Initial release date: October 2019
Developer: Playtonic Games
Publisher: Team17 Digital Limited
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Genres: Platform game, Action-adventure game
PlayTonic Games, a company forged of former Rare Ltd employees, came together a few years ago to create a game in the vein of the previously released Banjo-Kazooie games (minus Nutz and Boltz) with a new mascot platformer in Yooka-Laylee which while capturing a lot of the charm and love of the Banjo series also kept the many shortcomings of the 2001 Banjo-Tooie much to the chagrin of many modern gamers. After some years PlayTonic have come back with a new entry in the series that take a decidedly different approach in a 2D format that feels very much like the uber successful Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze albeit with its own twists and identity in Yooka-Laylee And The Impossible Lair. Does this new entry live up to the new IP’s milestones and rights the wrongs of the previous entry? Let’s find out!
The Impossible Lair starts of with Yooka and Laylee meeting with Queen Phoebe and seeing her new Royal Beetalion which coats the user of the Beetalion in armor that allows them to take hits and not much longer after are we introduced to series antagonist the villainous CEO Capital B and his newest contraption which is the HiveMind allowing him to take over and corrupt the Royal Stingdom of which he starts with the Royal Beetalion and then attempts to use it on Queen Phoebe. Yooka and Laylee give chase and rush after Capital B in an attempt to regain the Beetalion and rescue the Royal Stingdom by entering Capital B’s Impossible Lair which more than lives up to it’s name sake.
If you’ve played any Donkey Kong Country title in the past then you will be right at home here as Yooka-Laylee And The Impossible Lair is a easy to pick up platformer with a wealth of not only charm but also challenge as you will easily be able to acclimate to the gameplay mechanics but also be given the choice of to go after the hidden secrets of each level optionally which are out of the way yet also incredibly challenging. The controls are easy to grasp as you can run with either the left analog stick or Dpad, jump with B, tail whip attack with Y, and grab items with a tongue lash with R. You can do more advanced maneuvers such as rolling attacks performed by pressing Y as you run and also the ability to add some extra hang-time to your jumps by pressing attack while jumping and also the ability to jump right out of a roll so when you are rolling over ledges or pits you can jump allowing you to reach areas a normal jump wouldn’t normally reach.
When you are in the over-world you’re able to move around in 3D in a similar vein as Super Mario 3D World where you can see the levels before you enter them, however, where it differs is in the fact that you can utilize different environmental elements like freeze berries to freeze levels allowing all new starting points and level layouts giving the game a lot of variety to every level that you run into and to return them to normal just use a blaze berry. Level progression is fairly straight forward as well with you collecting coins and feathers in levels that allow you to use them outside of levels in the over world to either buy different potions to unlock various buffs or in the case of coins allow you to get past paywalls, yes I said pay walls and the game breaks the 4th wall and pokes fun at modern day microtransactions and paywall tendencies in gaming.
Also important to note is that at any point in the game you can tackle the final level, the titular “Impossible Lair”, at any point that you would like however the difficulty of said level will be incredibly difficult if you just try and tackle it first instead of gaining addition Beetalion buffs.
This game really looks good not only when docked but even portably with sharply detailed animated characters that running at a smooth 1080P 30FPS docked and 720P 30FPS in handheld mode. Yooka and Laylee, Queen Phoebe, and Capital B and supporting characters al looking vibrant and wonderfully animated in that Disney-Pixar style that they are modeled in giving that movie quality look that just pops off the screen. The levels are lavishly detailed as well and really give you that 90’s and early 00’s vibe of mascot platformer vibes as the worlds not only have whats going on in the fore ground but a lot going on in the background which truly makes each level and world feel very alive.
The audio in the game sounds just as it did in the previous entry and if by some chance you are not familiar with that entry then think of Banjo-Kazooie and there you go. Each character makes grunts when talking that brings back that Banjo charm and while there is no voice acting, this is sufficient given the type of game that this is. The soundtrack is very very catchy which will have you finding yourself humming along the various level themes. Honestly not a bad listen on this soundtrack at all.
Downsides you say? Well…..honestly I can’t think of any other than the game could be considered hard for some not familiar with the 2.5D games but with trail and error you will eventually “git gud”.
With solid visuals, charming characters, great gameplay, awesome OST, great unlockables and varied gameplay, all in all, Yooka-Laylee And The Impossible Lair is honest one of the best games to release in 2019 and honestly……YOU NEED THIS GAME in your library! PlayTonic Games did a phenomenal job here and I cannot wait to see what is the next entry in the Yooka-Laylee series!