Revisiting Yooka-Laylee Four Years Later

Years ago, I wrote a review for the original Yooka-Laylee, which I had played shortly after its release. Looking back, I’m surprised at how kind I was because…my true opinion of the game was a lot harsher than what was seen in that review. I think I felt bad complaining about the game too much considering how personal it was. Members of the old Rareware team, creating their own studio and attempting to bring back Banjo-Kazooie, a franchise they initially made, but no longer had the rights to. So many people, myself included, absolutely adored the first two Banjo-Kazooie games, and clearly the people involved in its creation did, too. And so I hadn’t the heart to be overly critical in that review all those years ago. Well, I replayed the game not too long ago for the purposes of recording a playthrough for YouTube, and I was pleasantly surprised that…it was a lot better than I remembered.

Now that I’m feeling a lot more positive towards this game, I feel like I can be a lot more honest, too. I really…didn’t like this game when I first played it. (Makes you wonder why I decided to record a playthrough, doesn’t it?) I was so excited when I first started, but shortly into the first world, Tribalstack Tropics, I just got so bored. And so disappointed. I wanted Banjo-Kazooie back so badly that, when Yooka-Laylee failed to live up to my unfairly high expectations, I looked upon the game with scorn rather than judging it solely on its own merits.

The last warning on the paint can says, “Do not apply to butt”. I kid you not.

I complained in my head about how huge and boring the worlds were to explore. How annoying the gibberish voices were compared to the original. And how…unattractive certain characters looked. And I’ll be honest here. Yeah, some of the voices are still annoying to me, though I can’t say for certain if the voices in Banjo-Kazooie were truly better…or if nostalgia is clouding my judgment. And yes, I still stand by my assessment of some of the characters. Dr. Puzz is an abomination against mankind. Nimbo and Nimble look strangely…plastic. And my mom really doesn’t like Vendi. It’s the eyes, I think.

Of course, no game is perfect, and these things can be overlooked if the gameplay is good. And during my second playthrough, where my expectations were a lot more reasonable, I realized that Yooka-Laylee really is a fun game. The worlds didn’t feel as barren and empty to me this time around. And though it’s true that many challenges were overused (jumping through hoops and going through doors before they close), there’s still enough variety to make up for that. (I mean, if I’m willing to overlook some of the redundancy in Super Mario Odyssey, then I ought to extend the same courtesy to Yooka-Laylee, which at least has the courtesy to have only 145 Pagies as opposed to roughly 1000 flippin’ moons!)

And though my review appeared positive towards the idea of expanding tomes, I’ll admit my true feelings weren’t quite as pleasant. To put it simply, I didn’t get the concept. In my review, I was being nice because I didn’t want to just be a complainer. But I really didn’t get it. Why bother exploring a world until you’ve expanded it? Again, my most recent playthrough has made me appreciate the concept. When recording episodes for YouTube, I would usually spend an entire episode exploring the initial version of a world as much as I could before expanding it. And this extra level of planning made such a huge difference. The worlds are enormous, but exploring them in stages makes the sheer scale that much less overwhelming.

I won’t get into too much more detail because my original review still covers this game’s strengths and weaknesses pretty well. Though no amount of renewed positivity can deny the fact that the mine cart challenges are still a broken mess. Just sayin’.

I’m sorry, Kartos, but your mere existence fills me with dread.

Is Yooka-Laylee as good as Banjo-Kazooie and Tooie? I mean…no. But it would be hard to list that many games that I love as much as Banjo-Kazooie, so that’s a pretty unfair comparison. But is it an entertaining platformer with a lot of good ideas and oodles of charm? Absolutely. I can’t believe I used to dislike this game. I had a great time with it my second time around. It just goes to show that you can’t go into a game with unfair expectations. Appreciate a game for what it is, not what you wish it was.

So, consider this my apology, Yooka-Laylee. I misjudged thee.