Title: Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair
Available on: PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One
Developer: Playtonic Games
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: October 8th, 2019
Where to Buy: Steam, PSN, Eshop, Microsoft Store
When Yooka-Laylee released in 2017, it was heralded as a spiritual successor to the much loved Banjo-Kazooie. A 3D platforming collect-a-thon featuring an unlikely anthropomorphic duo. Developed by Playtonic Games, a team made up of former employees of Rare, Yooka-Laylee didn’t receive as much love from players as the Banjo games did on the N64.
The game wasn’t bad. In fact, it was quite fun in places, but unfortunately, it couldn’t compare with what came before. Fast forward to 2019 and Playtonic are back with their second attempt. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair.
This time around, the game is a love letter to another famous Rare game, Donkey Kong Country. Before we begin, I’ll answer the obvious question. No. The Impossible Lair does not reach the heights of Donkey Kong. But does that mean Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair isn’t fun? Let’s see.
Booting up the game, I immediately felt as if I had made the right choice in testing out the Switch version. It feels completely at home on a Nintendo console. Bright colors, happy music, collecting, platforming and everything in between. It’s a match made in heaven.
Much like Hyrule Castle in Breath of the Wild, players are able to tackle the titular Impossible Lair right off the bat, even though it’s not particularly advisable. The level is pretty hard and will test anybody’s platforming skills.
It is possible to avoid all the fun and finish the entire game straight away if you’re good enough. I was not. The great thing about failing though is Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair tells you how many attempts you’ve had and how far you got through the lair. It gave me a bit of a Dark Souls vibe. Slow progress and player improvement.
As well as getting better and learning the level (like you would in the olden days), Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair does offer some help in the form of bees. At the end of each level is a helpful bee that acts as a shield and allows players to take more hits in the lair.
There are 48 bees in total to collect and it’s in the collection that the fun lies.
Levels are accessed through the top-down overworld, which in itself is pretty fun to navigate and has its own puzzles to solve and things to collect. It’s a fun way to get around and reach the levels. It sure beats just getting thrown into level after level.
Speaking of the levels, they are pretty fun and thankfully load a bit quicker than when you boot up the game (we’ll get there). As a side-scrolling 2D platformer, things are pretty much as you’d expect and that’s not a bad thing. The chameleon/bat duo jump, roll and smash their way through to try and reach the bee at the end.
Much like the relationship between Mario and Yoshi, the two actually need each other. Getting hit causes Laylee to fly off and makes things more difficult. Without the bat, you can’t ground pound or spin in the air to delay a landing and another hit would then spell doom.
When Laylee does fly away, there is a brief moment available to reach her and reconnect. If you fail to do that, there are bells dotted around the levels that bring Laylee back.
Each level also has a number of hidden T.W.I.T coins that need to be found to purchase access through paywalls, I kid you not.
While there are only 20 main levels to play, there is a changed mode to each one that can be accessed by changing things in the overworld. Each change is different from the last and effectively make the levels themselves new and fresh.
One such level involves flooding the overworld, which in turn floods the level itself, turning it into a swimming affair opposed to platforming. Surprisingly, swimming is actually implemented quite well.
I had a good time going through the levels, even though the controls felt a little off. It’s hard to explain as they aren’t bad. Far from it. They just don’t feel as polished as a Mario game or the latest set in the Rayman series. For example, the attack and roll button are the same making it all too easy to accidentally keep hold of the direction button and roll instead of attacking. The controls are still good, just not perfect.
There are a few other issues that stop Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair from getting top marks. It really feels like a case of what could have been. This game is quite close to being an all-time great but, unfortunately, it falls short.
The initial loading screen is horrendous. We are talking Bloodbourne pre-patch, if not worse. It took 1 minute and 18 seconds from the moment I selected my game file to being able to play. Seriously, I timed it. Appalling.
Once in the game, another problem rears its ugly head. Puns. I myself am a fan of terrible puns yet these were even too much for me. They are frequent, terrible and probably worthy to reduce the score on their own.
There are some good jokes dotted throughout including some nice self-deprecating put-downs of the first game. Then there’s Trowzer the snake.
What Yooka-Laylee does deliver on is nostalgia. It’s here in spades. Not only does it imitate Donkey Kong, but it also showers love on plenty of other franchises. I noticed great references to Aliens, Toy Story, and Spider-Man amongst others.
One last thing to mention is the tonics that can be collected and purchased using quills that are found almost everywhere. The tonics can have both positive and negative effects. Equipping one that makes things easier will reduce the number of quills gained in a level with a negative tonic having the opposite effect.
Then there are the fun ones that do nothing but bring joy, especially the filter that makes things look like a GameBoy game or one that adds googly eyes to all the enemies. Great fun.
Fans of retro platformers should be able to enjoy what’s on offer here, assuming they can look past the infantile humor.
Verdict: Overall I did have a great time playing the second game in the Yooka-Laylee series. A love letter to older side scrollers that’s not without its problems. Even with the issues, a good time can be had by all and I’m looking forward to the next entry.
- Plenty to do and collect
- Fun platforming
- A nostalgic love letter
- Puns, Puns, Puns
- Terrible loading
- Slightly off controls