Game Title: Yooka-Laylee
Developer: Playtonic Games, Team 17
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Availability: Digital Download
Battery Life: 3-4 hours
Download: 5.3 GB
Yooka-Laylee is a game with a wide history of hype, disappointment, fixing, and more. In the console world, it was the Banjo-Kazooie 3 that fans wanted to be great, but ended up being dragged down with a plethora of flaws, both technical and otherwise, upon the game’s launch on PS4, PC, and Xbox One.
In the handheld world, Yooka-Laylee being announced for the Nintendo Switch helped breathe new life into the game, with a hopeful fixed and optimized version on its way for console and handheld gamers alike. That, too, led to disappointment for some with the unnaturally-long amount of time and delays that hit the game before finally releasing on the eShop last week.
But, let’s cast aside disappointment and expectations so we can see what’s actually here. This is my Nintendo Switch Review of Yooka-Laylee!
In the world of Yooka-Laylee, a large Bee known as Capital B sets his sights on taking over the corporate world by inventing a machine that will locate and steal every book on the planet in the aim of finding a magical book that allows its reader to shape and re-write reality as they see fit.
The original owners of the book, a lizard named Yooka and a bat names Laylee, find the book and its magical pages flying away, traveling and escaping into mystical Book Worlds inside Capital B’s Office Tower. Aiming to recover their lost book, Yooka and Laylee travel into the Book Worlds to collect all of the lost Pages and reassemble their book before Capital B can.
The premise of the game is a pretty decent setup, but what I enjoy the most out of the story are the tiny dialogue segments with Book World NPCs that reference all kinds of things, from crowdfunding and breaking the third wall to seeing famed indie game character Shovel Knight make appearances and giving Yooka and Laylee quests to carry out. It is a very comical game and all of those little segments are entertaining to see and read.
Being a game meant to recreate and mimic 3D Platformers of old, Yooka-Laylee is a 3D Platformer with combat and puzzle elements and a heavy Collectible System. Like its predecessor, Banjo-Kazooie, you travel through each world to solve puzzles and collect Pages to progress your way through the game.
Before we get into the meat of the game, let’s talk about this version of Yooka-Laylee. On the NIntendo Switch, you get a version specifically modified for the hardware and with all of the updates and fixes the other versions have gotten since release. So, diving in, you get the options to tone down voice mumbling, smoother frame-rate, improved camera controls, etc. This version also sports a SIngle Joy-Con Co-Op Mode, letting a second player jump in and point Player 1 towards objectives.
The basic premise of the gameplay is that you travel through a hub world and unlock worlds, which you can then dive into and explore in and of themselves. Every world has collectible currency used for enhancing your moveset and Pages, which are used to unlock new worlds or expand old ones to increase the amount of collectibles you can gather across the game. If you remember 3D Platformers from the Nintendo 64 like Super Mario 64 and the Banjo-Kazooie games, it’s exactly like how those games progressed, as it was designed to mimic them.
And on the idea of mimicing those older games, Yooka-Laylee definitely does one thing very well, which is making you feel like you’re playing a new Banjo Kazooie game. Everything about the game’s hub world, book worlds, moveset, and even how you fight your bosses feels like you’ve jumped back in time 19 years, but with more modern controls, moves more in tune with lizards and bats than bears and birds, and ease of access through the hub.
One thing I will say is that Yooka-Laylee does make you work for all of your rewards. This is not a game like Super Mario Odyssey where Power Moons were practically given to you just for waltzing down the main path. Every Page/Pagie in Yooka-Laylee has a puzzle behind it, be it a Boss Fight or a platforming challenge/race. That’s not to say the game is hard, but rather that it’s not a cakewalk like Odyssey was.
Another thing I want to go into is length. Hearing that the game only has 5 worlds to explore aside from the Hub World, I was worried that this would be an extremely short experience. However, I was pleasantly surprised to know that I was wrong. Although you can definitely do enough to unlock and dive through all 5 worlds in around 8-10 hours, the game’s final boss is hidden behind a 100-Page Door, which requires and encourages you to explore as much as you can instead of just power-racing through worlds.
With all of that exploration in mind, it took me around 18 hours before I was able to unlock the final boss fight, and well into my 20th hour before I managed to defeat the Final Boss and beat the game. That puts its length right around the same as the length of the original Banjo-Kazooie, despite BK having almost twice as many different worlds to explore.
Controlling the game isn’t that hard to do. The control scheme actually is pretty nice and is easily explained to you.
The Left Analog Stick is used for moving around and the Right Analog is used for moving the camera. The D-Pad / Arrow Buttons are used for taunts. All four triggers are used as well. ZL and ZR are used to set up special abilities like the rolling dash and flying abilities, while the R trigger is used to center the camera behind your character.
Then comes the face button control setup. B is used for jumping and A is used for using your tongue to grab onto power-ups or puzzle objects. X is used for stun attacks (once you learn them) and Y is used for physical attacks.
While this is all fun and all, the one thing I really don’t like about this game is its Camera. Yes, the camera controls have been significantly improved since its original launch, but the camera is still a huge hindrance on your progress. Very often, it will get stuck on objects in the environment and lock up your screen, removing your field of view and easily ruining many of the more technical platforming sections of the game.
I will not say it’s not better than it was, but it still has a long ways to go before it’s a comfortable camera system.
Graphically, Yooka-Laylee looks pretty nice. In Docked/Console Mode, everything looks flawless with no jagged edges anywhere to be seen, while in handheld mode, there is the occasional jagged edge here and there. But overall, it looks very nice and colorful on the Switch.
Frame-rate has certainly improved on the Switch, with it mostly being kept around 30 frame per second. However, to say there are no frame drops would be a very big lie. There are a lot of frame drops across the game and they come in little freeze-like segments. It will be like you are roaming around and fighting off enemies and then the screen will freeze for a second and then resume. It is not excessive as I normally only say this maybe once an hour, but it’s still a little inconvenience and worth noting.
Battery Life is something I was curious about, considering the graphical smoothness of this game, but also with how hard the devs worked to optimize it for the Switch. I was thinking we’d get lower Battery Life, but I was pleasantly surprised. Here are my times, from 100% to 0%
Max Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 15 minutes
Max Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 18 minutes
Low Brightness + Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 23 minutes
Low Brightness + No Wi-Fi – 3 hours, 52 minutes
This was more than I thought, and as with the above, you’ll get 3-4 hours out of each charge. That’s not too bad at all.
In conclusion, Yooka-Laylee is the most optimized on the Switch than it's been anywhere else. Although there are some small frame dips and the camera remains a nuisance, there's a good Banjo-Kazooie-inspired platformer for fans of the genre looking for a colorful platforming adventure on the go.