Yooka-Laylee is Easy to Fall in Love With

Yooka-Laylee is Easy to Fall in Love With

Playtonic Games’ open-world 3D platform adventure is just plain fun.

We're at E3 this week, covering the year's biggest gaming event. Be sure to check out all our coverage on our E3 2016 hub!

Kickstarted in June of last year to the tune of $3 million, and reaching its funding target in an incredible 40 minutes, Yooka-Laylee is an open-world 3D platform adventure from the creative minds that brought you such classic games as Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong Country.

What struck me immediately when I sat down for a hands-off demo of the game at E3 was just how vibrant and colorful it is. While the game clearly looks current-generation in terms of the sheer size and scale of its landscaping, and the overall quality of its graphics, its palette and styling has a really classic retro N64 aesthetic. Some of that has to do with the fact that not everything in this game is 3D. Sprites are used very cleverly and sparingly – such as the items that you collect – to give the game a bit of an oldschool feel. It’s a subtle move that makes Yooka-Laylee simultaneously feel very modern, but at the same time having one foot in the past – essentially giving a nod to the games from which it draws its inspiration.

The eponymous stars of the game are a very unlikely pair: a green chameleon called Yooka and his good friend, a purple bat called Laylee. While they’re codependent and inseparable (Laylee essentially rides Yooka), each creature has his own special abilities that together make for some very dynamic platforming. Yooka can use his whip-like tongue to grapple things, and can roll into a ball and zoom around the landscape, while Laylee can use his sonar blast to shoot at enemies or objects, and is also capable of flight – an ability that's picked up later in the game.

The objective is to collect Pagies – currency that’s used to unlock the world and gain access to new areas. What interested me was the fact that while Pagies open up new levels, they can also be used to expand existing levels that you’ve already opened, meaning that the game can be played a couple of different ways. If you’re the kind of person who wants to experience everything the game has to offer, you can spend your currency to expand open levels and gain access to new areas and puzzles. Those who want to continually move forward, however, can use their Pagies just to unlock new levels and move into new territory – in a way, speedrunning through the game, leaving large chunks of it unexplored as you chase the ultimate goal of taking out the game’s evil arch-villain, Capital B.

Another interesting aspect of the game’s design is that there’s a large roster of tonics that you can collect by achieving specific objectives in the game, which give Yooka and Laylee permanent special abilities that can augment your playstyle. These feel almost like optional side quests – something that you can choose to do because you want to customize the two characters in a way that suits how you play. Combine that with the way Pagies work, and you have a game whose experience becomes very personal – you can play it the way you want to.

Watching Yooka and Laylee leap and bound around the 3D landscape was a real joy, and to be honest, I was disappointed that I wasn’t able to play the game for myself. The characters themselves are just really, really appealing, and have a wide variety of abilities that look fun to use. The puzzles in the game also sound very entertaining. During the demo, Yooka and Laylee met a friendly cloud character who they helped make rain, which in turn set off a waterfall which then filled a dry gully. Apparently, if you then collect a freezing ability, you can turn all the water into ice, and then race on it!

Yooka-Laylee also features plenty of unique boss fights, characters to meet, mine cart challenges, unlockable retro-style arcade games, and quiz shows. Put it all together, and you have a game that’s shaping up to be really sweet, and I just can’t wait to play it for myself. It still has plenty of development time, too – it’s scheduled for release in early 2017 on PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, and PC.

We're at E3 this week, covering the year's biggest gaming event. Be sure to check out all our coverage on our E3 2016 hub!

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