Rocky game launches are far from uncommon, and when Yooka-Laylee launched for PC, Xbox One and PS4 last year, it came without a long list of problems. Designed as a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie, fans were initially excited for the game prior to its launch, but upon release it seemed a little rough around the edges. Not in the way 90s video games were designed, but more like a lack of polish.
Taking the criticisms on board, the ex-Rare developers at Playtonic Games thankfully fixed various problems throughout the year and, for what it’s worth, it made it a much better game to play through. Going forward with this improvement, they launched this revised version for the Nintendo Switch and I for one don’t think we’ll see another 3rd party indie game feel more at home than Yooka-Laylee does on the Nintendo Switch.
For those that haven’t played Yooka-Laylee, the game is about a green Chameleon called Yooka and a purple Bat called Laylee who are relaxing and reading a book on a bright summer day in their home of Shipwreck Creek when suddenly, the evil Capital B (actually a Bee) turns on his machines at his factory in Hivory Towers. The commotion results in Laylee’s book being sucked into them, destroying it and scattering all the pages over the five various worlds as well as the Hivory Towers hub world itself and thus, the adventure to try to collect those “pagies” begins.
The gameplay itself is very smooth and each of the varied environments are well designed, but dialogue is still hit and miss with some relatively poor lines, but there are some genuinely great ones. The highlights for the gameplay is probably the range of activities you can do to attain pagies in each world, which actually doesn’t get boring. Throughout your playthrough, you’ll also come across a snake called Trowzer that will allow Yooka and Laylee to attain new powers and abilities that will help the heroes to access new areas and fulfil their quest in obtaining a hell of a lot of collectibles, in a traditional Rare-like fashion.
The game’s entire soundtrack has also been composed by David Wise and Grant Kirkhope who wrote the original music for Banjo-Kazooie and many other classic Nintendo games, and who many would consider gods of video game music composition.
Unlike a lot of other ports to Nintendo’s platform, not much has been compromised to make Yooka-Laylee run and look as good as it does on the Nintendo Switch, as it nearly looks very close to the PS4 version when docked. The game runs in 630p in portable mode – surprisingly this doesn’t look horrible – and at 900p when docked.
There are some noticeable compromises between this and the PS4 version in a slightly smaller draw distance for the environments and the dip in framerate when the camera pans around a world for the first time. There are also some textures with less detail, but for the most part they really aren’t noticeable and certainly don’t impact playing the game.
Yooka-Laylee isn’t an outstanding game poised to revive the collect-a-thon platformer, but it’s a much better launch this time round. From the Banjo-Kazooie inspired level design and the improved pacing throughout the experience, you have a game that certainly feels like a 90s platformer, and when you pair this with Nintendo’s hardware innovation you get the best version of Yooka-Laylee there is.