When Playtonic set out to recreate the classic 3D platforming experience with its Kickstarter-fueled Yooka-Laylee, I was excited to see what the team had in mind. However, for some reason, I didn’t get into the game as much as I was hoping, mainly because of some issues with gameplay and certain levels. Not that I didn’t admire the ambition, but I couldn’t help but think the studio could go about producing a better game down the road.
And thus, here it is. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair feels like an improvement over the first title, a more focused platformer that brings back memories of platformers like the Donkey Kong Country trilogy and even a little bit of Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil. It’s built around a 3D world but strictly follows 2D platforming gameplay rules, so that you don’t have to worry about wandering too far. It seems to work a little better than the first game, mainly because Playtonic can concentrate on a more accurate gameplay system. It surprised me in so many ways.
Way To Bee a Villain, Capital
The game follows up on the original, with Capital B once again making a return. This time around, he’s forcing the Royal Bee Guard to do his bidding. It’s up to the duo to free them by traveling through an overworld map, which has shades of Link’s Awakening in terms of 3D design.
What’s interesting is that the final level of the game, the Impossible Lair, can be taken on anytime. However, you won’t get through it unless you venture through the rest of the game, unlocking abilities and assistance to get through it in one piece. This means finding new bees to free from Capital B’s grip, which, in turn, helps you get that much closer to the showdown.
Something Familiar, Yet Something New
While the overworld segments create a fun exploration part of the game, such as finding things that are off the beaten path, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair thrives on its 2D platforming segments. You’ll work your way through levels, bopping enemies on the head, and avoiding certain dangers.
Playtonic does an astonishing job with the game’s level design, which screams “quality” on the DKC level. Each item is well-placed; and all the hidden quills you can find across a stage will keep you coming back, even after you think you’ve conquered everything within it. There are also Trowzer coines to locate as well, with rewards unlocked based on how many you find. The more coins you get, the more areas of the map unlock.
There’s also a great dynamic here between Yooka and Laylee, similar to Yoshi’s Island. If you get hit, she’ll go flying off, and if you don’t capture her quickly enough, she’ll be out of there quicker than you know it, leaving just one precious hit before you’re done in. It’s best to work together as a team because that’s where your move set is at its most manageable. So take good care of your friend, even if the situation seems dire.
The gameplay feels terrific, and though the challenge of the game can pick up sometimes, it never gets to the point of frustration like the first Yooka-Laylee. There’s a better balance here, and you feel like you’re making progress as you go through the side-scrolling levels and wide-open overworld.
A Beautiful World
Not only that, but Impossible Lair also gives the team at Playtonic the opportunity to focus more on the visuals. They seem to pop more to life here than they did in their previous 3D venture, with the team able to focus on smaller details that otherwise would’ve been rolled right past. It’s a beautiful looking game, no matter if you’re playing through the 2.5-D levels or the Link-ish overworld. It’s also benefitted from humorous animations, though there are no boss battles to speak of for most of the game. An interesting design choice, but that allows you to focus more on getting through traditional levels, which are a handful as it is.
The music is upbeat and delightful as well; and though the vocal effects are generally gibberish, they’re right up there with what the first game provided. No sense having them talk a regular language now, right?
A Huge Leap Over the First
It’s funny how a Yooka-Laylee game can find more success based on a change of perspective. I won’t shoot down what the first game tried to accomplish, but I can honestly say I had more fun playing Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. The controls are more accurate, and the levels give you a better opportunity to find things, rather than running into a particular challenge you couldn’t overcome. Plus, the visuals are astounding, and the sound department does its job admirably. Everything clicks here.
Even if you didn’t get into the first Yooka that much, you owe it to yourself to give the Impossible Lair a chance. You might like it here, despite the name.
Disclosure: This review was written using a game code provided by Team 17.