawler Tonic – which increases the amount of health gained from eating butterflies – you must first defeat 100 enemies.
There's a wonderful diversity to the requirements for obtaining Pagies, as well. In our demo, one Pagie required us to defeat several waves of enemies in a small arena so we could free a trapped ally from being cooked in soup. Another had us scaling the side of a mountain while shooting targets with iceballs to align platforms that would open the way forward. Elsewhere, an objective had us jumping between a series of cloud platforms that became visible one at a time. You never know where the next Pagie is or what it will require you to do, but it's a pretty safe bet it'll require you to do something different than the ones that came before it.
And then there's the charm that's bursting out of every aspect of the gameplay. Enemies and NPCs all have the same chunky, bug-eyed look that seems straight out of a Saturday morning cartoon, and there's plenty of humour in dialogue between the titular duo and other characters. The world is bright and inviting, and the music is similarly playful. Better yet, the hardware of the current generation allows for long draw distances; viewing the whole level from atop its highest point is quite a sight.
Of course, it's not all sunshine and rainbows. We ran into a handful of glitches in our test, and while they never impeded gameplay in a major way, it's still clear that the QA team has got its work cut out. In addition to this, the controls are a bit weaker than we expected them to be. Weirdly enough, the camera tends to swing around a lot just by moving the left stick, and the controls do not feel as precise as they could be. There were several instances where we overshot jumps or accidentally ran into enemies; things are just a bit too loose here. Still, we were assured that we were playing through an older build of the game, and there's still plenty of time left in the game's development for these issues to be properly addressed.
All told, we really liked what we saw of Yooka-Laylee. This is exactly what an N64 platformer would look like if it were made with current hardware, and we couldn't be more pleased with the way collectibles are stashed throughout the world. While there may be certain elements that need tightening up before release, it is quite evident that this is shaping up to be a worthy tribute to its forebears. It may have taken longer than expected, but Banjo-Kazooie 3 is finally here in spirit.
Are you ready to run through this Rare platformer? Are you fan of the old N64 school of design? Find all of the Pagies in the comments section below.
It sounds brilliant!
Really excited for this. Still torn on whether to play this on PS4 or a Nintendo console.
@get2sammyb It does, as we'll never get the Banjo Kazooi games on PS4. Do you happen to know if the CUPHEAD game is also coming to PS4, or is that unfortunately just an XBONE exclusive...because that game also looks interesting.
@roe Get it on both...I have a few that I bought on both (Ducktales Remastered being one). It's fun to do the trophies on the PS4 version and play it for fun on nintendo's consoles...plus, if it comes out on Switch, you'll be able to play it on the 'go'.
@JLPick I think Microsoft's got that one locked down, but you never really know how these contracts are going to shake out. That's if Cuphead ever actually comes out, of course...
"and Banjo-Kazooie was arguably the greatest example of this"
lol Mario 64 says hi!
This was one of the highlights of EGX this year. Felt smooth to play and the character sounds are hilarious!
Certainly on the more anticipated games on my radar but they have to nail the general feel of the characters and get it running like the recent R&C
After Ratchet and Clank I think we need more 3D Platformers in the world.
Almost always turn to Ninty for my platforming fix so it's nice to see something coming to PS4! This has looked promising from day one (very nearly jumped in on Kickstarter) so will definitely be checking it out when it arrives.
Looks great. This and the 3D Mario on Switch will be glorious platforming by the looks of it.
If it isn't broken it's my GOTY. Horizon looks great and probably would have been my GOTY but it looks like a cross between Uncharted and Tomb Raider and there isn't much space in that "between", but I can't remember the last time I played a new IP in a game like this. Tons of sequels, yes, but not a new game. I was originally hoping Knack would fit the bill but once I found out there was no camera control and it was linear that was that.
Hopefully it isn't Sonicfied.
I don't know why, but hearing characters speak in this game always make me chuckle.
Really looking forward to this game, i wish we could have had more kingdom hearts 3 info too...as its taking a long time!!!
Good god. Two Yakuza games. Gravity Rush 2. Persona 5. Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Potentially a new 3D Mario. Yooka-Laylee. Probably Etrian Odyssey V.
Next year is going to be utterly insane.
It'd be nice if this gen could see a resurgence of the lost art of the 3D collectathon platformer.
Give it to now..... it looks so good.
Platformers need to return. With Crash coming back and this, next year is a good start.
I shudder at the word collectathon. 100% on all the Arkham games, a couple assassin creed's, far cry 3 and 4, and currently witcher 3/ watch dogs 2. I just can't stop collecting ALL THE THINGS, and i'm guessing this game will be added to the list.
I'm just happy developers see money to be made on Platformers as it is my favorite genre. I would say Rare Reply made me buy a Xbox One...
@RedMageLanakyn Ha, you're gonna have a bad time here then! There's so much to collect.
@MitchVogel As long as it's relatively contained it'll be a good time. It's the huge, open world games that really get me, even though i enjoy them. Arkham Knight almost broke me with the riddler puzzles, those things were EVERYWHERE.
I'm worried by the fact that it's made with Unity. How good is the performance on this demo?
@jmbenetti I didn't notice any performance dips, and the draw distance is great. The only issue is the slippery controls.
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