Welcome to Misplaced Reviews, where we dig up past Nintendo Switch releases and hold them up for scrutiny. (Every game covered in the Misplaced Reviews series must have been released at least one full calendar year prior to being part of the series, and it has to be a game that hasn’t received any coverage on the site before.)
The first title in the series is none other than Yooka Laylee, from Playtonic Games, and Team17. To make this review extra special, it’s been written and summited by our second guest contributor! I’m stoked to introduce Tyler. He reached out to me recently, via social media. After a great conversation about our love of videogames, I ended up asking if he’d like to publish any reviews on the blog. In no time, he had emailed me this review of Yooka Laylee. Tyler will be a regular contributor on The Nintendo Nomad and I’m excited to have him aboard. I hope you enjoy reading his review of Yooka Laylee as much as I did! Take it away, Tyler….
Yooka Layley is the game I have been waiting for since Banjo Tooie, and it serves as a fantastic spiritual successor. And while the Switch may be the definitive way to play the game, it unfortunately continues to have some shortcomings. Yooka Layley gives a great feeling of Nostalgia that fans of the Banjo Kazooie series have yearned for, for so long. Unfortunately, this feeling is marred by some of its design choices and technical issues.
Banjo Threeie in Disguise?
The game plays very similar to Banjo Kazooie with a similar overworld, similar gameplay, and similar musical style. You go through the levels with your chameleon & bat duo, collecting “Pagies” as you travel and explore. Pagies allow you to expand each of the game’s 5 worlds, and act as the main collectible needed to complete the game. However, just like the games that inspired it, Yooka Layley has an abundance of different collectibles. The most plentiful collectible are the quills, which are abundant in every level. These quills allow you to purchase new moves such as a sonar blast, flight, and the ability to turn invisible. There are also items that can upgrade your max health and energy.
Energy is required to use the skills that you unlock. It can be recovered by capturing butterflies that float around the different environments. In every world, there is also a “Mollycool”. This item allows you to obtain a transformation specific to each level that allows you to access previously unobtainable items.
The transformations are unique, and fun to use, but it would be nice if they had more uses in each level.
Finally, for collectibles there are 5 ghosts in every world that give you a Pagie once they’ve all been found. The ghosts each have their own personality, and act differently towards you. For example, the red ghost will fight you until you hit him a certain number of times before he can be captured. This adds some charm to capturing them, making it more enjoyable to try and find them.
The collectibles in Yooka Layley have a charm to them that other 3D platformers do not. However, the overwhelming amount of stuff to collect will get tiresome quickly, unless you’re a very patient person.
Personality and Charm
Yooka Layley’s characters are as funny, and charming, as Rare’s Banjo Kazooie’s cast. Their charm really shows the time and care that was taken to help ensure each of them had their own unique personality. Even if some of the experiences with the characters are short lived, they help develop Yooka Layley’s character and perfectly replicates the charm of past 3D platformers. One of the characters, Retro Sixtyfourus, even has his own arcade in every level where you can play a cool retro style game.
The presentation of Yooka Layley is great, the new moves you are constantly learning aid in spicing up the gameplay, and the worlds give off a very well-developed atmosphere. I did find that, after spending a long time in one world, everything began to look too similar, and it became easy to get lost. Overall, Yooka Layley is dripping in character from the wonderful cast to the vibrant worlds, it makes you wonder how this game could have any problems with it. And then you begin to see the technical problems…
Yooka Layley plays decently on the Switch, running as high as 900p while docked, and as high as approximately 600p in handheld mode. The resolution is not fantastic, and Playtonic Games could have improved upon it. That being said, the game still looks very good on the Switch.
The camera in Yooka Layley is much better on the Switch than it was when it originally released. The new camera system allows more control, and better positioning abilities. However, it still isn’t fantastic, and there were more than a few times where I failed a platforming segment because my camera just wouldn’t focus in the area I needed it to.
The real technical issues with the Switch version of Yooka Layley start with its awful load times. Switching worlds has taken me up to a full minute of load time to start playing again which is disappointing, to say the least. Yooka Layley also loses some of its graphical prowess compared to other systems in other ways than just the resolution. Although Playtonic did do their best to prevent it from being exceptionally noticeable, some textures are quite muddy, especially in handheld mode. Also, in some of the darker spots in the environments, the graphics can be dark and blurry, making it difficult to see what’s happening.
The frame rate in Yooka Layley is also a significant concern since, at times, it can be all over the place. I have suffered major frame rate problems in both docked and handheld mode. And, while they don’t last for long, they happen frequently enough to ruin some of the game’s immersion. While I do agree that the graphical downgrades are acceptable considering the Switch is less powerful then other home consoles, the awful load times and frequent frame rate problems cannot be excused.
I was able to bear Yooka Layley’s technical problems because it really is an amazing game underneath. Playtonic crafted an almost perfect experience for anyone who really wanted a new game in the Banjo Kazooie franchise. They really tried to give something to all the Banjo Kazooie fans who have not received a proper entry in the series since the N64 era. Yooka Layley was my first day one purchase on the Switch, and I do not regret buying it. I’ve had nothing but great times with this game, along with some admittedly frustrating technical issues along the way.
Yooka Layley is a wonderful tribute to the 3D platforming, collecta-thon, genre and is truly a very entertaining game. It pays tribute to its roots very well and it’s easy to see the immense amount of work Playtonic put into it. Unfortunately, this game loses some of its appeal due to its technical shortcomings. That still does not mean Yooka Layley is not an amazing game. Instead, it’s a flawed masterpiece. Yooka Laylee is available for $39.99 on the NA eShop.
7.5 /10 Recommended 3D Platformer !A Flawed Collect-a-Thon Masterpiece
- Amazing level design that is vibrant and engaging.
- Character and Charm to Spare
- A beautiful soundtrack, dripping with Nostalgia.
- Some of the best, and most entertaining gameplay, within the platformer genre.
- Frame rate issues in both Handheld and Docked mode.
- Crippling load times between worlds.
- Graphics are too blurry in some of the environments while in handheld mode.
- Camera Controls could still use some work