Also on: Xbox One, Switch, PC
Publisher: Team17 Digital
Developer: Playtonic Games
The original Yooka-Laylee was a 3D platformer released on all major consoles and PC starting back in 2017. It was inspired by the classic collect-a-thons of past eras like Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64. Now, Yooka and Laylee have gone 2D side scroller with The Impossible Lair, and it seems that 2D is a much better fit for the humorous duo.
This is actually a sequel to the original game where the evil Capital B has returned with his “HiveMind”, a device that he will use to enslave Queen Bee and the entire kingdom of Bees. Yooka and Laylee are tasked with stopping Capital B once again by meeting him in his Impossible Lair. Upon diving right into this battle, they are quickly defeated and rescued by Queen Bee herself. In order to defeat Capital B’s Impossible lair, Yooka and Laylee must rescue the Queens Royal Beethllion to protect them while in battle with Capital B. Each member of the Royal Beethllion rescued will give them one more hit they can take in battle, so the more that are rescued, the more of a chance you have against Capital and his Lair. Essentially, the player can challenge the Impossible Lair at any time throughout the game. However it is best to challenge through the levels of the over-world and rescue as many of the Royal Army as possible to make challenging the Lair less difficult.
The Over-world is where you will enter storybooks that are portals to 2D side scrolling levels. The objectives in these levels range from collecting coins and quills, defeating enemies, unlocking doors to secret rooms and ultimately reaching the end where you can rescue a Royal Beethllion member. These levels are a lot of fun and feel very similar to Donkey Kong Country in layout and presentation. In fact, some of the original DKC team worked on The Impossible Lair, and you can really see their influence when traversing the levels. The platforming does take a bit of getting used to as do the controls. Most of the time you have precise accuracy between defeating enemies and landing on platforms, while other times you can THINK you are dead on only to miss or take a hit. Many times I thought I was clear from a bed of spikes, only to get hit and fall into a nearby pit. When you do take damage, Laylee will become frightened and fly off in a crazy pattern. If you catch her, you can continue unscathed. Failing to catch Laylee and getting hit again will result in a death. Falling from platforms into pits or into lava will be instant death if you have Laylee with you or not. Scattered throughout each level are bells with bat wings on them, ringing one will bring Laylee back to Yooka if you happen to become separated.
Going back to the Over-world itself, there are many things you can discover here as well as it’s not just a map to the next world. You can uncover treasure and secret rooms, find or purchase potions with various effects that can help you in the 2D levels or even complete challenges that will help you progress on your journey. Sometimes, you may come to a gate guarded by Trouser the Snake. He will not let you pass until you pay him with the Coins you can find in the 2D areas, so playing through some levels multiple times is sometimes necessary to advance. Also, in some cases items found on the Over-world can alter the Storybook portals and completely change the level inside. For example, there’s a world that is flooded with water and geysers throughout, and using a Freeze Berry on the portal, the entire level becomes frozen opening up new paths and challenges that were unreachable the first time. Being forced to play worlds over again and again to get all the collectables can get a little boring at times, but it can be rewarding if you are persistent.
As I stated, the control is a bit hard to get used to at first. Yooka feels a bit slippery sometimes and his roll dash when taking out a line of enemies can get a little out of control. Many times I rolled right into a pit or didn’t see an obstacle above me that resulted in a death. Many other times, defeating an enemy too quickly with the wrong attack may result in you not being able to reach a coin or collectable, and you will have to challenge that area again later since the enemies do not re spawn too often. Seasoned DKC players should have no issue getting used to the controls, but it will take time for new players. The music and sound effects are very fitting, but the one gripe I have is that the characters are not actually voiced, and the sounds they make to represent talking can get a bit annoying. The Visuals here range from stunning to rather plain. The over-world itself seems to be a bit on the bland side, but still retains the charm of the Yooka-Laylee universe. The 2D levels range from gorgeous to downright sinister looking, with backgrounds you can get lost in and animation that rivals other platformers of this type. When it’s all tied together, everything looks and sounds great for the most part.
I enjoyed my time with The Impossible Lair. Even with it’s minor issues, I still managed to keep having fun, and that’s really what it’s all about. Yooka-Laylee works much better as a 2D platformer and I hope Team 17 will continue to develop these characters in this style. This game is a great starting point for the new direction and I hope we see more sequels like this in the future.
Playtonic provided us with a Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair PS4 code for review purposes.