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RELEASE DATE (NA): April 11, 2017 GENRE: Action/Adventure
// review by Meow


For a brief non-spoiler version of this review: This game is a solid 7 out of 10. Not great, but not bad. And though they claim it's a follow-up to Banjo-Kazooie, it's more of a successor to Banjo-Tooie due to needing moves from later levels to do everything in earlier levels.

From this point on, spoilers will likely ensue.

I'm curious if this is on the Switch version...

Yooka-Laylee is yet another Kickstarted game from famed developers-gone-rogue, this time from Rare. After some Twitter exchange some years back, these ex-Rare kids (now the newly-formed Playtonic) decided to put together a brand new game as a successor to Banjo-Kazooie, and they were successful, being given £2,090,104 of a £175,000 goal. Though originally estimated for an October 2016 release, it was pushed back to April 2017.

So, how successful were they in making a follow up?

Eh, they delivered what they promised, but not really much more.

The story starts off with new villain Capital B and his wAcKy side-kick, Dr. Quack, plotting to steal all the books in the world. Then they decide that they only want to steal one book in the world called "The One Book". Then, just outside of their layer, we see titular characters Yooka and Laylee laying around talking about how they painted some shipwreck they found on this cliff and found a book under the floorboards. Then the book gets sucked away to the evil lair next door and all its pages escape. Now it's up to you to go get your book and pages back. A rather sudden start without really much context as to anything, but I suspended my disbelief for the sake of trying to enjoy things. Unfortunately, the game really doesn't go any real further into things at all. There's some mentioning of how this "one book" can do something mighty, but we never see it. It just simply exists. There are also "Jinjo" equivalents in the game called "Ghost Writers" that proclaim to have "created the book worlds" featured in the game... but nothing is done with this, either. Jinjos at least helped Banjo in the end of Banjo-Kazooie, the Ghost Writers simply exist to have 5 collectable characters in each stage. And one final note about the story and these book worlds, there's no real... context for these things, or even a fair amount of the characters featured within them. With the exception of Worlds 3 and 4, the worlds feel like they simply exist to be video game levels and nothing more, not like places that exist within the world of this game. And for a group of developers known for making a colorful cast of characters in whatever they create, they really didn't make very many characters for this game, reusing characters such as a skeleton archeologist, some pig knights that don't fit ANY of the themes in the game, and a talking minecart (who happens to be the only real interesting character in the game in my opinion).

A bit sad when the best character is wooden.

In the end, though, it boils down to gameplay, right? Just how Banjo-Kazooie-y is this game? Well, this game certainly is a collect-a-thon, make no mistake, but as I stated at the beginning of this review, it's more akin to Banjo-Tooie since you need to get as far as just before the final world to get access to all the power you'll need to get everything from each stage. So be forewarned about that. And another thing to be forewarned about: there are only FIVE levels in the game (plus the hub world). To be fair, these five levels are meant to be worth that of two worlds, having 200 "note" collectable equivalents and 25 pages of your book to gather. However, that means that if you don't like a particular world theme, you're stuck with it twice as long as normal, and these worlds are rather devoid of any real life to boot. The limited amount of characters really drives this in, but the main reason I find is that there really aren't very many enemies in this game. In fact, there are about 3 kinds of foes the entire game: some little goblins that are given a different model swap each world (sounds, health, AI, EVERYTHING else remains the same), some annoying explosive bee enemies, and literal googly eyes that leap onto destructible scenery and bounce into you. These foes are just strewn across these wide open areas, too, where they don't really pose any threat or even slightly be an obstacle. There are also, rarely, a couple other enemies: a big buff version of those goblins that appears in about 4 places the whole game, and the lone enemy that appears in water is a jellyfish. There are also Killer Kinects that sit around, but I honestly keep forgetting those exist.

This cliff has no purpose but to contain googly eyes.

Besides the enemies, each stage does have its own boss, but... the first two bosses are literally just walls with faces. Encountering those two made me nervous as to what the rest of the game's bosses were going to be like, but thankfully, World 3 onward had more interesting ones, like a tentacle monster.

Proof of bosshood: shockwave attack

Getting into the protein-laden substance and potatoes of the game here, the platforming/challenges/collectables in the game are pretty dandy, honestly. The levels are indeed fun to traverse and collecting things is, for the most part, enjoyable. Each of the 5 book worlds have 25 pages to collect, 200 Quills to nab (which are used to purchase new moves, and collecting them all net you one of the pages), 5 Ghost Writers (each color ghost will have a trick you need to employ to nab, such as feeding one before it goes with you), 1 "Play Coin" to let you play a world's minigame (more on that in a bit), and 1 "molly cool" that is used in accessing a world's transformation (more on that in a bit too). There are also 16 "tonics" you can unlock in the game that function like Cheato cheats from Banjo-Kazooie in that they alter the gameplay a bit, such giving you one more hit than you'd have otherwise or giving your energy recharge a boost. Finally, there are these "Secret Pirate Treasures" in the game, one per each stage, that is hidden in sometimes clever spaces that ...isn't really used for anything, as far as I can tell. It may have been used to unlock one of the "tonics", but I'm not sure. The only tonic that I unlocked that didn't really tell me how to do it just gives a slight boost to a special move gauge, so I really hope something that disappointing wasn't the prize. But I have a feeling it is.

In fact, there isn't really even any prize for 100%-ing the game other than a "tonic" that gives Yooka a pair of pants to wear. There is no change to the ending at all no matter how many pages or "secret pirate treasures" you have. And that reminds me, the ending, and many other instances in the game, keep doing "sequel-talk" where they're like "this will be relevant in the next game! I hope I make it to the next game! Next game! Next game!" which I can't tell if they're trying to do this for humor, or if they really were planning a sequel before the game even released, or what (probably both), but this talk chaffed me a bit because of just how lackluster a lot of the atmosphere and story elements of THIS game is. If the game had interesting stuff to it and made me care about what's going on, and didn't parade around the thought of a "Tooka-Laylee" coming out eventually the whole game, then I'd probably get more of a chuckle.

Icy what you did there...

Getting back to the gameplay, I mentioned that there were minigames to play in each world. These minigames, to be frank, mostly suck, and you have to play them a minimum of TWICE (once to just complete the minigame, second time to beat a highscore. And yes, you have to do it twice even if you cleared the highscore the first round). What gets me most is that there are also optional minigames you can play in the hub that don't net you anything that are far more enjoyable than the required ones, so what the heck? The two worst minigames are Kartos Kart (which is a dull isometric racing game) and, the king of awful in this game that has made me rage-quit plenty of times, Hurdle Hijinks (an awful awful obstacle course minigame). What makes these minigames in general "bad" is the fact that any time you're not playing as just Yooka and Laylee, the controls are EXTREMELY clunky and finicky. This applies to these minigames, any Kartos segments, and even the transformations of worlds. But on the up-side, each minigame has a unique music track to it, so that's a thing.

And to touch on transformations for worlds, each transformation only has 1 or 2 uses in each world, which is good for not having to suffer clunkiness, but it also makes these transformations rather forgettable for the most part. Also, the transforming spot is just sort of thrown somewhere in the world (often right by what all you'll ever need it for) and it felt out of place. I like thinking back to Humba Wumba and Mumbo Jumbo in the BK series that have their own homes placed somewhere fairly natural looking in each world and makes me a bit disappointed in the half-effort this game put into the placement of morphing pads.

Switching from my whining here about the little things, my most favorite thing about this game is how breakable it is. In a good way, of course. There are many cases where you can manipulate the game physics to your bidding (such as skipping over nearly the whole tutorial of the game if you attack at a ramp) and even parkour off of game scenery that's there for the looks but still strangely has a collision box on them which render a lot of otherwise required powers fairly moot. This makes me excited for what sort of speedrunning tricks may be found in the future and makes me interested in playing through the game again multiple times just to find out what I can get away with doing, such as jumping around the world border to avoid a section full of air ducts that blow you off a bridge if you don't use a power-up that makes you heavy. It makes me wonder how much of this stuff is intentional or not, considering areas with must-have power ups have other-wise parkourable objects now slide you off, yet there are other bits like the aforementioned air duct section that you can leap upon the scenery to border-walk.

You're not supposed to even be in this part of the level until you expand World 3, but yet the place exists with nearly everything but the collectables. Even enemies spawn.

To wrap this whole thing up, I'd like to quickfire through a few things I felt worth noting:
-The final boss was an utter bore. Especially comparing to Gruntilda from Banjo-Kazooie and how she had a really up-beat and exciting soundtrack, this boss was an utter disappointment, and the cutscene following the fight rubs me the wrong way because for some reason you just fall into Capital B's office despite that being INSIDE and you were OUTSIDE for the fight.
-The game is fairly nice to look at, even if nothing really feels coherent or having a point.
-The game has a lot of references to various things such as putting "64" with a lot of stuff, so take that how you will.
-The music, though nice, is a bit of a mixed bag. Some stuff sounds like it belongs with Banjo-Kazooie, some stuff sounds like it belongs with Donkey Kong Country, and the rest sound like they belong to something else all together (samples available at bottom of review).
-The secret prize awarded for completing the Yooka-Laylee Toybox demo was an utter disappointment, only adding an NPC that does NOTHING. Not even really say anything funny or worthwhile. This may change with a later update, though, since I hear the "64-bit" Tonic and developer commentary are due to be added in a later patch of the game.

Attack of the Killer Kinects!

And finally, my ranking of the game worlds, from worst to best:
-World 2 because I hate ice levels.
-World 1 because it's fairly dull and doesn't do anything with its aztecy theme.
-World 5 because it's an alright theme but it feels like it's just a bunch of set pieces floating in an ocean with no real context as to why.
-World 4 because it's fun, but it houses the Hurdle Hijinks minigame which is an utter travesty.
-And World 3 is king because it feels the most well-put-together and most fun, even if for some reason it gives me Donkey Kong Country 2 vibes.

And yes, there are Quiz Games.

So, is this game worth the currently 40 USD pricetag? Depends on how enthusiastic you feel about 3D collectathon platformers. I mean, I certainly enjoyed it, even if I may sound fairly bitter through the review. Most of what I had to complain about was just a lot of little things, nothing completely wretched (save for the cruddy minigames), but I did complete the game under 26 hours without any use of guides, and that's completing it 100%, secret pirate treasures, achievements, EVERYTHING. If you're only mildly interested in the game, I say give it a shot, but wait for an eventual sale. And use a Gamepad, because this game is nigh uncontrollable with a keyboard. And if you're interested in the Digital Artbook promised with the 50 USD version... don't be. It's a very brief PDF that doesn't have much to it. I think it's about 8 pages long, ignoring the game manual. Though I do wonder if a standard game manual is included with the normal version...

Happy trails!

And now... music!

Banjo Style:

DKC Style:

??? Style:

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