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Yooka-Laylee review - Is it as good as the oldies?

For: Steam
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Hmmm, yes and no

Product: Yooka-Laylee | Format: Steam | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
*Disclaimer - the review below is for the PC version to get a feel for the game as it stands. We'll hopefully update it with a Switch opinion when we have access to that version*

Yooka-Laylee is one of those games that brings back memories of childhood gaming, but not always in the best way. 

As you would expect from a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie, it has all the charm and fun of '90s game. In that way it reminds you a little of what the current gaming market is still missing. 

However, there are a few areas where Yooka-Laylee falls short. And that dampens the experience, making you wonder whether those 3D platformers were ever any good or whether they were just fun at the time. 

Play me the song of your people

Yooka-Laylee is a 3D action platformer in which you play as the colourful duo Yooka, a green lizard thing, and Laylee, a purple bat.

After launching a Kickstarter in 2015, the game became the most backed UK project of all time. It raised £2.1 million from 80,000 backers. 

It's your goal to stop Capital B and his minions from absorbing all of the books in the world and converting them into profit. One of your own books almost gets sucked into his machine but, instead, its golden Pagies fly everywhere. You've got to go and collect them. 

The game is bright and charming, and really does bring back that child-like feeling of playing Crash Bandicoot or Spyro back in the day.

The golden quills you collect represent a form of currency which you can use to buy new moves. The Pagies help you to unlock new tonics and new worlds, and expand the ones you've already been to. 

Along the way you'll also find various opportunities for arcade-style mini games or side quests. These can be found scattered across the level and hidden in the most obscure places at times. Completing them gets you more Pagies.

In fact, the whole thing has a Spyro Year of the Dragon feel to it. What with the golden quill currency (gems), Pagies (eggs), side quests you need to revisit when you've got the abilities, and more besides. 

Okay, that's not a song

Aside from the mildly frustrating mini-games there are four things that stand out when looking for faults in the game.

Firstly, there are the slightly schizophrenic camera angles which, to be honest, we really don't miss in modern gaming.

Aside from battling against you when you try to look in a particular direction, they also jostle when you get into a packed area. Or the camera swoops in and gets way too close for comfort. 

Secondly, its mismatch-y voice acting - or rather - mismatch-y array of vocal noises. Whilst the concept of leaving things without actual voices is totally fine and easier when it come to translating into other languages, it's the automated repetition of the sounds that gets a bit grinding.

Perhaps only using short bursts of sounds or the occasional agreeable grunt would be better than something that sounds like a skipping record. 

Thirdly, the bad guys are bad but in the wrong way. They're bad at being bad. For evil minions they can be taken out extremely easily, and even the bosses aren't that interesting. 

Finally, you've got the incoherent level design. This could be entirely personal but these sorts of games usually benefit from levels with a beginning and an end where everything exciting happens in-between.

For whatever reason the levels here felt more like they offered up an open-world experience, meaning you can't really find an end. 

In fact, it's incredibly easy to become disoriented when running around, and when you think you've done everything you can you have to just return to the hub using your main menu. 

Let me play you mine

Yooka-Laylee is great in some ways and not so great in others. It's extremely bothersome that until you collect absolutely everything there's no real closure between levels like there always was in the platformers mentioned above. 

It's a fun experience and if you're younger you probably won't care about those features we older gamers loved when we were kids. It's colourful, it's silly, and at least there's plenty to do.

It's just such a shame that it misses the mark. With a few tweaks here and there, a decent game could have been truly great.
Yooka-Laylee review - Is it as good as the oldies?
Reviewer photo
Emily Sowden | 11 April 2017
Yooka-Laylee is fun at first with all of the charm of a 90s platformer, but shortly becomes rather tedious as the child-like joy wears off and leaves you with something that feels a little incomplete
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