Since Microsoft’s acquisition of Rare back in 2002, fans of the studio have begged for another Banjo-Kazooie game. Rare listened and started working on the next installment in the series (supposedly called ‘Banjo-threeie’), but Microsoft’s involvement changed the game’s design, which eventually resulted in ‘Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts’. This game wasn’t received that well and marked the end of ‘collectathon’ games. Many years later, some ex-Rare developers started their own independent studio called Playtonic Games and created a Kickstarter campaign for Yooka-Laylee, the spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie. The campaign was successful and gathered a lot of attention. Now it’s finally released and we can finally see if collectathon games still have a place in today’s gaming culture.
Collecting and exploring
The main premise of Yooka-Laylee is exploring different worlds and collecting Paigies. These Paigies come from a book that holds a lot of power, power that the main villain, Capital B, wants. Collecting several Paigies will unlock the next world or a new area on an unlocked one. There are also Quills to collect which can be used to buy upgrades for Yooka and Laylee. Most of these upgrades are necessary in order to collect every Paigie and Quill in the game, but not to get to the last level.
There are five worlds and one main hub area that you can explore in Yooka-Laylee. Each world is accessed through the main hub and can be expanded by spending enough Paigies. Most of the worlds are well designed, especially the first one, Tribalstack Tropics. However, there’s a notable decline in quality in level design when comparing the levels with each other. Especially the last world, Capital Cashino, feels like it’s unfinished. This level is stretched out in one big room and filled with all kinds of simple activities that reward you with Quills and Paigies. The issue with these activities is that they’re too simple and can get repetitious quite fast. Capital Cashino also has some low-quality textures and lighting effects, which make the level look like an early access title. The previous levels are luckily good enough to keep your attention, but it’s disappointing to see that Playtonic dropped the ball with this world.
The gameplay in Yooka-Laylee is probably its biggest flaw. It starts out good enough, having you collect Quills and Paigies to unlock abilities and worlds. The problem with this is that this is basically all you do in the entire game. After exploring the second world, you’ll quickly see that the game gives you all kinds of boring and repetitious tasks in order to keep you busy. Even the transformation sequences that turn you into a snowplow or pirate ship feel like they’re padded out for the sake of artificially lengthening the gameplay. To be fair, the Banjo-Kazooie series also didn’t feature deep gameplay mechanics and had the same basic premise of ‘collect everything’. But does this excuse the lazy tasks or laborious gameplay in a spiritual successor to a series that is almost two decades old? If you’re a fan of this type of gameplay, then sure, but this will not attract many newcomers to the series, which can hurt the success of this title and discourage other developers from creating this kind of game.
Yooka-Laylee features some great art design and mostly good-looking graphics. I say mostly because some objects don’t have proper lighting effects, making them stand out like an eyesore. It also tends to have some difficulty maintaining a steady framerate, at least on the Xbox One version. There are also some visual glitches, especially in Capital Cashino. Nothing too bad, but they should be mentioned.
Yooka-Laylee also comes with several minigames that can be played in local multiplayer with up to four people. Like most minigames in videogames, they differ in quality. Some are fun to play, some are simply bad or forgettable. It’s a nice addition to the game and playing with friends is always fun, just don’t expect too much of it.
Yooka-Laylee is a difficult title to rate. On one hand, it features repetitious gameplay and a decline in quality in terms of world design. On the other, it does play like a Banjo-Kazooie title and offers the same type of humor, character designs and storytelling. In the end, this game was funded by and made for fans of the Banjo-Kazooie titles, so those people will probably get their money’s worth. If you’re not of fan of these type of games, then Yooka-Laylee won’t change your mind.