Released: 11 April 2017
Honouring the original in every way it can, Yookah-Laylee, is, right down to the core, the next stage in the evolution of Banjo-Kazooie. A certain quirky critter, Trowzer, completes tasks and acquires skills in his journey, and who finally answers the burning question: how would a snake wear shorts? Fiercely. To be frank.
Some at the aspects of Rare’s back catalogue that were cherry-picked to form the N64 inspired this reboot. Between making important executive phone calls via brick-phone to the various bosses of the game, Trowzer dispenses new skills in exchange for quills, plentiful collectables dotted around the map. The symbiosis of bear and bird is as equally effective between bat and lizard, old skills like Kazooie’s “Talon Trot” make a return under a new guise alongside new techniques, such as Yooka’s chameleon tongue sapping the attributes of particular objects, and sipping honey has our heroes take on its sticky qualities, which aids in scaling icy slopes.
Collecting is as much a part of Yooka-Laylee as it was in Banjo-Kazooie, but a refreshing twist on the original’s hunt for Jinjo’s (beakish bird critters) is now the hunt for ghost-writers that haunt each world. These spectres come in different forms and each offer up a different challenge, one needs to be fed to join you whilst another demands a round ectoplasmic fisticuffs. This adds another layer of challenge over simply discovering them, each oozes with personality, cooing and ushering you over whilst others giggle as they blink in and out of vision. Mumbo’s magic makes a return as well, ditching sorcery for science in the form of Dr. Puzz, who requires an elusive Mollycool to activate her dubious D.N.Ray, mutating the duo into one monstrous, collected form, which opens up new pathways, routes and side-quests.
Yooka-Laylee is radically self-aware and all the better for it. It doesn’t so much break the fourth wall, as never having one in the first place. It is self-referential and aware throughout, Laylee’s quips sardonic and tongue-in-cheek, critiquing introductory levels and other tropes with a sense of wit that never fail to spark a smirk. Meeting Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight early in the game stranded due his ill-adjustment of a 3D world is but one of many moments.
The meta humour that permeates Yooka-Laylee is an aspect that harks back to Conker’s Bad Furday, another Rare classic, albeit far more obscene. Yet, seeing emblazoned atop the duos ship the “Bat Ship Crazy” is clearly a knowing wink to Rare fans.
Yooka-Laylee is a tongue in cheek romp that never takes itself too seriously, dripping with charm and colour, bending over backwards to delight players with something new at every opportunity it is offered. There has never been a better time for Rare to make such a triumphant return, the world has been missing games like this, and it needs more of them.