Ultimately nobody can deny that, for better or worse, Nier:Automata is different.
Amazing art direction that makes you want to plaster your walls in fancy prints of your screenshots.
This game has an outstanding soundtrack. You'll probably want the vinyl.
Nostalgia is a hell of a drug. It can be a game's saving grace, but it can also be its downfall. It can make you relive all of the best moments of years gone by or it can remind you of how far we've come since. When a band of brothers from the old guard of RARE announced they wanted to make a Banjo-Kazooie game for the new age it got a lot of people excited. Banjo-Kazooie is after all one of the most highly regarded platformers of all time and a cornerstone of many a childhood. The Kickstarter eventually came to a close, successfully funding the game and then some and it was time to wait for launch day.
Well here we are, post launch of Yooka-Laylee and to the surprise of many the reviews are a little less than consistent. There seems to be an awful lot of wildly varying opinions on something that should for all intents and purposes be a pretty easy launch, so what gives? I have an idea, but let's just talk about the game a bit more first.
If the ultimate goal was to recreate Banjo-Kazooie in the year 2017 (hint: it was) and manage to not get sued for infringement in the process then they definitely knocked it out of the park with Yooka-Laylee. That doesn't necessarily make it flawless of course, but it at the very least means that they accomplished what they set out to do which isn't all too common in Kickstarted games these days. You're playing as a dynamic duo with a good-cop-bad-cop relationship in a world of endless puns and British slang, collecting a number of items large and small with the ultimate goal of toppling the big baddie in their own lair. Sound familiar? It should. Instead of puzzle pieces we're collecting Pagies (pages from a very important book), quills instead of music notes, ghosts instead of Jinjos etc. You'll even get to take a break and play some fairly fun arcade games at Rextro's arcade! The real question is does this all hold up today and how well did they execute on this faithful recreation of sorts?
The general platforming in Yooka-Laylee is good and certainly feels like an ever-so-slightly polished take on the Banjo games that came before. Unfortunately the expanded controls that make up things like vehicle controls for example, are universally awful. They all operate on a single stick system that both direct you and accelerate or decelerate you. There are about a thousand ways that could have been done better but unfortunately it is an aggravating blemish on the overall solid controls offered up.
You'll hunt down items across five stages in total, with the use of a hub world. Each world can be expanded with the use of collected Pagies that adds in many cases considerable content. The stages vary well enough to feel fresh when you make your way through the game but some are far better than the others. I also felt that while the stages were well done they didn't quite have that something that the Banjo-Kazooie games had. I don't know if that's me looking back on the past fondly, but it was how I felt all the same.
Each stage has a boss awaiting you though you don't technically have to beat them to move on with things. It's a shame too that these bosses are less than stellar. They are usually creative and humorous but the controls often just don't hold up well enough in these fights. While the general platforming tends to go on without much issue, the bosses do a great job of showing the numerous weaknesses of the controls and camera. I suppose then it may be a gift that the bosses are ultimately optional. Sadly, that can't be said for the final boss which is almost certainly responsible for a handful of the game's poor reviews. And yet, despite the rough edges I enjoyed my time within the world of Yooka-Laylee. It is often genuinely funny and does collectibles better than many modern titles in that there are useful and fun rewards awaiting those who hunt them down. In fact, I 100% completed the game including some elusive collectibles not listed in the menu.
It certainly helped that the game isn't ugly, though the console versions are frustratingly locked to 30fps at the time of this writing so if you have a decent computer I'd look to pick the game up there. The music is also incredibly well done and a definite highlight which isn't surprising given it largely comes from Grant Kirkhope who brought you the music from games like Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, Goldeneye 007, Donkey Kong 64, Perfect Dark, and more.
So if the game is generally great and does a good job conjuring up much of the nostalgia from games many of us loved as kids, why has it come under so much fire? Honestly I think it's a simple case of expectations vs reality. The guys at Playtonic set out to bring the Banjo series into the future but with no real intentions of re-inventing the wheel for better or worse. Despite that, there are many folks who were looking for something nostalgic but also brought modern comforts and perhaps even built on the genre that have evolved over the last 20 years. That's perfectly fair but I think people forget this was a relatively small passion project on Kickstarter that had a very specific goal in mind. I think they were wise in not making the game full price, and I think it holds enough value to justify that reduced price.
If you go in expecting Yooka-Laylee to bring you back to the late 90s platformer/collection fest that was the Banjo-Kazooie franchise then it's likely going to put a smile on your face on more than one occasion despite its shortcomings. If you're looking for a game that builds on the genre as it stands today, or even as it stood 10 years ago then you may be disappointed. Personally I think Yooka-Laylee shows just how great the games that it's based on were and still are. Even if you're without the nostalgia, it may just be what you're looking for.
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