What The Legends of Zelda: Breath of the Wild does for open-world games, Yooka-Laylee does for 3D platformers. A genre, which for years seemed lifeless, has been given new life thanks to Playtonic Games.
Not only is Yooka-Laylee a splendid revamp of 3D platformers from the N64 era, but it brings some incredibly bright and fun ideas that the rest of modern gaming can take cues from. Its worlds are beautiful, fun and challenging, with lovable and hilarious characters scattered throughout.
There is no shortage of collectibles or secrets to discover, and its gameplay keeps you coming back time and time again. Playtonic Games’ Yooka-Laylee is a surprisingly entertaining experience and is one I can only hope other gaming developers will take note of.
Let’s start with the first aspect of Yooka-Laylee that you are greeted with when you play: its look. The five worlds in this game are vibrant, diverse and provide their own unique type of gameplay. Players will appreciate the variation in color palate as they move from world to world. Each possesses their own set of challenges for players to overcome, both ones you perceive and others you don’t.
Immediately, Yooka-Laylee does a marvelous job of immersing you in its worlds. Right from the get go, UI is all but absent from your screen, and it is just about the beautiful world in front of you. Swimming is a rare instance when UI will appear on your screen. This happens so you can monitor your air capacity.
There are no waypoints or objectives telling you, the player, what to do. Gamers, who play open-world games regularly, may struggle with this setup, since there is no friendly clue telling you what to do. I love how Yooka-Laylee sets you loose in its universe and from there, you have true freedom.
This is quite contrary to the usual open-world formula we see in games, and it is quite refreshing. Most of all, the lack of UI is a great reminder of how trained and needy gamers have become as games have evolved. It is a pleasure to wander and think about what I should do rather than always have an auditory or visual cue filling that blank for me.
With the literally open structure of each world, gamers are free to explore and roam as they please. Players can collect Quills, which enable them to purchase new moves from move vendor, Trowzer, and they can also pick up Pagies. The latter is a currency that allows you to either extend a current world or unlock a new one. The choice is up to you.
New moves that Yooka and Laylee can pull off embellish the control scheme and overall gameplay in a fabulous way. The things you start off being able to do are quite basic, and the difficulty of puzzles in each level correlate. As you play and unlock new maneuvers, your ability to recall and apply appropriate moves to specific challenges will be key.
Not all of the platforming puzzles in Yooka-Laylee are blatantly obvious for players to see. I appreciate this because it places important value on experimental gameplay. If you fail a few times, you have to think of how to use the world and your moves to progress. There’s no hint after you fail 10 times to bail you out, a reality that may sound terrifying to some. Again, not having a hint or key tell you to do something makes uncovering a secret or solution all the more satisfying.
The humor in Yooka-Laylee is very self-aware and does a fine job of making fun of itself and certain aspects of the industry. Most characters carry a sarcastic or snarky type of humor. Jokes about things like DLC in gaming were very funny. They added a fitting and rebellious spirit to the game.
As I mentioned earlier, each of the five worlds can be unlocked and expanded. Expanding each world reveals new chunks of challenges for players to conquer. At first, Tribalstack Tropics is the beginning level of the game, but thanks to its eventual expansion, its difficulty rises and my perception of the world shifted.
This is something I haven’t experienced in an open-world game before. It provides a valuable sense of, hmmm…what’s that polarizing “R” word? Oh yes, replayability. Thanks to its expandable worlds, Yooka-Laylee implements an intriguing type of replayability and this is definitely the good kind.
Additionally, just because you expand a world doesn’t mean you are ready to complete its new challenges. Some areas will require you to have a new move that you have yet to unlock or you simply might not be skilled enough just yet to progress. This injects further depth and fun into each world, making them a joy to spend more time in.
There are eight different multiplayer games in Yooka-Laylee. Glaciators provided me and my friends with some of the funniest moments. It reminds me of the Mario Party classic mini games, Grab Bag and Bumper Balls. The objective is to collect the most Quills and you can bash your teammates to ensure they don’t. When you connect with an attack, Quills spill out for everyone to collect.
Throughout each round, Quills will be tossed onto the icy blocks that change from start to finish. Players need to be careful because falling off of the level results in a significant Quill reduction from your overall score. Blag the Flag is another multiplayer mode that stood out to me as quite fun. All eight games do a nice job of adding value to the overall experience, give gamers a nice chunk of added playtime.
Playtonic Games’ Yooka-Laylee steps away from the traditional AAA formula and its partly because of that why I have enjoyed it so much. “Freedom” is a term open-world games are regularly associated with, however, how often is it actually demonstrated through gameplay?
This title does a marvelous job of immersing the player from the get go. A lack of UI, waypoints and objectives make this game feel like a true open-world experience. These elements create freedom in Yooka-Laylee that other open-worlds only talk about. This is not a perfect game and has its wrinkles here and there that need improvements. However, great games like Fallout and Skyrim are rarely free of glitches or bugs when they launch.
Yooka-Laylee tries to bring something new and different to the open-world formula while still maintaining the spirit of its predecessor, Banjo-Kazooie. This game shows 3D platformers are still something to be desired, and hopefully more will come as a result of Yooka-Laylee.
Playtonic Games’ Yooka-Laylee will launch this coming April 11 for PS4, Xbox One, PC, Switch, Mac and Linux. Stick around here at We Write Things for more on Yooka-Laylee. Team17 provided We Write Things with an Xbox One code of Yooka-Laylee for the purposes of this review.