Yooka-Laylee is the very definition of a throw back. This polygonal platformer set out to be Banjo-Kazooie 3 and it did exactly that. In fact, it did little else besides exactly that. Apart from the updated graphics and more topical jokes this has everything you loved or hated from the N64 days. You will jump and roll your way through several worlds collecting more items than you can count. The camera is complete garbage and the audio can be awful on the ears at times. Know what you’re getting into, this is Banjo-Kazooie 3 from top to bottom.
As Yooka (the lizard) and Laylee (the bat) you must platform your way around several worlds in order to stop Capital B and his henchmen. Capital B has stolen a special book and scattered its pages all over. These pages, or Pagies, are what you will earn for completing specific obstacles. These can be anything from making your way through a maze, defeating a boss battle, collecting enough points in a mine-kart course, etc. There are a ton of different activities to take on and the variety makes it never seem too dull.
In fact, you don’t need to collect every Pagie in order to progress, there are more than enough to move onto a new world. Some of these won’t even be accessible until you return with a powerup/new move you learned elsewhere. This allows for you to easily skip certain obstacles without ever feeling stuck. Returning to worlds with new powers will open up different sections. Each world can also be expanded by paying some of your Pagies. This will alter the world itself and open up a ton of new areas and challenges to take on. There is a whole lot to do and find in this game.
From start to finish this game is a collect-a-thon. Your main goal is collecting Pagies in order to progress. When you are not doing that you are collecting quills in order to buy new powers, coins for the arcade games, etc. Unfortunately this need to collect is the main driving force to progressing. The story is shallow and the characters only provide minimal depth to hold your attention briefly. If jumping around and collecting item after item doesn’t sound appealing to you then look elsewhere.
Some of the more obnoxious traits found in the old N64 platformers have made their way to Yooka-Laylee. Controlling the camera is arguably the hardest obstacle to overcome and one that lasts the entire game’s length. It constantly gets stuck between geometry or bounces around when trying to get a good view of your next objective. A lack of a fast traveling system is also bothersome as many of the worlds are quite far apart within the hub world and even require some minor platforming to get to. Often times I would receive a new power, remember an old obstacle that I can now overcome, but then get persuaded from attempting it since it would require a lot of travel back and forth. Yooka-Laylee could have definitely used a new coat of paint.
The audio in the game has its ups and downs. Much like Banjo-Kazooie, the grumbling mouth noises when characters talk is present. I ended up having to turn the sound effects down overall since they began to grate on the ears. Its terrible when any character is talking and it happens quite often. On the other side, the developers brought back Grant Kirkhope and David Wise who worked on the Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong Country soundtracks respectively. The game’s music is pretty great and will definitely help fuel this nostalgia trip.
Yooka-Laylee is a game from the past that doesn’t do enough for the modern era. Its dedication to this formula is second to none but if you are looking for something more palatable then this won't suffice. The camera is tedious and the audio can be grating. Despite some enjoyable platforming, if you aren’t ready for nothing but collecting then this game leaves little to enjoy. This game set out to be Banjo-Kazooie 3 and it nailed it but it’s too bad the developers didn’t update the formula at all.