Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is an adventure platformer developed by Playtonic Games Ltd and published by Team17 Digital Ltd. Our story begins with our friends Yooka and Laylee encountering Capital B on the path to his evil headquarters, cleverly named the Impossible Lair. Riddled with traps and baddies alike, an ally of ours, Queen Pheobee, provides us with her devoted Beetalion to aid in our perilous journey to topple Capital B once and for all. It is all fun and games until Capital B pulls out his secret weapon, the Hive Mind: an all-powerful tool that strips us of our shield of bees and makes us vulnerable to any damage. However, the day still needs saving: the world is in peril after all. Does Capital B actually think that we are chumps? We can slam this ‘impossible’ lair, no problem. Oh, you got hit too. Well, I guess it actually is impossible. Game over then, better luck next time. At the last moment, Queen Pheobee pulls our friends out of the Stingdom and brings them to safety in the overworld. As a last resort to stop the dastardly deeds, the Queen uses her magic to remove the chapters from the book the Stingdom resides in and scatters them around the environment. Our job now is to traverse these treacherous levels to recover the lost members of the Beetalion and finally stick it to old Capital B himself. Are you up for the challenge or was the bee population doomed from the start?
When it comes to gameplay mechanics, this game has everything covered. From puzzles to a minor collect-a-thon, all wrapped around a solid platformer. Seems to damn good to be true if you ask me. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair blends a perfect transition between a sidescrolling platformer and an isometric puzzle-solving adventure title. The main levels, disguised as chapters of a book, provide the platforming as you scour a two-dimensional plane to save the Beetalion, collect some quills, and find yourself some T.W.I.T. coins. While this is a majority of the game, I honestly do not find it the strongest point throughout. Now, don’t get me wrong; you have a bunch of stuff to do while in the pages of this novel and it can get rather difficult in the later stages. However, once you save your friends and do some minor puzzle-solving to find all the coins, the level just becomes a colorful environment with the occasional hazard and enemy.
My real enjoyment came from exploring the overworld and seeing all the random puzzles and Easter eggs the developers scattered throughout the landscape. Once you collect enough T.W.I.T. coins, Trowzer, a slimy snake with an appetite for money, rears his ugly head and provides you with your first literal hurdle. See, the game is very tongue in cheek with its humor and inserted a barricade known as a ‘paywall’ where you must use in-game currency to unlock the next area. I felt this was a great way to poke fun at today’s industry and microtransactions, while still using a staple often used in adventure titles. The overworld is filled to the brim with puzzles to solve, friendly faces to meet, and things to collect. My favorite thing about the exploration was when solving puzzles would create riffs in the sidescrolling levels to completely change their makeup. For example, after solving one puzzle, a waterfall spawns and its path can be manipulated by flipping a lever. One path opens up new areas to explore and the other floods the page and adds new hazards for your pleasure or pain and we can’t forget about the other T.W.I.T coins for your collecting habit, we know you are hoarding those things. I get it, they are pretty shiny! While the landscape is massive, we can’t do much if the world doesn’t adapt around us. So, don’t fret when you come to that ledge that you just can’t topple or that gap that is just too large to pass. Our friend Pagie is here to save the day, as long as you can do something for him. Scattered around the map are various Pagie challenges, a short, little challenge with one goal in mind, kill all the enemies. These can be very simple with only requiring a few jumps here and a spin attack there. However, you see some interesting stuff while clearing out Pagie’s little murder rooms. My absolute favorite challenge that I encountered was themed around Space Invaders and was everything you would expect from it. The main collectible we are tasked with grabbing are tonics, a mysterious liquid in a beaker that can either help or hinder your time in the two-dimensional worlds that affect your quill modifier. As expected, if they make your life easier those quills will not be as rewarding, but if you take the extra challenge, you best believe we will be rolling in quills like there is no tomorrow. Every tonic comes at a price, so it might be better to try a little harder and rack up some extra money or we won’t have any saving graces on those tougher levels.
The visuals and soundtrack presented in Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair are absolutely amazing in every single way and take this already awesome game to the next level. Our surroundings are filled with bright, vibrant colors with a cutesy appearance. Everything looks directly out of a children's coloring book. The world around you just pops out at you and there isn’t a dull visual in sight, just an overload of charming designs. While this is awesome, one thing that is pretty cool is the application of tonics that manipulate the colors or resolution of the world around you. These special tonics can be a bit harder to find but make up for being much cheaper than its companions and affect the number of quills you bring home. Most are rather cool, but the ones that I thought were clever were a series of tonics that changed the colors and resolution to mimic the original Gameboy and NES. While those styles are not really my thing, I thought it was a cool way to provide a nostalgic feeling for those who would really appreciate that kind of thing.
Usually, I am more of a visual man myself. Yeah, the soundtrack and writing are very important, but I usually pinpoint my enjoyment in the mechanics and visuals, leaving the soundtrack to what it is. This game has done a complete 180 for me and I could not be happier with the sound design. The writing is filled with witty, humorous banter and meta references. Yooka mentions on various occasions that he hasn’t seen this character since their last game and wondered why that was. They provide a seamless blend of pop culture and poking fun at today’s media without seeming overbearing or using it as a crutch to pass off pun-filled one-liners or a cheap chuckle. The writing is exceptional in those regards and I couldn’t be happier. For the music and sounds, I couldn’t give less praise. The music is childish and whimsical throughout and even when the game gets challenging or has darker overtones, it’s still very much eerie in the nature of weekend cartoons or animated movies. The chatter is akin to Banjo-Kazooie and is mostly grunts and random sound bites, but it still provides the charm like the games that inspired it. With nothing being really understandable, nothing really sticks out as being rather great, except for the sound Trowzer makes when you pick up a T.W.I.T. coin. An ecstatic ‘YUM’ is blasted upon collection and it started as an annoyance, but I could not get the sound out of my head and it grew on me. It is the little things like that just pushed my experience over the top.
In the end, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair was a monumental experience for me, and I believe all should experience what it has to offer. Take it from me, I did not go into this game expecting much and I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, it just looked cool. I was never much into Banjo-Kazooie when I was younger, but the elements of the overworld changed my mind and I plan on going back to check out the other entries in the genre. So, whether you love the series or new to it, I think this game is an amazing one to get your feet wet and see how you like the various elements. Being priced at $30 USD, I think it is a no-brainer and if you have any desire to play this amazing title, I would not hesitate. This is one of those titles that may have some minor flaws but is otherwise perfect in execution nonetheless.
*Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Final Score: 10/10
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