One of the bigger Kickstarter games was Yooka-Laylee. Released in 2017, Yooka-Laylee was a 3D title developed by Playtonic Games, a company consisting of former Rare employees. Rare was the developer of acclaimed titles such as the original Donkey Kong Country trilogy and Banjo-Kazooie. Playtonic sought to make a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie, bringing back the collect-a-thon genre. Anticipation was high, but Yooka-Laylee released to mixed reception. Many agreed the game failed to capture what made Banjo-Kazooie beloved. Few thought the game would get a sequel/spin-off, but Playtonic surprised everyone earlier this year with the announcement of Yooka-Layee and the Impossible Lair.
Although Yooka-Laylee wasn't a critical flop, the company would be fighting an upward battle with its next title. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair differentiates itself from its predecessor by focusing on traditional side-scrolling platforming. Not only that, but it also features 3D overhead gameplay. It appears the chameleon and bat duo have found their place in the gaming realm. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a fantastic platformer hearkening back to the glory days of Donkey Kong Country.
A New Yooka-Laylee
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is divided between two gameplay styles. The levels are 2D, similar to the Donkey Kong Country series. Yooka can run, roll, and jump. Laylee assists, giving Yooka more abilities. The other gameplay style is on a 3D overhead map. Here, the player will run around different areas and solve puzzles to unlock more levels. The overall goal of the game is to get the Beetalion at the end of every level, which will help in the trek through the Impossible Lair.
The story once again follows Yooka and Layee on their quest to defeat the sinister Capital B. This time, the evil bee has captured the Royal Beetalion from Queen Phoebee. Now, it's up to the chameleon and bat to venture to different levels and acquire the Royal Beetalion. The Impossible Lair awaits.
Wonderful 2D Platforming
Right off the bat, one of the more interesting things about the game is that the final level is accessible. Players can attempt the Impossible Lair and try to beat the game right away. However, while technically possible, the game encourages going out onto the map and acquiring the Beetalion. The Impossible Lair lives up to its title, and it can be incredibly frustrating for newcomers to platforming. But, all players should want to venture out, because the levels in Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair are a lot of fun.
Comparisons to Donkey Kong Country are inevitable. Unlike the first Yooka-Laylee, the new title seems to be inspired while also creating its own unique identity. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is not an inferior version of Donkey Kong Country. The levels are very well designed. As the game goes on, the levels try different things, such as fun rails sections and climbing. The levels where the player has to stay ahead of an impending hazard provide fantastic intensity. Scareship Scroll is a great example of a race to avoid death. The water sections are great, even more enjoyable than some water levels in Super Mario titles.
Most platformers have collectibles to look out for. Super Mario World has the Dragon Coins, and Celeste has the strawberries. In Yooka-Laylee and The Impossible Lair, players can find coins hidden throughout the levels. A majority of them are challenging to find, while others can be found if the player is watching for suspicious-looking walls, or when the floor can be ground-pounded. Those looking for a game to complete 100% are in for a treat.
An interesting feature is that almost all the levels have another side to them. For example, the water in Pumping Plant will turn deadly electric after activating a switch on the map. It never feels like one is playing the same level twice due to many differences. Visually, the levels are pleasant and diverse. From the wonderful, bright visuals of Capital Causeway, to the icy Buzzsaw Falls - Frozen, the levels look great.
Pleasant Music And An Interesting 3D Overworld To Explore
A surprising major feature of Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is the 3D overworld map. Similar to the overhead Zelda titles, players traverse a large map to solve puzzles and open new levels to play. In a way, this gives players who did enjoy the exploring aspect of the first Yooka-Laylee a break from the side-scrolling. An important feature of the overworld is acquiring Tonics. A majority of these grants the player upgrades, which are very useful for the levels. (They do not work in the Impossible Lair.)
The greatest platformers have fantastic soundtracks accompanying the levels. The music in Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair perfectly fits the content. A lot of the themes, such as Queasy Quay, sound reminiscent of the music in Donkey Kong Country, which is certainly a compliment. One of the composers on the game is David Wise, a veteran on the Donkey Kong Country series. He, along with other composers, has crafted a pleasant soundtrack with a number of memorable tunes.
Maybe Not Tropical Freeze, But Very Close
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a modern platforming gem. It's not as incredible as something like Yoshi's Island or Donkey Kong Country 2, but it approaches those legendary games in quality. The levels are fun, sometimes a genuine challenge for even seasoned players. The stages also have a certain pleasantness to them which makes it hard to put the controller down. The 3D overworld map helps to separate this game from other platformers. The overworld has just as much care put into it. The final level (or first, if one wants to try), will test even the greatest platforming experts. This gauntlet can be frustrating for newcomers to the genre, since previous levels are nowhere near its difficulty. Still, there are hours of content regardless of the last level to complete.
4.5Out Of 5 Stars
A review copy of Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair was provided to TheGamer for this review. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is available now for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
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