from Playtonic Games
, a group of ex-Rare
talent from the Nintendo 64
era set out to create a spiritual successor to the type of 3D platformer from the late ‘90s that was seemingly everywhere. Specifically, by capturing the look and feel of one of the most beloved N64 games from Rare during its 64-bit reign – Banjo Kazooie
. From the bright and colourful worlds to the utterly charming comedic bent found in each character’s garbled voice, Yooka-Laylee was a fun if flawed
return to a style we rarely see.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair
shifts the perspective, with levels and stages presented in a more traditional 2D fashion – ala Rare’s Donkey Kong Country
. An apt comparison as Impossible Lair features a few design elements reminiscent of that series, like barrels that can shoot Yooka and Laylee into harder-to-reach areas. Plus the old tumble roll off a ledge and then jump. When paired with the wonderfully detailed 3D environments and characters, what you get is a mostly 2.5D platformer with a top-down 3D overworld featuring its own suite of challenges, hidden secrets, and puzzles to solve.
“Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair shifts the perspective, with levels and stages presented in a more traditional 2D fashion – ala Rare’s Donkey Kong Country.”
Although going mostly-2D might sound like a step back in terms of ambition, the result is a more polished and balanced platformer that is often a treasure trove of clever level design and systems. The setup is simple, Capital B needs to be stopped and in order to do so you’ll have to rescue members of Queen Phoebee’s Royal Beettalion Guard – conveniently located at the end of each stage. Perhaps the game’s most interesting feature, initially, is that the Impossible Lair is the final stage and it’s accessible from the get-go. The catch bee
-ing that the number of hits you can take before failing relates to the number of Beettalion Guards you’ve freed.
So yeah, the comparison to Donkey Kong Country is mostly a superficial one as Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is built on the idea of discovery through exploration. Where initially the sheer number of collectible trinkets might seem a tad overkill, these all play into uncovering secrets and modifiers in the form of Tonics. Which in addition to providing neat little visual make-over combinations, like a heavily pixelated green-and-black Game Boy
look, Tonics also offer things like more checkpoints and better survivability. At the cost of losing out on a percentage of your Quills collected in a stage.
The biggest slice of discovery though can be found where it counts, in the stages. Often large in size and scope, each is filled with hard to find coins (another collectible and a key currency used to unlock more stages and areas in the overworld) and mini Quill challenges that test your platforming abilities. A great nod to both the original Yooka-Laylee and Banjo Kazooie comes with each stage having an alternate state with its own guard to rescue and collectibles to find. Not only shifting and changing how they play out, discovering these remixed stages is tied to your progress in the 3D overworld.
At the most basic level, changing the flow of running water into a dry river-bed in the 3D overworld will then create a flooded version of a particular 2.5D stage. The variations all follow thematic twists along these lines, and never feel cheap or like simple palette swaps. Switching between solving environmental puzzles and hunting for secrets in the 3D overworld to then side-scrolling through challenging and visually diverse levels adds considerably to the charm of Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. Which is that of an experience that strikes the right blend between traditional 2D and 3D platforming.
“The biggest slice of discovery though can be found where it counts, in the stages.”
If there’s one gripe to be had, which could be said of the original Yooka-Laylee from 2017 is that some of the stages feel overly large to traverse – which can adversely affect the pacing. That said, that’s only a minor gripe as Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair succeeds in delivering a fun, challenging, and rewarding old-school romp. By incorporating some of the classic 2D design of previous generations this once N64 throwback has matured and grown into its own slice of platforming gold.