Yooka-Laylee

A controversial game to be sure- many complaints from the people who got exactly what they asked for. The Monkey’s Paw is dangerous, indeed.

A quick summary for anyone not in the know- Yooka-Laylee is pretty much a reimagining of the Banjo-Kazooie games from the late 90s, made by the same team of people who made those games. They are a very specific flavour of platform game often called collect-a-thon (although I personally consider that to be a derisive term for games that have collectibles only for the sake of having them, while B-K managed to make collecting it’s thingies fun). Y-L was sold as a warts-n-all spritual successor made with exactly the same game design ethos in mind. And, that’s what we got.

Problem is, it was marketed towards people nostalgic for Banjo, who played the game back when such things were fresh and new and hadn’t been done before. Y-L was targetting a nostalgia that cannot be recreated by anything; nothing except the original can ever scratch that itch, and so people played a basically-fine game expecting it to reinvigour childhood whimsy, and cursed its name when it failed to deliver. Meanwhile, people without those specific memories played a game that was dated by design, and felt unimpressed as a result.

It’s a weird No Man’s Land that Yooka-Laylee built for itself, where no party will quite jive with it. Deliberately eschewing modern conveniences and evoking even the negative parts of oldskool design that no one misses is, at best, a unique direction, and one that doesn’t always pay off.

I do enjoy games of this type, though my patience for them has severely eroded over the years; suffice it to say, getting 100% in a game that has intentionally made some of its mini-games tedious or over-difficult is not something I have time for any more, ancient and decrepit as I am. And it is intentional! The dialogue makes too fine a point on it for it to not have been intentional. Their effort to reach maximum authenticity is striking, and the game is worthy of praise even just for that.

From a modern perspective, one opinion I see often and agree with wholeheartedly is that the game worlds are too big. Much too big. There are only five stages, a fact that surprised me at first, but they’re so expansive that I can now understand why they kept it to such a low number. Large worlds to explore may sound like a positive, but in a game that encourages (or indeed, requires) exploration of every nook and cranny it only serves to dull the experience. There are always so many directions to go and every path goes on for such a long time that you quickly lose sense of where you are and where you’ve already been, and it’s hard to figure out where to backtrack to. It would have been better served having 10 stages of half the size each.

Fin or Bin:

Nonetheless, I’m having fun. These games are still fun, despite their myriad problems, and that’s ultimately what matters. I cannot imagine I’ll get 100% or anything near it, but I’m having a fine time just exploring the levels until I’m fed up of them and moving onto the next. Still, I have to wonder the wisdom of including ‘retro challenges’, arcade-style games that seem to exist only to say ‘haha, old games are actually bad!’; you might want to spend some time thinking introspectively, lads.

(Steam)

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