Capital B is amassing all of the books in the world to find the all powerful book so he can put together his master plan. Of course, that is to take over the world by expanding areas using the book. The book has been split into hundreds of pages and has been scattered across multiple areas because it does not want to be found. It is up to our heroes Yooka and Laylee to go on a journey to find all of the pages before Capital B gets his hands on them along with every other book ever written in search of it.
The story is very simple but is told with good old British humour, and the makers of this game, a collection of ex-Rare developers, were certainly not afraid to poke fun at it.
The audio in Yooka-Laylee is a journey back in time to the late 1990’s as the music composed for the game is a delightful feast for the ears. Upbeat melodies make it a joy to traverse the expansive worlds, and the audio really takes the experience of this 3d platformer to another level. The worlds sound alive with birds chirping, sounds of waterfalls falling and Yooka breaking things along the way. Swimming under water sounds great, and while getting into a bubble sounds wacky, there is just something right about it. The sounds the springs make when jumping off them all sound memorable. There are sounds coming from all over the place in this game, and the job done here is superb.
When you meet characters, they all speak in some nonsensical-type language with a series of noises, but they all have their own personalities. The most obvious is Trowzer, the snake who you meet early on, who uses lots of S’s in everything he says. It’s a little cliche, but that’s the point. I really enjoyed meeting the characters throughout the world and listening to what they had to say. Other characters you meet will have their own funny stories to tell, and it really brings the worlds to life. It’s a shame that these characters you meet were so few and far between as it made the worlds feel a little too sparse. Most of them are rather quite funny and make the experience all that more enjoyable.
Visuals and performance
It’s the visuals and performance which were major highlights of this game but also the biggest letdown. If you played 3d platformers of the 90s back in the 64-bit era, then one of the biggest gripes most people had was with the camera. It was something that developers just could not get to grips with. A platformer in 3D requires tight controls and a camera which is not a hindrance. If you don’t notice the camera in these games, then you are on to a winner.
For a lot of the game, especially in open areas, the camera is ok, but it’s when you get your character up against walls that it causes so many frustrations. Unfortunately, we are no longer in the 90s, and while I love the 3D platformer genre as much as the next person, I also remember what used to annoy me back then about them. Games like the recent Mario Odyssey have evolved into something greater than a traditional 3D platformer and are devoid of the issues which cause those types of annoyances. Yooka-Laylee has brought them back like a long forgotten girlfriend who all of a sudden is back on the scene saying she has changed, but all those old annoying habits are still there.
When you want to perform precise movements and jumps and the camera is moving all over the place, it becomes very difficult. I spent a lot of time wrestling with the camera using the right analogue stick when it was trying to lock into place and I wanted to move it for a better view. If you have followed me for a while on Youtube or on the website, then you will know I am always looking for the positive side of things, but this is one negative which affected my experience way more than it should have. It was something which I noticed when this game was released a few months back on other consoles, and it’s not much better on Switch.
On the upside, the visuals are beautiful. Everything, for the most part, runs smoothly and is almost on par with the version I played on PS4 a couple of months back. I did encounter dropped frame rates and slow down a little too frequently, but it was nothing that affected the game or my experience in a terrible way. It is something to be aware of, though.
In docked mode, the colours really pop, and the worlds look stunning. Everything is drawn really well, and the characters themselves look fantastic. Both Yooka and Laylee are animated superbly well, and the relationship between the two looks really natural when pulling off certain moves. The movement of the characters feels good when controlling them. They are a joy to be around, and it’s something the developers really nailed here.
My favourite worlds were definitely Tribal Stack Tropics and GlitterGlaze Glacier which sounds like a fancy doughnut I want to eat right now. While the Capital Cashino is colourful, it wasn’t as impressive and really felt out of place in this game. I would have preferred it if they had stuck in a volcanic world in its place.
Everything is rendered really well, and the sceneries have large draw distances. Also, everything looks nice and smooth, and it is not jagged like some of the platformers from the 90s, so that was definitely a plus when exploring.
The thing I did notice was the colours in handheld mode looked a little washed out, and it was nowhere near as impressive. While it’s obvious this is because it runs in 720p instead of 1080p while in handheld mode, it certainly was a lot more noticeable in this game over others I have played recently.
The gameplay is really traditional here, and the game certainly isn’t going to win any prizes for originality. I will say that Yooka-Laylee is a game which does feel more at home on the Switch than it does elsewhere. I am not sure why that is, but it just felt more natural playing this on Nintendo’s console. It just fits it really well.
Here you get to explore the worlds and find collectables like scribes for buying moves and pages to open up areas. Puzzles and secrets are there to be found and solved, and I did have quite a bit of fun finding all the bits and bobs lying around. In fact, that’s what these games are usually great for. There are 5 worlds in total. Completing each one and collecting everything within accounts for 20% of the total game.
My big disappointment is that one of the worlds is the hub itself. The Hub allows you to become accustomed to the game and learn the moves, but to be quite honest it feels like it is a bit of a mess. It was certainly not my favoured place to be around. The fact this counts as an area in itself really makes the game seem a lot smaller than it should because in reality there are only 4 areas to explore. There is one saving grace, though. The more pages you collect for the book, the more the areas expand. It’s awesome to behold an area growing in front of your eyes and being rewarded with more of it to explore. If it were not for that, it would have been a severe disappointment.
The biggest problem for me reviewing this game right now is I still have the memory of Mario Odyssey in my mind, and while it is unfair to compare the two, it’s something which at times just cannot be helped. The Mario games, particularly Mario Odyssey, were so well designed that camera issues simply don’t hinder the player. It is done right which is exactly how it should be in all games like this. When you make a mistake and fail, it is usually no one’s fault but your own. However, here in Yooka-Laylee, if you make a mistake, most of the time it’s because of poor game design. Now, I know and really appreciate that this is a platformer whose purpose is to bring back the nostalgia from those good old days, but we have also come a long way in gaming, and these types of faults are now a lot harder to forgive.
There is an example of when you are racing a floating cloud early on. In order maintain your stamina bar and carry on rolling, you need to to come out of your roll move and jump into butterflies to refill your energy. If you eat a butterfly with your lizard tongue, it acts like hearts should you get hit. This race requires absolute precision because of how tiny the butterflies are. I can’t tell you how many times I failed this race because the finicky camera made it so difficult to have the precision necessary to accomplish this. If there is one thing I absolutely cannot stand in a platformer, it is the character not being precise due to factors such as the camera, controls or, worst of all, both.
The mechanics, for the most part, are ok. It’s a pleasure unlocking more of the moves because it opens up even more places to explore. One such move is the Sonar which wakes up sleeping statues for example.
You will come across a host of different enemies, but for the most part, they are easy to kill and will not present much of a challenge. Finding the bosses is a challenge in itself, and the fights are the standard fare with each boss having 3 stages; however, they are not what you would expect, but I will not spoil it here. The bosses look great, and the fights themselves are quite fun.
There are also some local multiplayer games you can play with a friend using one joycon each which is a nice way to utilise the Switch hardware. These little games are a fun distraction but nothing more than that.
I wanted to love Yooka-Laylee, but while I enjoyed my time with it, there were too many little niggles which stop it from reaching greatness.
The value really depends on how badly you want a 3d platformer and whether you have already had the chance to play either Mario Odyssey or Poi. There is still life in the 3d platformer genre like a long dormant volcano that’s recently woken up. There is replayability like in many of these kind games because collecting everything for a 100% completion rating will take you a while longer than the campaign itself. At £34.99 it’s cheaper than your triple AAA titles, but I would certainly want this as a physical copy. That’s just me though! The value here is depends on whether you can forgive the games faults.