Much have been said about crowdfunded games. Majority of them either did not see the light of day or fell flat upon its release. Mighty No.9 which had a strong support for its Kickstarter campaign ended in a mess when it was released. Now, enter Yooka Laylee. A crowdfunded platforming game from Playtonic Games who was behind cult classic games like Conker the Squirrel and Banjo-Kazooie. They also made some of the best games on Nintendo like Donkey Kong Country, Perfect Dark and still one of the best James Bond game, GoldenEye 007. With a plethora of games under their belt, it is no wonder that there were high hopes on Yooka Laylee.
Yooka Laylee story is as simple as it gets. Not much explaining needed because the story is there just to start the adventure. When you break it down, it is a simple antagonist trying to destroy the whole world and you the protagonist has to save it. There is a lack of any backstory at all to either Yooka or Laylee sadly but certain dialogs between task does reveal one or two information about the main characters of the game. I personally find this game lacks any type of bonding not only between the protagonists but also the NPCs. This is a shame because this game has a lot of wonderful characters in it.
The graphics in this game is gorgeous. The artistic feel to each work in unique and animations and characters looks good enough. Certain textures that feels dated but overall, the details in this game is quite astonishing. From the small details in the book titles to seeing a mountain going sky high. For a crowdfunded game, the visuals in this game is as good as you will get.
Ah, the bread and butter of a platforming game. This game has all the formulas and basics of a good platformer. From slowly unlocking your abilities as you play through the game, the core of this game is pure platforming adventure. Surprisingly, the main objective of this game itself is collecting and there is a huge amount of collectibles in this game which makes trophy collecting and exploring a little more fun.
Non playable characters are placed around each world to help you by giving you quest or help you progress in the levels. Some of the characters follows you from world to world. These characters has lively dialogs and having conversations with them can sometimes feel like a reward. What is excellent here is some boss battles revolves around the interaction of these NPC. Each world has a unique boss fight which is somewhat challenging even for a veteran like me.
Controls in this game is smooth and tight. Each ability is mapped properly but for the Playstation 4 controller, there seem to have the lack of using the touchpad and certain buttons. There is also the lack of any controller customization except for sensitivity adjustment. Targeting in this game is non existing sadly and it hurts the game when some enemies requires you hit them with projectiles to take them out.
One thing that is unique is there is no such thing as a weapon wheel or inventory. Every skill is mapped out nicely around the controller and the only thing you have to do is remember it. Do not fear however, there is a NPC who will remind you of the commands if you forget. This somehow feels very natural and because there is no slowdown in tempo to select any items or weapons. The only downside is there is no proper tutorial to how to use the skills to interact with the environment. You have to learn it by trial and error as you play to find out whether a skill can crush a stone or break a glass.
Environmental puzzles and challenges are a plenty which will both test your mind and platforming skills. Certain puzzle may take you from one end of the map to another. Without any guide to the puzzles, it will sometime prove challenging in terms of finding out what to do. Luckily, not all puzzles needed to be completed to complete the game so you have the choice to skip a few hard ones.
Blind as a Bat
With all those gameplay, this game should be an easy winner. Sadly, no it is not. This game suffers a lot from camera and exploration issues. First let talk about the camera. It is a behind the back camera with the ability to adjust using your analog right analog stick. It sounds great like every other platformer but what went wrong is when your character moves or turns, the camera resets itself to your back. This is an issue during some flying maneuvers or aiming as I stated earlier. Also because the camera resets itself, you might get stuck with a camera through the wall and your view is totally blocked.
There are some areas in the game where the camera is a locked view either in isometric or top down. This is a curse and a blessing at the same time. Good news is the camera issue earlier is nonexistent with the camera being locked. The bad news is if you are passing by the locked camera area especially while gliding, you will have a moment of disorientation as the camera moves to the lock view and reset itself behind you. This usually should be a small issue but at certain times where gliding around trying to beat the clock, the camera will become your worst enemy.
Another issue is the lack of map in this game. The whole world is so huge and somehow there is no map to guide you at all. As I said earlier there was the lack of use on the DualShock 4 touchpad. It is a as to why the Map was not assign to the touch pad. Certain worlds are small and straight forward but there are some whuich are confusing (Im looking at you Moodymaze Marsh). Because each world is basically an open layout without any direction, you will get lost sometimes looking around. New world will required new skill to progress and explore. It is sometime frustrating to find the NPC to learn new skills without a map. It kinds of defeats the purposed of having an open layout. There is also a lack of any indication where is your next objective be to guide you around.
This game relies too much the player’s memory. You may easily play this game and come back a week later to forget how to move across the world. The lack of maps and objective signs Make its harder to. This causes another issue when one of the boss fights is a quiz to test what you have done along your adventures. He can quiz you from the number of times you defeated an enemies to the number of boxes in a stage.
There is also the lack of enemy type in this game as most enemies are just a basic reskin of another as you travel from world to world. Enemies respawn after they are defeated as you explore world but this makes them feel irritating at some point more than challenging.
Technical issues are common in this game, from dips in FPS to game crashes. Also I think there is a memory leak if you resume play after you put your Playstation 4 on rest which causes explosion effects to drop your FPS drastically.
Yooka Laylee may look like an instant classic, but sadly it will be one that pushes the platforming genre back two steps. The lack of any innovative gameplay or solid story makes this game dull as you progress. As great as dialogs between you and the NPCs may be, it is still a trickle of sugar in a lake of mud of how bad the adventure is.