A while back, I heard from a friend that the old employees of Rare Ltd. (Banjo-Kazooie, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Goldeneye, basically the creators of your childhood if you’re in your mid-20’s now like me) were getting back together to create a new studio. I didn’t believe it. How could I after all these years? But then I saw this.
At first I thought “Eh, they’re probably going to make some cool modern games. Banjo-Kazooie’s in the past.”
Until they started a Kickstarter for a game called “Project Ukulele”, starring these guys.
That’s when it hit. I almost cried when I realized Banjo and Kazooie were back! (As a lizard and bat! What’s up with that?)
Almost two years later, I finally got my copy of the game on Steam yesterday. The hype was definitely worth it. Even the worst reviews out there admit it’s almost too much like Banjo-Kazooie.
Well first, Yooka (the lizard) and Laylee (the bat) are nearly exactly like their predecessors. Yooka is laid back and friendly to all characters, while Laylee is a wisecracking smartass. Just like Banjo and Kazooie before them.
The game works almost exactly like Banjo-Kazooie. You enter the headquarters of the corporate villain Capital B (who could be considered Grunty’s counterpart in this game), where you snoop around and enter new worlds through books. To expand these worlds or unlock new ones, you have to collect sentient pages from these books called “Pagies” (it’s the same concept as Jiggies, basically). To enter a new part of the Hivory Towers, guess what you have to do.
Did you guess a quiz show?
Yes it’s a quiz show.
Besides Pagies and Dr. Quack, there are many other collectibles and NPCs that bring this game to life.
In each world when fully expanded, there are 200 “quills” to collect, as well as one “mollycool”, five ghost writers, and one play coin. The quills are used to buy new moves from a pants-wearing snake named Trowzer (Get it? Trowzer snake?), while the mollycool is used to power an invention used by Dr. Puzz to transform you into new forms in each world (just like Mumbo). The ghost writers work like Jinzos, and the play coin is used to play an arcade game made by Rextro (I’ll let you figure that one out yourself).
Oh, and to top all of it off and make it the perfect Banjo-Kazooie tribute/clone, Grant Kirkhope composed the soundtrack. Yes, the same exact guy that did it for Banjo-Kazooie.
As the reviews say, Yooka-Laylee is not a perfect game. Most notably it is plagued with awkward camera issues like its predecessor. However, it is a perfect Rare-vival. It’s exactly what Playtonic Games said it would be in their Kickstarter: A return to the way they made games on the N64. If you’ve played Banjo-Kazooie, you’ll feel like you’re playing it again. And if you loved it, you’ll love this game. If not, that’s fine. This is a game that knows what it is and doesn’t care to be anything else. Its goal is to be just like Banjo-Kazooie and bring us back to the good ol’ days of Rare, which it does amazingly well.