I didn’t grow up with the N64… I remember briefly playing GoldenEye 007 and Pokemon Snap on it for about 10 minutes each one time. That’s pretty much the extent of my time with it. So when I was older, I felt annoyed I’d missed out on the golden age of 3D platformers that Banjo-Kazooie had led the charge with. I’d dabbled in a lot of 3D platformers from the PS1/2 but rarely finished them as the games (and the system I played them on) didn’t belong to me and would often be sold or traded before I could. But what I do vividly remember, is the sad demise of the once great Banjo-Kazooie series… The time it fell into the evil, corrupting hands of
Gruntilda Microsoft, only to be laid to rest by the great JonTron.
But its spirit rose from the ashes in the form of a kickstarter campaign, lead by the original team of developers behind Banjo-Kazooie, under the name Playtonic Games. When I saw both the kickstarter page and its trailer, I felt like I had to chip in. It felt like a glorious comeback, and an ambitious one at that. The “mascot platformer” died somewhere in the early 2000s and never really made a return, so Playtonic came out swinging to ensure fans they were giving their all. Not only did it succeed in achieving its kickstarter goal of £175,000 within 38 minutes, but OBLITERATED it to achieve a grand total of £2,090,104, bagging it a record in the process.
If you paid above a certain tier, you got a bonus called Toybox. Basically a big old playground separate from the main game for backers. This came out months ago but I’ve literally only just got around to installing and playing it after eventually checking my e-mails and realising this had been sitting there, patiently awaiting my return. I booted it up, then that nervous weight sank in my stomach as I thought there’s a possibility I wouldn’t actually enjoy it. But those doubts were immediately squashed as the charm and brash, British humour smacked me in the face with the force of a sledgehammer. But how’s the game itself?
If it wasn’t for the non-textured parts of the environment, they could have tricked me into believing it was more or less done. It controls so damn well. You feel quick and agile, the double jumping feels weighty, gliding is smooth and easy to do. You can make Yooka roll into a coil with his tail to roll around areas you’ve already explored quickly (while Laylee adorably backpedals on top). The charged jump (higher than the double) integrates perfectly into gliding, so that you can reach and explore new areas. All the moves string together so seamlessly that exploration feels natural and secret hunting feels exciting!
I’d advise watching someone on YouTube blast through the whole thing, since you can complete it so quickly once you know what you’re doing. Especially if you enjoy platformers and didn’t get to access the Toybox yourself, since we’ve still got a while until the full game releases some time in early 2017. I’m glad this genre is back with a vengeance, it’s just sad it took this long. Best put by one of the fantastic composers for the game. “All those years telling people that this kind of game was wanted and being told that I was wrong …… fuck’em all!” – Grant Kirkhope (All around legend and honourary Grump. Watch this if you have the time, the guy’s hilarious.) In summary… This game is what us~
Fun fact: The title “Yooka-Laylee” is not just a convenient musical instrument name in order to match the tradition from Banjo-Kazooie but both actually have their own individual meaning in Hawaiian.