Yooka-Laylee release date, trailer, pre-order info and everything you need to know
Touted as a spiritual successor to the platforming classic Banjo Kazooie, Yooka-Laylee plans to deliver a beautifully faithful callback to beloved 3D platformers and collect-a-thons of the 1990s. From what we’ve seen so far, the minimalistic adventure maintains the visual charm and playful simplicity we love about the genre, while adding some truly exciting new additions to the formula.
Watch the latest trailer:
From what we’ve seen thus far, Yooka-Laylee remains faithful to its platforming roots, taking pride in its collect everything inspired gameplay and striking visual personality. If you ever played Banjo Kazooie or Conker’s Bad Fur Day, the core mechanics of Yooka Laylee will make you feel right at home.
Throughout the game Yooka and Laylee will explore a variety of unique worlds found within magical books. They must then collect golden book pages known as ‘Pagies’ to unlock new worlds and challenges. Pagies will also act as the game’s main currency, with a number of different uses in the explorable hub area.
Team 17 recently confirmed that Yooka-Laylee will be getting a boxed release on certain platforms. The publisher is yet to provide specific details, but certain kickstarter backers can now upgrade their copy to a physical version.
Due March 2017 for PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PC, Linux and Mac
Yooka-Laylee gave me a warm fuzzy feeling I didn’t know I needed. After a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, developer Playtonic – made up of a group of passionate former Rare employees – has provided backers with an idea of how it’s going to recreate the feel of all those '90s adventure games we adored. After getting the chance to play the final game, I’m pretty confident it’ll be full of as much charm and whimsy as anything you remember from Rare’s glory days.
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The whole collect-a-thon mechanic has become a bit tired of late. It's a means of padding games (I’ll never collect another feather in Assassin’s Creed, I swear it) or a banal way of giving gamers a reason to play through a campaign twice. But Yooka-Laylee does things differently, or rather it does things in a way they haven’t been done for so long that it feels new again. A bit like when fashion trends come back around, or haircuts, or yo-yos.
Collecting is built into every facet of the game, but it isn’t a chore. Completing missions earns pages, a collectible which can be used to expand the world you’re in, while feathers are littered throughout and can be used to buy new abilities.
Having collectibles with a discernible, near-immediate payoff in the game gives me a much greater desire to find them. It also helps that they’re fun to find, and the main one, pages, are mission rewards.
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One thing old Rare games were renowned for were their excellent, quintessentially British sense of humour. Whether it was Banjo-Kazooie’s harmless double entendres or Conker’s Bad Fur Day’s outright filthy script, there was something to tickle the collective funny bone. Yoooka-Laylee is no different – so much so that I consistently found myself laughing out loud at the reams of text in cutscenes.
From the down-on-its-luck cloud, Nimbo, whose wife has recently left it for a hotter typhoon, to the minecart, who’s aptly named Kartos – though he has absolutely no idea what he is the namesake of, despite Laylee’s quoting of God of War lines – there were consistently funny lines throughout. I looked forward to every piece of written dialogue, rather than hammering the A button to skip.
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Wandering around the first world of the game, Tribalstack Tropics, you realise it's full to the brim with whimsical characters, all delightful to meet. Playtonic told me each character has been fully fleshed out, as the team wants to build its own universe, much like Marvel or DC, with Yooka-Laylee being the first story thread. Perceivably every character seen in this game could have his or her own adventure. Personally I want a Telltale-style game that details the love story of Nimbo.
Another thing that's joyous about exploring the world of Tribalstack Tropics is Yooka-Laylee’s glorious sound. Playtonic has, within its team, the musical composer of Banjo-Kazooie, and it certainly shows. The sound will be eerily familiar to anyone who played the Banjo series, in the best way possible. Everything from the general music and waffling rumbles of characters as they speak, to the sound of collectibles being picked up is classic N64 fodder, and it’s brilliant. Even the UI is near-identical to Banjo's, making a relative dinosaur like myself feel right at home.
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In terms of gameplay, this is classic adventure fare with a much greater sense of fluidity. Yooka – the lizard out of the duo, in case you weren’t sure – can double-jump and roll his way around the terrain while Laylee, the bat, can provide assistance by gliding the two to harder-to-reach areas. Yooka can also eat certain fruits which grant temporary abilities, a bit like the items in Mario.
For example, Nimbo, the depressing cloud I mentioned earlier, needs to ‘cry’ in order to bring water back to a nearby ravine. However, he's suffering from 'performance anxiety' and needs something to help him get started. Laylee’s attempt at creating a word-picture of crashing waterfalls and dripping taps didn’t work. Yooka can eat a nearby blue plant that gives him the ability to spout water. Giving Nimbo a quick squirt will make it rain (literally) and grant access to a new area of the map once the ravine is flowing.
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I was the very first person outside of Playtonic to play Yooka-Laylee in its final form, which was a huge privilege. However it's still in pre-alpha, and naturally there were some minor hiccups. The time between Yooka eating a plant and the status effect he gains from it wearing out felt far too short. The placement of some feathers felt off – for example, right on the precipice of a platform, meaning you’ll consistently fall off a small ledge while trying to grab a ring of them, which quickly grows tiresome.
However, the great thing about playing the game in front of the developers is that they were as aware of these issues as I was, and immediately began discussing fixing them as soon as they got back to the office. Their passion and joy for their work was clear throughout the entire demo, and it was lovely to witness.
Yooka-Laylee has such strong old-school sensibilities which are so rare in modern gaming that it feels brand new. It’s also a shining beacon for Kickstarter to have a product that is so highly polished – too many crowdfunded gaming projects have failed to deliver what was promised or the developers have simply taken the money and ran. Playtonic has clearly invested wisely and maintained its clear vision for what it wants the game to be.
Playing a 3D platformer that’s fun, funny and beautiful is something I haven’t done in almost 20 years. Yooka-Laylee is shaping up to be a game everyone my age will want to play, and everyone younger needs to play in order to understand what people my age are babbling on about all the time when we talk about the good ol’ days.