Playtonic Games’ 3D platforming revival has all the charm and style – and even some of the flaws – of the N64 classics that inspired it. If you still play your N64 on a regular basis, then there’s a good chance you’ll have a greater appreciation of Yooka-Laylee than most.
If you’re wondering why we’re covering a modern release on N64 Blog, it’s because Yooka-Laylee is not only inspired by the likes of Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64, but it’s also made by many of the same people who developed those games.
Yooka-Laylee met with a very mixed reception from critics prior to its release. For some, it is the triumphant return of a genre long considered dead; others felt that Playtonic had stuck too closely to the original templates of its earlier games. The game’s 3D camera also has a habit of being incredibly awkward, making the experience seem a bit too authentic at times.
Those of us who still play our N64s regularly will likely be more forgiving of Yooka-Laylee’s so-called shortcomings, because we’re used to them. Unskippable dialogue and cutscenes, awkward camera angles and non-linear world design are things we, of all people, should be more than accustomed to.
That’s not to say that this excuses the issues that Yooka-Laylee has; in particular, we’ve found the game’s 3D camera at times to be worse than it was in actual N64 3D platformers. But it may enable you to look past such issues, even more so if you approach Yooka-Laylee as if it were a remastered N64 game.
It’s worth adopting this mindset because Yooka-Laylee is a veritable goldmine if you love N64 collect-a-thon platforming games. Each of the game’s worlds is stuffed full of items and other knick-knacks, and in a similar fashion to Rare’s N64 platforming games a lot of them are hidden behind fun, bite-sized challenges and mini-games.
While Yooka-Laylee strictly adheres to many of the game design conventions of N64 platformers, it isn’t bound by the same technical limitations. Worlds are visually stunning and vastly more detailed by comparison. The game as a whole oozes charm and colour through its characters, environments and, most notably, its dialogue – the sort of things we don’t see enough of in today’s gaming landscape.
They’re also a lot bigger too, although the way in which the game gradually introduces you to this enhanced scale is really clever. Each world initially comes in a smaller, basic form: you can explore it and collect some of its items, but you’ll need to expand it (by spending Pagies, the in-game equivalent to Banjo’s Jiggies or Super Mario 64’s Power Stars) to get everything. It’s especially ideal if you’re used to the more confined environments typically found in N64 games.
Playtonic has always pitched Yooka-Laylee as a revival (or Rare-vival) of the 90s’ 3D platformer. The intention was never to strike a balance between the genre’s traditions and modern gaming sensibilities. And for better or worse, Yooka-Laylee succeeds in delivering a wholly authentic experience.
If you’ve never played an N64 3D platformer or you’ve not played one for a very long time, then Yooka-Laylee may frustrate you with its intentionally outdated mechanics. If you still love playing your N64 though, then Yooka-Laylee’s flaws will seem irrelevant compared to the sense of nostalgia and fun it will give you.
Yooka-Laylee is available now on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. A Nintendo Switch version is due to release later in 2017.