When Yooka-Laylee was announced on Kickstarter, it was a big deal. The game was being developed by Playtonic Games, a new game studio comprised entirely of former members of Rare, many of which had worked on game series such as Battletoads, Donkey Kong Country, Banjo-Kazooie, Conker, Perfect Dark, and the timeless N64 classic Goldeneye. Their mission was to create a new game to reinvigorate the dying genre of 3D platformers, a genre set into motion by Super Mario 64 that once dominated the video game market. These developers, led by project director Chris Sutherland, wanted to bring the style of gameplay they had (arguably) perfected in games like Banjo-Kazooie. There was only one problem: Banjo and pals are owned by Microsoft. Enter his unofficial successor: Yooka the Chameleon, and his pal, Laylee the Bat. With new characters, the boys (formerly of Rare) were back in business, so they turned to Kickstarter to fund the dream. They asked for $270,000 to make it happen; well, it did. In less than 30 minutes.
The Kickstarter was a massive success, raising over 2.7 million dollars (in American), and giving the developers the ability to hire more staff, create much more content, and give fans a bigger and better version of the game than they had initially planned—they were adamant, however, not to let a larger budget risk their vision, or create a situation where they overshot their ambition and became unable to deliver anything. One of the promised features of the expanded budget was called the ‘Toybox’, a demo of sorts to play around with the characters abilities and platforming capabilities, set in it’s own self-contained level so as not to ‘spoil’ any of the main game. The Toybox has just been released, and we got ourselves a copy of the Toybox+ version.
Foremost, a keyboard and mouse were used to play the demo. There was an attempt to try two different controllers: an 8bitdo NES30 Pro ‘Crissaegram’ and a Sony Playstation 4 controller; neither would work at 100% efficiency due to difficulty configuring them—this is no fault of the game, Unity (the development platform) is a bit notorious for this. The game itself recommends playing with an Xbox360 controller, as the default setup is already for configured for it (and a mouse and keyboard).
The gameplay is fluid and responsive. Yooka flips, jumps, twirls, runs and rolls in all manner of fashions to traverse the landscape. The gameplay is, of course, reminiscent mostly of Banjo-Kazooie… or to be more accurate, the sequel Banjo-Tooie. Laylee can flap her wings after a double jump to glide momentarily through the air, giving Yooka an extra push needed to get atop platforms. There’s no ‘ledge grabbing’ currently, and it is unknown if it will be added—that being said, adding that feature may make things easier in an unwelcome manner.
The graphics are a bit plain, but that’s due to the gag ‘demo’ setting: what little we can glimpse of the game’s actual art style is cartoonish and pleasing. Speaking of gags: for something as simple as a ‘toybox’ demo, there is plenty of humor. We’d rather not spoil any of it, but there are jokes upon jokes in the trademark style of the creators. Another trademark is the beautiful, nostalgic ambiance created by the music. This game will feature three legendary composers Grant Kirkhope (Banjo Kazooie, Goldeneye 007), David Wise (Donkey Kong Country, Battletoads), and Steve Burk (Kameo: Elements of Power, Viva Piñata). The demo’s mission objective is also exemplary use of nostalgia at play: collect 100 quills, which will net you a prize… the collect-a-thons of Banjo and Donkey Kong 64 are back, although the team assures they’ve toned it down from the latter-mentioned title.
If you are a backer of the Kickstarter, check your email + backerkit NOW to get your code for the Toybox. If not, you can look forward this majorly awesome nostalgia bomb when Yooka-Laylee drops in the first quarter of 2017. Check out a few screenshots below.