Yooka-Laylee Review – Yooka-Failee

Party like it’s 1998!

Developer: Playtonic Games
Publisher: Playtonic Games
Format: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One (reviewed)
Released: April 11, 2017
Copy provided by publisher
Reviewer contributed to Kickstarter

If there’s one thing that can be said in Yooka-Laylee‘s favor, it’s that Playtonic absolutely nailed the creation of a late 90s 3D mascot platformer.

Unfortunately, I do not mean that as a compliment.

Retro experiences are all very well and good, but while a sidescrolling 16-bit experience can be recreated authentically with little issue, the early years of 3D gameplay were riddled with troubles – developers hadn’t yet worked out how third-person cameras should work, and the intricate jumping challenges found in earlier software were often recreated with annoying results thanks to inferior controls and archaic platforming that stumbled through a whole new dimension.

It’s often hard to know where you’re going to land while jumping in a 3D space and old school level design couldn’t deal with it, with moving platforms and tricky chasms that simply refused to account for the shift in player perspective. From Mario 64 to Crash Bandicoot, there were plenty of control issues as well. Subtlety of movement wasn’t a strong suit of early 3D mascot platforms, which made navigating narrow ledges a pain.

Characters would turn with the wild swing of an axe murderer, the very slightest nudge of the controller could see them jerk forward unpredictably, and generally it was a chaotic shitshow. When you take off the rose-tinted spectacles, you find that even the classic platformers of the era have tended to age poorly and were often littered with frustrating problems even back when they first came out.

This is to be expected in the toothing phase of what were, back then, very new concepts and unique problems that would take years to tackle.

Many solutions arose in the decades since Gex and Croc were relevant reptiles, yet sadly an all-new lizard (with his racist bat friend) is here with a game that decided none of those solutions should be implemented.

With its dated mechanics, horrific camera, and awful platforming controls, Yooka-Laylee is the very embodiment of nostalgia gone wrong – a faithful recreation of a 1998 experience without any consideration or concessions made for the many advances in gameplay that have occurred since then.

I initially decided to run my review of Yooka-Laylee without a score because I found it so utterly unbearable to play. This would have been the third time in twelve years I’ve ever done this, putting Yooka-Laylee in the same bracket as Velvet Assassin and Knights Contract, two other games so archaic and poorly designed I refused to put up with their shit.

However, I powered through to at least see all the worlds on offer, a task rendered difficult only by the horrendous hub world design that makes the simple act of finding levels difficult due to obscure, sometimes bizarre placement. I don’t think I’ve seen a hub world so poorly executed before – it’s almost like they wanted it to feel like a Metroidvania map with its shortcuts and intertwining corridors, but it’s just a big steaming mess.

After forcing myself to keep playing, it turned out I’d almost given up at the good stages – the initial two worlds (the ones marketing have been showing more than anything) are practical masterclasses in level creation compared to the unimaginative wreckage that waits beyond.

By design, you can access new worlds rather simply once their entrances have been discovered. You don’t need many collectibles to unlock them, nor to upgrade them with expanded areas that create further exploration and add more pickups. If you’ll want to face the final boss, you’ve got a lot of collecting to do, however, and I’ll say quite cheerfully that I am not spending another second in any of these ghastly environments.

The simple act of moving Yooka around the world is unpleasant. His clumsy, stiffly animated stumbling throughout the world is visually unfortunate and interactively awkward. As the player deals with this, they’re locked in eternal combat with the camera which pretty much does its own thing and is not particularly interested in helping the player advance across haphazardly strewn floating blocks and other trite hurdles.

Combat is brainless, consisting of tapping a single button while enemies walk thoughtlessly into your attacks. Sometimes you’ll not connect with an attack and take damage just because of some reasons. Yooka-Laylee can be quite arbitrary like that.

The meat of the game is Banjo-Kazooie remade, which most people were expecting. It is quite literally that.

It’s a collect-a-thon in which you travel to “unique” worlds and solve puzzles or uncover secrets to earn enough glorified keys to unlock additional worlds. In this case, the asspull collectibles are Pagies, bits of a magical book that came loose after the tome was stolen by Capital B – an evil capitalist who is a bee, you see.

You know the drill if you’ve ever played a late 90s platformer. Pagies are Stars from Mario 64, the things you keep visiting worlds to unlock to so you can visit fresher worlds. Except, y’know, Stars were fun to get.

Additionally, the game is drowning in Quillies, or Quills, or whatever. They’re more contrived bits of magical bullshit you pick up so you can buy new moves from Trowzer the snake (he’s named after a penis).

Some of these moves are crucial to acquiring new Pagies, although the game doesn’t always tell you what moves are needed and when. In fact, it might make you navigate intricate and irritating jumping sections to get to your goal… only to find out you don’t have some as-yet unknown power and will have to repeat everything later. Yooka-Laylee loves pulling this snide little stunt on its players.

Many of the puzzles are tricky not because they’ve been designed to be, but because the game is so terrible at visual communication. Sometimes the puzzles are so poorly placed or conceived you’re not even sure what the puzzle is supposed to be.

This is to say nothing of the awful minigames, none of which feel particularly optional since they all award Pagies. There are several “retro” arcade games that couldn’t even be bothered to use new character models to make anything look retro and take the form of piss-poor racing games or shooters. I don’t know why creating games that actually looked and felt like retro games was too big an ask for Playtonic, but it’s jarring (and creatively barren) to feature a bunch of “arcade” games that look just like the regular game.

Don’t get me started on the minecart rides, which feel almost arbitrary in how poorly placed the enemies and traps are, or the transformations in which Yooka and Laylee combine to form an animal or vehicle that’s even more of a pain in the ass to maneuver than they are.

All of the minigames and transformations feature worse controls than regular platforming – something that shouldn’t be possible – and not one of them has proven to be slightly enjoyable.

Sometimes the game can’t even be bothered to be a game and instead forces a memory quiz on the player, demanding they answer nonsense questions about the things they’ve picked up and characters they’ve met. It tries to make this okay by pointing out it’s a lazy and cheap bit of content padding… but that doesn’t save it from being what it is.

While regular platforming, puzzles, and minigames ruin your day, you’re also having to deal with the dialog noises because this is a game that assaults the psyche on all possible levels. It was never really funny when Banjo-Kazooie replaced talking with grating grunts and moans, but in Yooka-Laylee it’s a fucking nightmare.

Unlike The Legend of Zelda, where one or two noises are enough to get the point across, dialog sections in Yooka-Laylee insist that characters bark and wheeze and groan constantly while talking – every syllable needs an atrocious bloody racket. Some of the cacophony can thankfully be skipped, but not all of it.

Expect to hear plenty of hacking, snorting, and sneering as characters rattle off droll in-jokes and self-references to the point of saturation.

Also, Yooka himself sounds like a total fucking pervert every time he “speaks.” It’s actually quite distressing.

The dialog as written is only slightly less painful with terrible jokes that undeservedly throw shade at other games and Laylee’s “witty” quips routinely insulting the looks of any creature that isn’t her, often using derogatory nicknames based on their appearance. She’ll toss out slurs against snakes, shopping carts, clouds, she doesn’t care. Laylee is a complete racist, and as facetious as I’m being here, she really does come off as a hateful, nasty, thoroughly unlikable little bastard.

Jokes are often repeated and fall firmly into cringe territory with hamfisted fourth-wall breaks and mockery of modern game design – things that could work in a better game, one that was well designed enough to get away with mocking things, or one that’s at least funny when it does so.

Yooka-Laylee is not funny. In fact, as someone who backed it, I can safely say it’s a fucking disaster.

While it’s bright and colorful, the game’s choppy framerate and wonky physics mitigate any pleasure one might derive from the graphics. Stages aren’t particularly detailed in their design, featuring lots of basic blocks, platforms, and ramps, while characters themselves are mildly endearing if somewhat forgettable. It’s the kind of game that looks far better in screenshots than when viewed in motion.

About the only truly competent work on display is the music, which at least does a great job of balancing nostalgia with quality.

Those desperate for a mascot platformer in Rare’s old style might be able to love this, but frankly if you need to collect things in a cutesy animal world that badly, just play Snake Pass. It’s far better.

Yooka-Laylee is a game out of time, clinging so desperately to past glories it doesn’t seem to understand the Earth kept spinning after the N64 was discontinued. It’s everything wrong about the formative years of 3D platforming and it somehow retained none of what made the genre’s highlights endure.

Yooka-Laylee is, in a word, rubbish.

2/10
Bad

 

EMA
Guest
EMA

Jumping Jesus Christ on a pogo stick, these fanboys are dumber than stormfront idiots.

James Kimball
Guest
James Kimball

Jesus, I have not seen people actually be mad at Jim, even though he has said it. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but bashing the opinions of others is simply churlish

Chubzdoomer
Guest
Chubzdoomer

Wrong again, Jim. You’re on a roll this year, and we haven’t even hit the midway point.

One Monkey
Guest
One Monkey

I know! Where are the radio towers to unlock more of the map? Where is the asynchronous multiplayer? Where is the crafting system and hunger bars? Where are the 340 different guns? Why is everything colorful, reality is grey and brown? Where are the zombies? Where are my goddamn microtransaction for different skins? Get with the times!

Gomly Games
Guest
Gomly Games

Arguably one of the silliest retorts to the review.

He didn’t ask for any of those, just pointed out how awful the gameplay, characters, story and physics were.

If you like it, more the power to you but fuck off expecting everyone to agree with you.

Jim has his opinion, you have yours and everyone else has theirs.

You enjoy it while others think it’s sub par tripe. Welcome to the world, not everyone thinks the same.

One Monkey
Guest
One Monkey

The gameplay is fine and I’m sorry they didn’t resurrect Shakespear to write the crowd funded retro 3d platformer. I forgot that Banjo Kazooie and Conker were works of story telling genius. We got exactly what was promised so I don’t see the sense in complaining after the fact.

EMA
Guest
EMA

Where are your smooth camera controls? Where are your movement physics? Where are your well-written stories and characters? Why does it seem that every Yooka-Laylee fan is as far-gone as the Sonic fans and are willing to ignore every single problem a game has and bathe the developer’s cocks with their tongues?

One Monkey
Guest
One Monkey

A 2/10 should be reserved for a barely functional piece of software. You are not even that harsh to the scammers and asset flippers on steam.

Al Buns
Guest
Al Buns

Funny how people were so angry and hateful of Jim before they had even played the game themselves. The general consensus is that this game is mediocre and should have a lower metascore. Nostalgia doesn’t add anything to gaming and is just used to excuse poor game design, bad controls and outdated mechanics. Yooka is a perfect example and BoTW fits that description to an extent. Jim was spot on and fanboys are angry lol. It’s not that serious kiddies.

inferno
Guest
inferno
iv been thinking about this review alot and ive sorta been trying to weight it up in my mind for me after reading this and some other reviews along with listening to what tb and the gang had to say about it on his podcast for me this game should have a 5 or a 6 rating and the reason for me are that it is what they said it would be a 90s mascot platformer its not earth shattering but its now rubbish either i must admit though i was expecting more i wanted for 3d platformers what shovel… Read more »
Al Buns
Guest
Al Buns

That doesn’t change the fact that the controls and camera are bad. Nostalgia does not make this game more than mediocre just cause the devs promised an outdates game. That just makes it a bad game so the score is right. Giving it a 5 makes no difference and it does not deserve as 6 as that would suggest the game is at least average. There are different standards this generation and Yooka fails to meet them. Just except the facts already.

inferno
Guest
inferno
i dont need to get over anything im not an angry fanboy what i am is confused as to how a game that does what banjo does and does it well if flawed is a bad game its mediocre but not bad all i was doing here is airing MY thoughts on it and why I thought peeps were upset facts arnt unquestionable and who said jims word was final fact ? anyways im still buying the switch version of it regardless as i like what ive played and to anyone else do what you think is right for you… Read more »
Michael Perry
Guest
Michael Perry
This honestly sums up how I’ve been feeling about the game. I tried explaining this to a friend of mine, but couldn’t really put the game’s awkwardness to words. And it’s like, I don’t care what people say, Banjo Kazooie was great…for 1998, not for 2017. This game is Banjo Kazooie in 2017. And I know this game is for fans of the genre, but that doesn’t mean that you should make the game behave EXACTLY like its predecessors. Give me a break, man. That being said, I don’t agree that it’s so horribly bad that it’s worthy of a… Read more »
Sam
Guest
Sam

I completely agree with your feelings. Banjo Kazooie /Tooie are two of my all-time favourites and I backed this game on Kickstarter. I couldn’t have been more disappointed with it and feel exactly as you do. It’s a 5-6/10 and it IS Banjo Kazooie, lock-stock-and barrel in 2017 with absolutely no advancements from the intervening 19 years. It’s like they thought ‘people want Banjo Kazooie so let’s just give them that’ and ignored the fact that games like Super Mario Galaxy happened at all.

NudeBeachLifeguard
Guest
NudeBeachLifeguard

Every time I think Jim’s a little bit hard on gamers they do something to prove him right. You folk really need thicker skin. Sheesh.

Alex Night
Guest
Alex Night
I honestly can’t take this review seriously although it is due mostly to how critics got review copies that had these problems like the camera controls which got patched just before the game was released publicly. In retrospect, Playtonic should’ve been able to squash these before shipping them, but to be honest, the game is much better than he’s giving credit for. Yooka-Laylee is a game made for FANS of the genre, not a game trying to fit into a Flavor of the Month genre. Even then, they worked on modernizing it such as the stamina meter which can refill… Read more »
EMA
Guest
EMA

So, you’re mad that he’s not a foaming at the mouth fanboy like you and won’t parrot your opinions?

Alex Night
Guest
Alex Night
I am not a fanboy as you insultingly claim me to be. I’m simply telling it how it is. They made a game that is for fans of the genre and he backed it knowing it to be so and then he turns around to just do more than just saying what is wrong with the game. Not to mention this review is based on the review copies sent out for Reviewers to look at, not the released product that came out Day 1 which is miles better in terms of its camera issues. Of course this game has flaws,… Read more »
Wells
Guest
Wells

fanboys are hilarious

Marian Żmigrodzki
Guest
Marian Żmigrodzki

Only read this now and it makes me think I might enjoy this game as I love the ol school platformers. And I do love them with their disadvantages and faults. I respect an opinion of a professional critic who looks at the game and judges it by some standards, nostalgia doesn’t follow standards though – I just replayed Croc 2 today and I still love it. I’m definitely getting Yooka Laylee, sooner or later.

Monte
Guest
Monte

I replayed Banjo Kazooie not too long ago and frankly i thought the game completely holds up. Graphics are a bit dated but the gameplay is solid. Frankly i don’t see where the complaints for old school 3D platformers comes from

Eric Kotorac
Guest
Eric Kotorac

“clinging so desperately to past glories”

You know, it’s points like these that don’t make sense. They fought hard to make a game just like this for fan’s of the genre. You clearly don’t like collectathons so just don’t play or review games like this again. Review something that’s in you league.

EMA
Guest
EMA

Fuck, you’re a smug [♪SKELETON WARRIORS♫]. Mate, maybe you aren’t aware of how a critic’s job works: they get games to review. They review them. Instead of worshipping a game and saying it’s the second-coming of Super MechaChrist, maybe you should stay off of review websites and just stick to sites that are your league.

Pedro Ferreira
Guest
Pedro Ferreira

So essentially for a company that believed in diversity they made their lead character racist? Double standards eh?

Cyberwulf
Guest
Cyberwulf

Have any of you people freaking out over the game’s review score actually read Jim’s reasons as to why he awards the scores he does? Have you even read what he actually wrote or did you skip to the end first and then desperately skim the article, searching for points you could misinterpret and then argue with?

Eric Kotorac
Guest
Eric Kotorac

I have. It’s rubbish.

EMA
Guest
EMA

Lol.. snowflakes are funny. “Waaah, waah, anything that doesn’t mirror MY opinion is wrong, WAAAH!” Christ, when you get out of college, the world will eat you alive..

Assaf Hadary
Guest
Assaf Hadary

while I’ve played only a little and I think it’s better than a 2/10 (4-5/10 right now) I agree with the headline of this review. in a world where Jak&Daxter exist, Yooka Laylee needs to be far better. the camera is really bad, platforming is unpolished (which is fine for something like Bayonetta, but not a banjo-esque game) and it’s certinly a “I have to power through this for a review” and “I want to play Nier:Automata now” kind of game. and I like platformers like Rayman, Crash and J&D…

Lethal Jam
Guest
Lethal Jam
I get that Jims’ style is to be a prick but I’m not sure what he’s trying to prove here. I get that reviews don’t have to be objective but saying the game is right out bad because you don’t like banjo-style platformers is a bit much. More and more I see this kind of behaviour from Jim. That is: being a total prick in an unfunny way, twisting reality to his agenda and ignoring/making fun of actual critique of his work. This is the reason I don’t really follow him anymore and even if he probably won’t loose followers… Read more »
Cyberwulf
Guest
Cyberwulf

did you, like, read and understand the review at all? like did you see where he talks about how broken and shit it is and then backs that up with examples from the gameplay?

Monte
Guest
Monte

Having played the game, the complaints seem like utter nonsense as the gameplay is pretty damn solid. Really, having trouble landing on platforms? Just line up with your landing with your shadow; Its not difficult. I’ve barely had any trouble with the camera either. I’m finding the game to be a breeze to play through. Only complications i’m getting is likely because my graphics card is below the recommended specs

EMA
Guest
EMA

Basically, anyone who doesn’t agree with you is wrong and completely out of their minds and clearly shouldn’t be giving their opinion, because ONLY YOUR opinion matters.

Fucking snowflakes..

Hergedeberg
Guest
Hergedeberg

Or maybe just maybe he’s you know being fucking critical of a game and reviewing it based on how he experienced it Jesus a lot of you people are such cry babies you
do know life isn’t over just because Jim has an opinion that maybe in current year argument a game shouldn’t be a carbon copy of a game from the fucking 90s that it should actually control decent because it is in fact CURRENT YEAR ARGUMENT! also saying he went into it wanting to hate it is dumb as tuck because he backed the damn game on Kickstarter

darksteel6
Guest
darksteel6

fucking idiot

Gomly Games
Guest
Gomly Games
Some of the people in these comments are seriously screwed up. Not enough hugs? Too many hugs? Not everyone is going to like your favourite game/movie/book/food/wank material, get over it. I enjoyed ME:A and that’s still being shit on from a great height. Does that make me enjoy it any less? No, no it doesn’t. I happen to agree with Jim here but my wife loves it so it wasn’t a total waste. I dislike it for different reasons though. I have absolutely no problem with anything gameplay wise it’s just my personal tastes. When this kind of game was… Read more »
Krylo
Guest
Krylo

What the hell is wrong with people in the comments? Jim I feel fucking bad for you man, just looking at the comments you’d get the impression the article is a personal attack on every human being. I sincerely hope you continue to write honestly despite the shit that’s piling up here.

Monte
Guest
Monte

What’s probably an issue is just how far Jim goes to insult everything about the game. He doesn’t simply call them bad but makes it sound like they are a horrible mess… this is only compounded by those that actually played the game and find the gameplay to be pretty solid with only minor issues

Anon
Guest
Anon

I do see a few “fuck you” comments, but a lot of comments are suprised at the lack of objectivity unlike most reviews.

Bob
Guest
Bob

Fat man has no soul. Probably ate it.

Anon
Guest
Anon
Jim, honestly this is a bit far. This article makes it quite clear you dislike the collectathon genre, and seem to not be a particular fan of the writing style of Rare games that this takes from. Laylee is honestly just Kazooie repeated, and it would seem based off your critiques of the level design, specifically the quote (paraphrasing) “The game makes you navigate through intricate and frustrating jumping puzzles, only to make you do those same puzzles because you’ve gained some new power or macguffin.”, that your main reasons for the game being rubbish are the same reasons people… Read more »
Cyberwulf
Guest
Cyberwulf

Reviews aren’t objective. They’re subjective. By their very nature.

Michael VanGorden
Guest
Michael VanGorden

Jim didn’t review MM9 though, that was Laura.

Anon
Guest
Anon

Well, that’s on me. Either or, I still stand this game isn’t, or hasn’t been objectively proven as a 2/10 unlike many other reviews which at least concede major bias in a major way.

Chris
Member

It has been proven objectively. Since review scores are objective like all you idiots keep saying, the existence of that number proves it. By science. Like they prove that Persona 5 is objectively a better game than Breath of the Wild.

This isn’t complicated.

darksteel6
Guest
darksteel6

dumbass

Robert Marsh
Guest
Robert Marsh

If this game was banjo repeated I would have liked it, because I played Banjo kazooie the other day, and I fucking enjoyed it. this I did not

Anon
Guest
Anon

“I didn’t like it, and therefore you are wrong.” – Robert Marsh 2017
Well then.

Adam James
Guest
Adam James

Thats not even what he said. He said he liked Banjo and did not like this game. He didn’t even need to say “in his opinion”. Its so clearly defined as his opinion. You are just fucking retarded.

Kaosz
Guest
Kaosz

So I am guessing people just scrolled down to the score without reading. Morons.

Cyberwulf
Guest
Cyberwulf

Oh who has time to read words and think about what they mean when you can just look at a number, devoid of all context, and then start banging your fists on the keyboard while screaming and shitting yourself?

James Jukeisha Beckett
Guest
James Jukeisha Beckett
It’s wierd but I kind of felt like the issues listed would exist from the minute I saw the first game trailer. I just didn’t see value in backing this one. When all is said and done if you like this kind of thing and you’re happy with the game bully for you peeps, but why attack a reviewer that disagrees with you? 2/10 is how jim felt and he feelings don’t somehow ruin a game for you. Those of us who aren’t excited for this game aren’t going to be lost or won by reviews at this point, it’s… Read more »
Robert Ally
Guest
Robert Ally
While you are entitled to your oppinion, i well say there are some things i disagree whith first of, bad dialogue can not be justified, at best it can be so bad it’s good, and saying that a cartoon aesthetic makes it ok, i feel is an insult towards cartoons, plenty of cartoons and games whith cartoon aesthetics both new and old, have manged to be really well written and funny, Im not saying the game has to reach the same level as psychonauts in terms of writing, but if your going to include dialogue, and have it be more… Read more »
ThePiePieper
Guest
ThePiePieper

Come on, it’s not like the game killed your mom. Does it have issues and is it a product of its time, yes. But a 2 implies that it barely plays. I respect your points and the fact you didn’t enjoy the game, but 2/10 seems like you are out to prove a point or something.
Not going to critique your physical appearance or make wild allegations about your allegiances, but when games like Recore and No Mans Sky score higher, maybe the scale needs to be reevaluated.

DanMan
Guest
DanMan

This really just confirms my expectations. I never liked Gex, Crash Bandicoot or Banjo Kazooey (or however that’s spelled). The only 3D J’n’R I ever liked (never had a Nintendo console) was Conker’s Bad Fur Day, but not really because it had great gameplay, but because Conker was in a really friggin’ bad mood, and the general hilarity that ensued. Most just never really translated all that well into 3D.

This here is really just another Mighty No. 9, maybe less drab. It’s mostly banking on nostalgia. But hey, if that’s exactly what you’ve been looking for. Knock yourself out.

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