It’s been a tough trek for Banjo-Kazooie fans in recent years, but a sliver of hope arrived last year via a Kickstarter campaign for a project called Yooka-Laylee. Headed by former Rare Ware staff responsible for giving the aforementioned bear and bird life, this new 3D platformer was set to be a true spiritual successor to the now Microsoft-owned property. However, after smashing crowd-funding records, the team at Playtonic Games went radio silent for almost a year – opting to sparingly update the game’s Kickstarter page during that window. Now the studio is pulling the curtain off of its debut venture, and Game Rant was afforded the opportunity to check out the title in all of its nostalgia-inducing glory.
The first thing immediately apparent about Yooka-Laylee is its aesthetic. It doesn’t look pixel-for-pixel like the series that inspired it, but rather a progression of that classic 90s era art style. It’s through this lense that players can expect differences showcasing an evolution similar to what might have been expected had Banjo never stopped, and that’s where the game manages to stand on its own two feet. Despite these changes, hopeful fans shouldn’t be concerned – every minute nook and cranny of this title reeks of Rare.
Kicking the demo off, we were given a look at the various maneuvers that Yooka and Laylee could learn. While markedly different from the property that inspired them – they are entirely different animals after all – the obtainable attacks play to the nature of each character. For example, Yooka utilizes his camouflage to turn invisible, while Laylee has sonar-based projectiles. These moves can, for the most part, be purchased from a character named Trowzer the snake with quills that are scattered about every level. This collect-athon style of play is true to the original premise of Banjo-Kazooie, but seeking out these various collectables have a much larger impact now.
How so? Well, collecting these items aptly called Pages (Yooka-Laylee‘s take on Jiggies) can actually completely change the world a gamer visits. This is done through the way that each world is shown in the central hub area, taking on the form of giant books which transport the protagonists to entirely different regions. Adding pages fleshes out an environment and creates brand new areas to explore, which will add an absurd amount of replayability when everything is said and done.
With all of that said, the most engaging aspects of YL are the mascots that fill it. They all stand out as memorable for a number of different reasons, with the main objective of Playtonic reportedly being to make every character feel like they could have their very own game. We only saw one level and a little bit of the hub world, but the characters that surfaced in that brief demo were assuring of the developer’s lofty claims. It’s not just the look of, for example, Trowzer, it’s the way he interacts with the title characters, and how they react to him. The game is stuffed with Rare-inspired humor that longtime fans of the company are sure to enjoy.
Overall, Yooka-Laylee looks to be the experience that every Kickstarter backer was dreaming of. The music, the environments, the characters, and the collectables all come together to create one of the best looking 3D platformers to-date. After experiencing the game in action, it’s hard to imagine why Playtonic Games felt the need to push back its launch, but if it’s looking this good already then the final release should make fans quite happy.
Yooka-Laylee is set to arrive for PC, PlayStation 4, Wii U, and Xbox One in March 2017.