Banjo-Kazooie is regarded as a beloved franchise for nostalgic gamers, with many wishing for a new gen return for years. Now, it’s almost finally here in the form of Yooka-Laylee, a spiritual successor to the classic series. It’s a game which intends to resurrect the ‘collectathon’ 3D platforming genre commonly seen in the days of the Nintendo 64 and PS1.
Yooka-Laylee is developed by Playtonic Games, a company comprised of former Banjo-Kazooie staff, and it first began life on the funding website Kickstarter in 2015. Within 21 hours, determined fans raised the campaign goal of $1 million. The game certainly has high hopes to live up to.
The UK release date for Yooka-Laylee is April 11th, which is the same for the rest of the world. It is set for release on PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mac and Linux, with a digital Nintendo Switch release coming later this year.
Fans who pre-order the game on any computer device will receive a sandbox game mode, titled the Toybox, which will allow players to freely explore the immersive worlds within the platformer.
Yooka-Laylee features the buddy-duo of Yooka and Laylee, a play on words of ukulele because the developers are just so clever. Yooka is a male chameleon, described as the ‘sensible’ one of the duo, while Laylee is a female bat, conversely described as the ‘crazy’ one. One thing they have in common though, is that they’re determined to win the hearts of players just like Banjo and Kazooie did.
The story follows the duo venturing out into their colourful world to battle the villainous Capital B and Dr. Quack, who have threatened to absorb the world’s literature and convert it into profit.
In order to complete their quest, Yooka and Laylee need to find golden book pages called ‘Pagies’ which are hidden inside a destructive business known as Hivory Towers. This will lead them to explore the unknown Grand Tomes, so that they can stop evil from prevailing.
The graphic style for Yooka-Laylee looks like a modernised, new gen version of Banjo-Kazooie. There are the familiar colourful, family-friendly graphics, featuring many pieces of scenery and items with cartoon-like eyes. It helps the game appeal not just to the older audience from the N64 era, but to a younger audience as well. Also, there are plenty of big worlds throughout the game with each one being as detailed as the other.
Looking at the graphics, they can be compared to other family-friendly platformers such as Super Mario Odyssey and Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy. All three are visually very appealing and show us what cartoon looking platformers can look like on new gen.
As expected, Yooka-Laylee plays very similarly to its spiritual predecessor. Players control Yooka and Laylee simultaneously and progress through worlds by collecting items, like ‘Pagies’ as was mentioned earlier. They are considered as the main currency in the game and can be used to unlock new worlds or expand existing worlds in order to progress through the story. They are collected by completing challenges, including a boss battle in every world which is typical of this genre.
Both Yooka and Laylee possess several abilities in their arsenal, which are activated by a power meter. These abilities include ‘tongue whipping’ and ‘fart bubble’ which is useful for exploring underwater. The power meter is filled by butterflies which can be collected in the different worlds or purchased from the in-game shop. Butterflies also fill health, so it’s crucial to stock up on them.
Exclusive abilities are also available for the cheerful duo. These are gained by collecting atom items which are known as ‘Mollycools’. Further collectibles feature within the game world, such as ‘Play Tonics’ which can be purchased to increase a character’s ability stats.
It’s possible to play Yooka-Laylee with friends through two local multiplayer modes. There’s a two player cooperative mode for the story and there’s a 2-4 player competitive mode with eight mini-games to play.
Yooka-Laylee looks set to prove that classic ‘collectathon’ 3D platforming is alive and well, with the modernised gameplay formula of Banjo-Kazooie which is sure to be a big positive with fans. With the release date fast approaching, the game seems to be a joy to look at and play. It may be a nostalgia trip for many people, but there are new characters and a new kind of adventure to fall in love with. This could turn out to be the dawning of the next great 3D platforming franchise.
By Ben Harris