I adored the first Yooka-Laylee game. So much so that I probably gave it the most positive review on the internet. There was something about it that just resonated with me. It took me back to a simpler time in gaming, and for that, I was smitten.
The follow-up isn’t as clear-cut a sequel as I’d have imagined. Instead of carrying on with the open-world levels and endless collectibles, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair has taken its characters in a new direction, albeit familiar to those who’ve played through Rare’s games in the 1990s. This isn’t Rare, mind you, but the influences are clear.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair sees Yooka and Laylee going up against the evil Capital B. This time, big bad B has himself a lair… of impossible difficulties, and the gameplay shifts from a fully 3D world to a 2.5 side-scroller. You get a taste of what’s to come during the game’s opening which lets you have a run through the lair, albeit with an army of bees acting as a shield so that you take no damage. Come to the end of the opening level, Capital B has imprisoned the bee army and you’re sent to the game’s overworld. This is where the adventure begins.
It’s explained that the bees are being imprisoned within ‘Chapters’ which act as the game’s levels. You can access the different levels via the game’s overworld. The overworld itself isn’t just a simple level select screen, but instead a fully-realised map that you can – and need to – explore. Again, it’s another shift from the familiar to the new. Instead of being a 2.5D sidescroller, the overworld is more akin to the old-school top-down Zelda games. You’ll solve some light puzzles and take on some challenge levels, all of which are required to open up the map to give access to the game’s stages. It’s here that you’ll get all of your character interaction with the familiar barmy cast of characters. And yes, they still speak gibberish.
Sidescrollers aren’t my favourite games, I’ll be honest. The reason is that they’re typically all very samey. You go left to right, and maybe a little bit of up and down, and then you’re done. Next level, rinse repeat. I really like that Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair has taken the formula and given it a good kick up the bum. The end goal is to storm the Impossible Lair with the bees that you’ve rescued from the game’s levels. However, you’re free to take it on from the very beginning, if you wish. It’s very, very difficult, mind you, though I’m sure there will be some hardcore nerd who will complete the game without touching the game’s other levels. I can tell you one thing: it won’t be me. I did have a couple of attempts that seemed to go well until I was eventually bested by the madness that is the Impossible Lair. I even tried it with a dozen bees protecting me (each bee allows you to be hit one extra time) and I still got nowhere close. It’s difficult, but at least there’s a goal to work towards and I found that to be a good motivation to keep trucking on through the game’s dozens of levels.
The idea is that you’ll save as many of the bees as possible (a total of 48) and then go into the Impossible Lair with a big enough well of health to make it through. I’ve still not managed to get through it, but I will, eventually. I’m sure of it. (I’m not…)
So, the platforming. It’s good. Very good. A good platformer is reliant on tight and responsive controls that the player can tune into and almost ‘feel’. It’s rare for me to get that connection with a game but it happened very fast this time around. Yooka and Laylee are weighty and their movements, while being a little heavy and almost sluggish, are perfectly suited to the action. This is a platformer that challenges you not to just run and jump, but to build momentum and keep moving forward at speed. A little more Sonic than Mario, then.
One criticism levied at the first game was that the levels felt a little sparse. I can agree with that, but not with this one. The shift from 3D open-world to sidescroller means the developer has a much tighter focus, and it shows. Levels are deep in detail and alive with bright, vivid colours that pop from the screen, though they are built around the tropes that make up your typical platformer; spikes, baddies, death pits, death drops, platforms – if you’ve played a platformer before then you’ll know what to expect. It’s standard stuff, but it can be mixed up thanks to the use of Tonics.
Tonics can be found throughout the game’s overworld and they act as modifiers that can be used in the game’s main stages – not in the overworld. They’re silly fun and combining them to create your own perfect blend is a really smart way to add a bit of replayability to the game. It’s not all just for show, mind, you, as they have effects on how fast or slow you’ll collect quills (in-game currency used to buy Tonics.) Do they help in the quest to take on Captial B and recover the Hive Mind he is using to enslave the bees? Not really, but they’re good fun and that’s what I like in my games: fun, and Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair delivers.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair PS4 Review
Overall - Fantastic - 8/10
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair takes the chamaeleon and the bat on a new adventure that’ll still feel familiar. The gameplay is great and the overworld feels like it could easily be expanded into its own game. This is another dose of classic gaming wrapped up in modern design – fun, but with graphics that don’t offend the eyes.
- Gameplay is fantastic with responsive, yet weighty controls
- Lots of levels, all of which can be modified and played again
- Brilliant presentation – bright, colourful and clear graphics
- Very self-aware writing. Not laugh-out-loud funny, but I smiled more than I normally do when I play a game
- That music… So bloody catchy
- The gibberish that serves as character voices is annoying as hell
- Some Tonics seem to hurt the game’s smoothness
Reviewed using PS4 Pro.