Yooka-Kazooie Banjo-Laylee Review
Written by Sam Rizzo
You would think I would have stopped riding the hype train thanks to Duke Nukem Forever and No Man’s Sky but NOPE. I was wildly excited for Yooka-Laylee. The screen shots showed off this fantastic colorful art style, the small snippets of the world layouts looked exciting. Recalling a time when 3D performers ruled the Nintendo 64 and awkward camera controls were the norm. The characters looking oddly specific to the Banjo Kazooie counterparts. The boss and enemies looking weirdly familiar. Oh, it’s a massive collect-a-thon that requires you to progress to expand the worlds so you can keep going farther to keep collecting more collectibles? Are the controls at least buttery smooth so the platforming feels satisfactory? No, they’re not, it feels like every world is either an ice level with a jumping mechanic that at times feels like your character is locking up in mid-air. Well, shit.
Its no secret that a lot of people were very excited for Yooka-Laylee. 73,206 backers cleared the Kickstarter goals for this game in no time flat. The Yooka-Laylee Kickstarter campaign ended with $2,585,030. For a small indie game developer that’s downright amazing. The more the goals were cleared, the more information about the game was released. Playtonic Games have announced they plans to release it on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and the Wii U (although rumors are they plan to scrap the WII U version to work on a Nintendo Switch port). Everything is looking up Yooka!
After getting to spend time with the game, its pretty clear that while this game was made with a whole lot of heart. Team 17 and Playtonic Games is made up of Ex-Rare developers for crying out loud. We’ve waited decades for a new Banjo game (I’m not going to count Nuts N’ Bolts either) and we finally have it, kind of. Here is the issue though, there is a difference between making a game that is inspired by a previous title and just throwing a fresh coat of paint on a game and then calling it an original work. Make no bones about, Yooka-Laylee is Banjo Kazooie.
Yooka keeps up with its Banjo Kazooie roots to its very own detriment. Even down to the classic weird issue of ramping up the difficulty within less than an hour of game play and then dropping down again. You use a villainous hideout hub like world to jump to other worlds (sound familiar?), You open up and expand the hub world by running around and collecting Golden Plagies within the hideout, you can also expand the hub world by defeating bosses, you have to collect ghosts for a group known as the Ghost Writers, etc. This game is built from the ground up on collectibles. Your every moment is spent either collecting or looking for collectibles. Well except for those moments filled with awkward precision platforming with sloppy controls. If you can’t tell, I was a bit let down with my time playing Yooka-Laylee.
At times, it seems like it’s a game that was made in 1998 and almost 20 years of advancements in gaming doesn’t exist but there are other times that I was quite impressed. The art style while like Banjo does have its own fresh goofy feel. The music while not perfect fits exceedingly well and changes depending where you are and what situation you’re currently in. The characters, while extremely like Banjo are still adorable and are well written. Although you can’t say the same thing for the voice acting. It’s not great, at times almost cringe inducing. I’m starting to think firing JonTron may have been a bad idea, sure he has the political views of an asshole but he is a great voice actor who could have provided a very needed talent to this game. Banjo had a lot of problems when it came out on the N64 and this game suffers from the exact same problems. Even awkward camera movement, something that has been perfected for damn near a decade (even Resident Evil figured it out eventually).
Look at me, talking shit about Banjo Kazooie and Yooka-Laylee on a popular gaming site. I’m going to get slaughtered. To get some of you back on my side I will admit that I adored Banjo Kazooie when it came out. I had both games, played the hell out of them, and knew every secret. The problem is, its still a bit stale when it comes to the game play. After twenty years, thing have changed, things have advanced, and Yooka just ignored all of that in favor of being a carbon copy of Banjo Kazooie.