It’s rare when I pre-order games. It just feels like I’m saying “job well done, here’s my money” before even getting a chance to play the title. But for those interested in upcoming 3D Platformer Yooka -Laylee (PS4, Xbox One, Steam, Switch) there’s a free alpha build demo thrown in for those who pre-order. This applies to both the physical and digital editions of the game, fortunately. Since April 11th just couldn’t come soon enough to satisfy my craving for another entry in this lost art of a genre, I folded and made my first pre-order in quite some time.
The demo, called the Toybox, features a preliminary level meant to get players accustomed to the look and feel of the characters as well as the gameplay mechanics. Yooka Laylee is set to be a throwback to the “buddy” platformers of the late 90’s and early 2000’s (most notably, Banjo Kazooie). The chameleon-bat duo handles similarly to the bear and bird for the most part, but they do have some distinct moves that you’ll discover as you platform your way through and collect 100 quills (the game’s equivalent to Mario’s coins or Banjo’s notes).
Aside from your standard fare of moves from the Platform Hero 101 handbook, Yooka and Laylee have a set of teamwork based moves to work with. First, Laylee (the bat) can give Yooka an extra lift after a double jump by holding the jump button. She’ll carry Yooka for a short bit of time, similar to how Kazooie fluttered about in Banjo’s backpack to get the humble bear across chasms and to reach certain items. Yooka can spring bounce using his tail to reach higher ledges, a nod to the spring pads from Banjo Kazooie (which were merely situational. Here, you can use the move regardless of being on some kind of pad). Last, but not least, Yooka can roll himself into a ball and allow Laylee to hop on top and roll around like a ball. This is especially useful for navigating inclines and launching the duo off ramps.
Overall, the controls have proven to be pretty solid in this demo. My only concern with the game at this point is the camera. Indeed, many 3D platform games that Yooka-Laylee is following in the foot-steps of had the issue of poor camera angles impeding progress. However, this is 2017…not 1998. While I was working my way through the large, blocky world of the demo, the camera managed to get in the way a handful of times. Sometimes, it’d get snagged behind something in the environment and other times it wouldn’t catch up quick enough to keep the action on track. It’s not a deal breaker, not by any means. I dealt with it as a five year old awkwardly holding a three pronged Nintendo 64 controller, I can most certainly deal with it now. But it is something that I think ought to be addressed (we’ll see soon enough!).
Yooka Laylee is set to drop April 11th. You can expect my full review of the complete game in the April issue of The Forum.
By Ralph Schaffer of The Forum