Nostalgia is this weird, immeasurable thing that sees us longing for past glory — or at least what we perceive to be past glory. More often than not, rose-tinted glasses can cloud our judgment, making us believe that things were better before when in fact they’ve only improved over time. Yooka-Laylee, the debut effort from former Rare developers Playtonic Games, has been crafted from scratch to sound, look, and feel like something you played on your Nintendo 64.The thing is, they’ve aggressively captured both the bad as well as the good: camera issues, ambiguous puzzles, a distinct lack of signposting, and voices that will make your ears bleed all stop Yooka-Laylee from ushering in the 3D Platformer revival. Rather than honour their past, they’ve replicated it, while the world has moved on.
That being said, Yooka-Laylee’s old-school, kid-friendly look is refreshing in 2017. Bright backdrops and caricaturish personalities fill the screen, with no world showing this more than the first, Tribalstack Tropics . The greens and blues pop like balloons, while the cast of personalities — such as the titular iguana-bat duo, and the shifty Del Boy-esque Trowzer snake who sells you new special moves along your journey — give a promising first impression. The Christmas Cracker jokes from the ginormous cast quickly outstay their welcome, though, as do the unbearable Banjo-Kazooie-style voices. I can only guess the incessant whooping and grunting ‘Wakka-wakka!’ sound effects are intended to be charming, but they’re more obnoxious than a Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown routine. The saving grace is that you can skip through some of the ear-piercing chatter by hammering buttons.
While some of the other levels have alluring sections, like the ice-cold Glitterglaze Glacier, Yooka-Laylee never reproduces the magic felt in that opening level. The inclusion of the drab, swampy Halloween stage is baffling, as is the decision to not include maps for each world, because it’s easy to get lost in these expanding locations. On more than one occasion — and a lot in the pumpkin-filled Moodymaze Marsh — I found I was doubling back on myself, looking for the next point of interest. And that’s before I mention the camera, which regularly gets stuck behind objects and forces you to fight it far too often. The lack of any direction for the player, as well as the confusing layout of the hub world Hivory Towers, makes returning to levels an irritation in a game where revisiting previous stages to collect Pagies is a must to progress.
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