Listen, I know it’s not popular to like Banjo Kazooie more than Mario 64. One obviously couldn’t exist without the other, and I’m not looking to get into any arguments about that, but one definitely resonated with me a whole lot more. Banjo Tooie, the follow up, is in my opinion one of the best 3D platformers ever made, and still sits with some of my absolute favorite games of all time.
So yeah, when I found out the dream team minds from “Classic Rare” of were getting back together to make another “one of those”, I was absolutely on board. Though, I still never backed it because of my general hesitancy with Kickstarter, I’m happy to see Yooka-Laylee coming soon from the minds at Playtonic, and me and fellow Rare-classic lover Barrett Courtney got to sit down with Yooka Laylee at this past PSX.
I decided the take the hands off approach and just watch Barrett play, and as I sat down on the floor next to him as he launched into the gorgeous open-area of what may be Yooka Laylee’s first world, I was immediately warped back to 1999, sitting on the floor watching my brothers play Banjo Kazooie.
It’s such a weird thing to try and separate the nostalgia from the new, but in motion Yooka and Laylee’s journey is so engrossingly a Banjo game; it gets me riled and excited in a way few games, outside of maybe Psychonauts 2, could. Yooka is your straight-faced lizard who is a bit more polite and a bit more of a straight shooter, and Laylee fills the sarcastic and condescending flying companion role perfectly. The dialogue was written as open-endedly as you would want, like the “Trouser Snake”, a snake that loops itself between two pant-legs, referencing video game buttons, moves, and the fact that we’re just in a video game. It’s that same fourth-wall breakage that made Banjo and Kazooie the tail end of every joke they found themselves in, and the weird self-awareness of the items you collect directly talking to you, with googly eyes and all, rounds out how absurd the game actually is.
And if you like collecting things, well we’re back at it again, so to speak. Apparently there are 200 quills to collect in every level, and pages serve as your “jiggy-equivalent” for each level. I only got to see this first, Mayan-temple like level, but I’d bet there are more on top of it. I say that mostly because many characters specifically referenced this as a level from a whole. I’ll say the world seemed pretty massive and expansive, with different sections much like you would see in Banjo Tooie, over the more focused original. That’s exciting, because it may lead to each world tieing into one another, one of the best aspects of Rare games in the past.
Mechanically, everything you would want from a classic Rare game was there. Steep hills you need a rolling ability to climb, a character that can transform you into something else, likely level-specific, and the foundation that made Rare games collect-a-nightmares in the past. I say this with the most loving reverence. I couldn’t tell you how the game felt, but I know there were some tight camera issues, something classic N64 games definitely ran into.
Yooka-Laylee speaks to the nostalgia centers of my brain in a way that is hard to even put into words. It’s exactly what I want it to be, which is, as I said above, another of “those games”, but it may be that for better and for worse. We’ll know soon enough, because the folks at Playtonic continue to reiterate the game will be releasing on April 11th in 2017, just around the corner.