Playtonic’s bat and lizard duo meet many oddball characters during their journey, but none are more loveable than Rextro – a bright orange, low polygon, dinosaur who’s firmly stuck in the past. As well as completely forgetting who Yooka and Laylee are at one point – due to a lack of memory, of course – a reference to cheat codes being passé is also made. While this is true, spending just an hour or so with Yooka-Laylee reminds us just how easy gamers have it nowadays, even without cheats.
To say Yooka-Laylee is cut from the same cloth as Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64 would be an understatement – it is, to all purpose and extent, a brand-new Banjo-Kazooie. That’s to say, Playtonic hasn’t succumbed to modern day standards, or tinkered too heavily with the winning formulas of the aforementioned. There’s no map, radar, glowing paths, or anything of the sort present – it’s entirely up to the player to explore and discover new areas for themselves while scouting high and low for collectables. Even when expanding worlds to make them even larger than they already are, all you get is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it flyby to showcase the new areas.
It takes a little bit of time to get back into the 64-bit swing. Soon though you’ll learn that if it isn’t instantly obvious how to complete a challenge, then you probably haven’t unlocked the special move required yet. A vocal prompt would have been helpful in these situations – we wasted an hour in the opening world trying to gain collectables that were unobtainable until later – and this lack of guidance is Yooka-Laylee’s biggest problem. Indeed, younger gamers weaned on the likes of Skylanders may find Yooka-Laylee’s ways archaic – the checkpoint system is the same as BK’s, restarting from the last door entered – but this only further highlights just how good a job Playtonic has done here. It’s an experience faithful to its predecessors, right down to the challenging but fair difficulty level.
Playtonic’s experience and expertise are apparent throughout, and most notable within the level design. The five worlds (known as Grand Tomes) are built-up and complex, featuring numerous indoor side-areas, and it appears that Playtonic learned something from DK64 as the number of collectables isn’t too overwhelming. There are 145 Pagies to collect either by beating challenges or solving puzzles: 25 spread across each of the five Grand Tomes, plus 20 hidden within the hub. Each world also has five Ghost Writers to find, caught in different ways. 100 Pagies are required to open the final area, an amount we managed to obtain after around 25 hours of play. Those aiming for 100% can expect to hit the 50-hour mark easily, and that’s without factoring in Rextro’s multiplayer mini-games.