“This already feels familiar!” That was more or less my first thought once I’d booted up the Yooka-Laylee Toybox and started roaming around. For those not in the know, Yooka-Laylee is a game currently being developed by Playtonic Studios as a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie. Playtonic is an independent developer comprised mostly of 90’s era RareWare veterans who produced the likes of Donkey Kong Country, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Golden Eye 007, and of course Banjo-Kazooie itself. It’s hard not to be excited about a project when these are gonna be the people behind it! As for the Toybox, it’s something that was made available to Kickstarter backers to give them a taste of the game to come, and I have to say: a taste just isn’t enough. I want more!
Essentially, the Toybox is a large testing environment to run around in. There are no story hints here, nor are there very many enemies. I wouldn’t even call it a sample level. Nope, this is just an environment for players to get a feel for what our new intrepid animal duo will be able to do in their upcoming debut title. I spent the entirety of my time in the Toybox jumping, gliding, rolling, and swimming; basically getting a feel for the controls. However, I said that the game felt familiar didn’t I? Well, that’s because it did.
Anyone who has played the Banjo games, or even Donkey Kong 64, will immediately feel at home here. Yooka and Laylee’s base move set is very much inspired by that of everyone’s favorite bear-and-bird combo. In fact, the only major differences I noticed were some streamlining decisions and that some moves were changed to suit the new pair. For example, the function of Kazooie’s “talon trot” is preserved in Yooka-Laylee, but instead of running around on bird feet, we instead roll around on a balled-up Yooka. It’s also initiated by just holding a trigger button rather than having to crouch and hit a face button. Basic attacks, jumping, gliding, couch-jumping, hip-dropping, and swimming were all present and accounted for too, and all controlled in a manner very similar to Banjo-Kazooie. This alone was very exciting, and I am confident that even those who haven’t played any 90’s Rare platformers will be able to quickly master these controls!
Now, I said that the Toybox was basically just a space to run around in, but that’s not entirely true. While that is basically it, it’s not like there wasn’t a goal to accomplish while playing around in there. See, there were 100 collectible items called “Quills” scattered throughout the Toybox. The goal was to collect these quills, collect the “Pagie” they unlocked, and find the secret reward in the toybox after collecting said “Pagie”. I still wouldn’t call this a sample level, but I will say that it had the feeling of one. My quest for quills (and later for the secret) had me searching every nook and cranny of this space. I pulled off sick rolling jumps, solved some short puzzles, checked out particle and sound FX, and enjoyed a gallery of enemy animations. While looking for the secret, I completely scoured a space that I’d say was larger than “Mumbo’s Mountain”, but smaller than “Treasure Trove Cove”; feeling right at home the entire time! As for the secret, well perhaps that’s something best left for another time. 😀
If this was a freely available demo, I would recommend checking it out in a heartbeat. Alas, that is unfortunately not the case though. If you backed Yooka-Laylee to the necessary level, then I’d say that you should absolutely check this out. If you didn’t, and thus don’t have access to it, I’ll say this. The first is that based on this demo, I am very confident that Yooka-Laylee is going to turn out great! It should definitely be on the radar of anyone who’s ever enjoyed a classic 3D platformer!
What’s your impression of Yooka-Laylee so far? Are you looking for something just just like the old 90’s platformers, or would you prefer something more modern?
(Header image captured by Hatm0nster)