By: Jeff Graham
Hi, my name is Jeff, and I’m Yooka-holic.
The game to which I’m helplessly addicted, Yooka-Laylee, is a 90’s throwback platformer in the time-honored tradition of games like Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64 initially developed on Kickstarter by a number of former Rareware employees. Unfortunately, the game hasn’t enjoyed the reception that its studio, Playtonic Games, was hoping for.
On the game, Gamespot’s Kallie Paige offers, “bloated levels and a largely uncooperative camera keep Yooka-Laylee from being more than just a nostalgia trip,” and IGN’s Marty Silva notes, “camera issues, some bland activities, and small number of worlds keep Yooka-Laylee from reaching the heights of its predecessors.”
After having played the game for 1̶5̶ ̶h̶o̶u̶r̶s̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶w̶o̶ ̶d̶a̶y̶s̶ a long time, I couldn’t disagree more with the game’s detractors. I find the game fun, challenging, surprising, and cripplingly addictive.
Some of the major criticisms facing the game include camera issues, frame rate dips, and poorly executed platforming mechanics. Regarding these criticisms, I’m completely scratching my head. I’ve been playing the game on X-Box One, and my experience has been nearly flawless. I can count on one hand the number of times that performance has interfered with gameplay, and even those moments were extremely minor. In my opinion, other more traditionally lauded games (I see you Zelda), suffer performance issues far more egregious than this title. In general, I find this game very tight and extremely playable.
Along those lines, Yooka-Laylee is gorgeous. Beautifully drawn characters and worlds enhance the gameplay tremendously. Specific visual details, like the particle effects surrounding different weather elements, or the quirky character animations that imbue our heroes, work magnificently.
The one consistent criticism with which I do agree is that the five main worlds are too large and just a bit too empty. These worlds are well-conceived and diverse, but I would’ve preferred them slightly scaled down in favor of one additional level. In general, the 90’s-era collectathons to which this game pays homage nailed the perfect level size, and Yooka-Laylee could’ve benefitted by more directly imitating those models. The levels are just large enough to be disorientating, occasionally interfering with gameplay more than enhancing it, especially because this title does rely heavily on backtracking.
For me, though, the most important question surrounding any video game is, “is it fun?” For Yooka-Laylee, the answer is a resounding yes. The game is vibrant, dynamic, addictive, and yes, very fun. Criticism surrounding the game’s poorly designed mechanics and frustrating, cumbersome gameplay are completely confounding to me, because 95% of the time, I feel the exact opposite. I’m probably about halfway done with the game, and I can’t wait to keep exploring.
If Tooka-Laylee or Yooka-Laythree ever make their way into our hands, I hope Playtonic will consider caling the levels down just a bit and providing us with more worlds. Other than that slight criticism, I’m loving Yooka-Laylee. I haven’t had this much stupid fun with a video game in a long time.