Second chances are rare. But once in a while they can be granted. Such is the case for Playtonic Games’ Yooka-Laylee. Fans of 3D platformers may remember the 2017 game as a bit of a letdown. But the former Rareware employees at Playtonic Games are not ones to quit, and are trying again with Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. Even though some trepidation can be felt among fans, there really isn’t a reason to worry.
Of all the games to be excited about, why in the world would anyone choose this one? That may sound harsh, but Sony’s absence from E3 2019 was truly felt. Nintendo’s showing was amazing, but they never really tried to compete with the other two companies. Whereas, even Microsoft’s Project Scarlett reveal wasn’t really a reveal, but people talking into a camera about things we already knew.
But I find myself oddly enticed by Playtonic’s need for a second chance. Instead of repeating the recent past and mimicking the 3D platformer Banjo-Kazooie, Yooka-Laylee will mimic the 2D Donkey Kong Country games, which initially made Rare famous. Given the advancements made in the DKC franchise by Retro Studios, Yooka-Laylee seems to have learned from the past, and this second outing is looking more promising. But that doesn’t mean players won’t find a reason to worry.
I’ve Been Hurt Before
For years fans were awaiting a follow up to the Banjo-Kazooie franchise that was actually made by the same people who made Banjo-Kazooie. But once it came out, players slowly came to realize that the game was not as fun as it should be. Instead of musical notes that lead the player to organically explore each level, there were quills randomly strung about. Instead of a quiz that acted as a fun test for how far you’ve come, there were quizzes too early in the game to mean something to the player.
But as much as people love to dump on Yooka-Laylee, the groundwork for something truly wonderful was still there. The game offered the music of Grant Kirkhope and David Wise. It provided the wonder that only a world of a collect-athon can create. It had the whimsy, the characters, and the power-ups of an old school Rare game. What could possibly go wrong?
Why It Failed, and What The Sequel Can Do
One could just brush off the first Yooka-Laylee and say, “It’s too old fashioned. That’s why it failed.” But then you remember that Banjo-Kazooie is still enjoyed to this day. No, Yooka-Laylee slipped when it forgot to take the things people love about Banjo, but skip the things that haven’t aged well. While some may disagree, Banjo-Kazooie does have its flaws. The voices are annoying for a modern sensibility, and the camera is pretty clunky.
If Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair has any chance of success, it’s going to have to learn from its mistakes. And it looks like it has, by melding the 3D with the 2D. Much like the Retro Studios Donkey Kong Country games, power-ups from the 3D games look to have been beautifully translated. The look, sound, and whimsy appear to be back. The things people liked about Yooka-Laylee are back.
The key for Playtonic to remember is that it’s not that people don’t like 3D games. It’s just that the standards for what people will tolerate in modern games have risen. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair appears to take that on board. That’s why I will be keeping my eye on the sequel.
But what do you think? Are you willing to give Yooka-Laylee another chance? Should we just move on? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
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I’ve been writing almost as long as I’ve been playing video games. I also do standup and improv. The game that made me realize that video games could be more than just a toy, was Metal Gear Solid 2.