YOOKA-LAYLEE

This pun­ish­ing plat­former is mu­sic to our ears

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - START - Zoe De­lahunty-Light

Be­ing called a tool is a kind of half-ar­sed in­sult which makes you yearn for a spark of imag­i­na­tion in who­ever’s be­rat­ing you. In the case of the calm-eleon Yooka and his batty friend Laylee, it’s a com­pli­men­tary ob­ser­va­tion. Whether boing­ing up walls us­ing Yooka’s springy tail or flap­ping over ravines with Laylee’s wings, the duo are lit­er­ally tools. But oc­ca­sion­ally tools break. And when they do, they should def­i­nitely be blamed.

Hav­ing a ti­tle cen­tred around an in­stru­men­tal pun (ukulele—get it?) is a pitch-per­fect in­di­ca­tion that this isn’t go­ing to be a dull plat­former. Start­ing at a beached boat named Bat­ship Crazy, the chameleon-bat duo set off to re­claim The One Book. Cap­i­tal B, the busi­ness­man bum­ble­bee, has got his con­spic­u­ously pollen-free hands on it, but not for long. Or so you hope. Scat­tered across the five hid­den worlds are Pa­gies ripped from the book, glit­ter­ing bits of pa­per that you’ll find by com­plet­ing var­i­ous chal­lenges. Use them to un­lock new themed worlds or ex­pand the ones you’ve al­ready dis­cov­ered, re­veal­ing new ar­eas and chal­lenges.

It’s a small world

Rolling through these worlds is ex­hil­a­rat­ing: Whether it’s through the jun­gles’ tow­er­ing tem­ples, the ice palace in the shim­mer­ing snow, or the gaudy mar­ble-and-gold foun­tain sur­rounded by gam­bling chips, they all look stunning. Ex­plor­ing the ins-and­outs of each map re­wards you with a ton of ac­tiv­i­ties to try, but it’s dif­fi­cult to ig­nore the fact that a large part of the world re­mains out of your grasp.

Al­though there’s cer­tainly no short­age of per­son­al­ity in the worlds, go­ing into these lo­ca­tions for the first time gives the odd sen­sa­tion that they’re hold­ing back. Be­ing able to

see the bits of the en­vi­ron­ment that are cut off from ex­plo­ration feels like you’re be­ing short-changed. With­out ex­pand­ing the world us­ing Pa­gies there are ramps that lead to nowhere, locks pre­vent­ing you from open­ing doors, or, bluntly put, signs say­ing the next area is ‘un­der con­struc­tion’. Spend­ing ad­di­tional Pa­gies on each lo­ca­tion al­lows the worlds to come into their own, be­com­ing pos­i­tively vi­brant and bois­ter­ous with ac­tiv­ity. You’ll no­tice the dif­fer­ence, which isn’t an en­tirely good thing.

The mis­sions them­selves tread a thin line be­tween be­ing re­fresh­ingly chal­leng­ing and just plain frus­trat­ing, as there’s no mis­tak­ing the fact that most are puni­tive. Miss glid­ing through one hoop or trip up one too many times in a mine cart, and you might as well start all over again thanks to the over-abun­dance of pulserac­ing tick­ing timers. Other mis­sions are in­cred­i­bly easy. But ‘sat­is­fy­ing’ doesn’t do jus­tice to how it feels to fi­nally beat one, know­ing that you

sure as hell earned that Pagie. That is, as long as you haven’t stormed away in ir­ri­ta­tion be­fore then, or cursed out Laylee for be­ing too batty to com­plete mis­sions cor­rectly. (Sorry about that, Laylee, we didn’t mean it...)

Dash­ing through glass; turn­ing full chameleon, and go­ing in­vis­i­ble; us­ing Laylee’s wings to fly over the land­scape: The pow­ers on of­fer later on in Yooka-Laylee are dizzy­ing, and com­bo­ing them to­gether is thrilling. How­ever, you’re ini­tially left to your own de­vices with rather ba­sic moves that feel clumsy. Try­ing to grab a ledge at the end of a dou­ble-jump seems to only work half the time, and some moves will point-blank refuse to work in tan­dem. This can come across as un­fair, and it can be tempt­ing to sulk­ily give up. As for us­ing the aim­ing-over-the-shoul­der me­chanic, it’s simply a night­mare. Yet when the var­i­ous ac­ro­batic ma­neu­vers come to­gether, mak­ing your way through worlds is a breeze, as you can plan how you’d like to tackle the chal­lenges rather than be­ing forced to cob­ble to­gether a strat­egy on the fly.

Hivory Tow­ers (keep­ing track of all these puns is fu­tile), the hub world, takes as much plat­form­ing per­sis­tence to nav­i­gate as the other worlds. Hid­den in its cor­po­rate maze are five Grand Tomes, which act as por­tals into the themed lo­ca­tions of Trib­al­stack Trop­ics, Glit­ter­glaze Glacier, Moody­maze Marsh, Cap­i­tal Cashino, and Galleon Galaxy. Bob­bing on their hori­zons are ad­dic­tively gather­able Quills, which you can give to a sales­man named Trowzer who just hap­pens to be a snake (just let that sssink in…) in ex­change for new pow­ers. Flap­ping around are also but­ter­flies, which can ei­ther be slurped up with Yooka’s tongue to give you a life back, or be run into with care­less aban­don to recharge a power bar that’s used to fuel your fancier skills. Just try to ig­nore the squeak as you eat them, okay?

Hiv­ing dan­ger­ously

Any­one would guess that you’ll just be jump­ing through Hivory Tow­ers on your way to the next world. They’d be wrong. Spic­ing up your route is Dr Quack’s (yes, you guessed it: It’s a duck) Quick­fire Quiz. Get­ting past that das­tardly duck in­volves an­swer­ing ques­tions about your playthrough up to that point: How long you’ve been play­ing for, or how many quills you’ve col­lected, for ex­am­ple.

An un­ex­pected ad­di­tion to the game, it’s a smart and fun way to make you re­flect on what you’ve been, and will be, do­ing. Re­al­is­ing that the game has de­vi­ously stored all this in­for­ma­tion about your jour­ney so far, and is now us­ing it against you is semi-un­nerv­ing. But it’s this kind of wickedly-sharp in­no­va­tion that makes

Yooka-Laylee shine. Once Dr Quack’s quiz is quelled, a route opens up to the worlds on the other side. Here it’s ob­vi­ous just how ram­bunc­tious Play­tonic’s de­signs can be when they let loose: Trib­al­stack Trop­ics and Glit­ter­glaze Glacier are run-of-the-mill plat­former stal­warts, but the re­main­ing three have their own dis­tinc­tive charm. Gone are the pre­dictable desert level or for­est ex­trav­a­ganza: In­stead there’s a gar­ish casino, a Hal­loween swamp, and a ship-sail­ing galaxy. Rammed with bright de­signs that look im­pec­ca­ble, whether it’s the sur­face of a stone tem­ple or the ethe­real glow­ing trees from outer space, tak­ing the time to en­joy the sights is a re­ward in it­self. Not ev­ery bit of busy­work will yield a Pagie, though: The casino world rolls up its sleeves and goes full-on Ve­gas in­stead. As a wel­come change of pace, it makes com­plete sense, con­sid­er­ing you’re in the hec­tic world of bets and gam­bling chips. To get a Pagie you have to col­lect ten golden to­kens, which are thrown your way when­ever you com­plete one of the mini-games scat­tered through­out

the gam­bler’s par­adise. Slot ma­chines have levers wait­ing to be pulled, elu­sive cards hide in a maze, or tiles yearn to be matched in a mem­ory game. Swap­ping the to­kens in­volves chat­ting to the sus­pi­ciously fa­mil­iar yel­low-and-black striped buzzing ‘banker’, who as­sures you he’s no re­la­tion to Cap­i­tal B, but who we still eye up du­bi­ously when he’s look­ing the other way.

Perk­ing up the lev­els is this breed of bril­liantly writ­ten char­ac­ters, whose sharp di­a­logue, and fourth-wall break­ing quips will de­light fans of old-school plat­form­ers. Get­ting the joke that in­evitably lies be­hind each char­ac­ter con­cept makes find­ing new ones a joy, and tak­ing the time to read through each con­ver­sa­tion will make you chuckle with de­light, though cyn­i­cal play­ers may de­spair.

Bat’s all folks

You’ll cer­tainly never do some­thing the same way twice: Each world has new tasks, from play­ing golf in the casino to find­ing your way through an elec­tri­fied maze in spooky marshes. Char­ac­ters reap­pear through the worlds giv­ing you a sim­i­lar type of chal­lenge as be­fore, but tweak­ing it to make it more de­vi­ous so you don’t get tired of the for­mula.

Wor­thy of men­tion is the DNA-Ray of Dr Puzz, which trans­forms you into an en­tirely new thing in each level. In turn this lets you in­ter­act with char­ac­ters who have sto­ically ig­nored you un­til now—some plants refuse to talk to you un­til Dr Puzz’s ma­chine turns you into a flower, mak­ing you ir­re­sistible to the fickle flora. A whole new puz­zle opens up, and us­ing the skills par­tic­u­lar to your new flower form you can deal with them ef­fort­lessly.

Float­ing around are also five types of Ghost Writ­ers in each world, trans­par­ent spirits who re­quire dif­fer­ent tac­tics to cap­ture. Once you fig­ure out what it takes to get them, hunt­ing them down is a wel­come change of pace, which gives you time to chill if you don’t fancy solv­ing a new puz­zle. Like­wise, there’s al­ways some­thing to find if you ex­plore ev­ery nook and cranny—hid­den power-ups, ex­ten­ders to bulk out your lives, and power bar and Quills ga­lore.

Var­ied en­e­mies mix up the stress-free com­bat, with each world hav­ing its own dis­tinct ros­ter of Cap­i­tal B’s hench­men. Packs of cards growl at you in the casino, mask-

wear­ing tribes­men leap at you in the trop­ics, and abom­inable snow­men saunter around on the ice. See­ing the last en­emy left in a group throw its hands up in sur­ren­der or sprint away in a scrab­ble to re­treat is glee­fully funny, as well as when the leader of a pack of mon­sters shakes its fist at you. “Drat­ted whip­per­snap­per!” it seems to cry be­fore be­ing smashed to smithereens.

Yooka-Laylee is ideal for play­ers who like their plat­form­ers bright and breezy, with a lit­tle sado-masochism on the side. It might be hard to re­main mad at the an­noy­ing con­trols, but you’ll def­i­nitely feel your­self try­ing. Com­ing into its own af­ter the first two worlds thanks to new tricksy pow­ers, the game isn’t afraid to ex­per­i­ment, and ends up bring­ing a breath of fresh air to what could have been an out-dated and pre­dictable plat­former. Just re­mem­ber: pa­tience is a virtue (and beware those skeezy bees).

“Some plants will refuse to talk un­til Dr Puzz’s ma­chine turns you into an ir­re­sistible flower”

Above Kar­tos, God or Ore, takes you on a speedy trip around the world. Mess up to much and you’ll need to restart, though.

left Don’t worry, Laylee is a fruit bat, not the vam­pire type that sucks blood. Or so she sweetly claims...

Above YookaLaylee of the jun­gle, watch out for that tree! Or rather, Trib­al­stack Trop­ics’ masked crit­ters.

left The char­ac­ters that Yooka and Laylee meet are one of the high­lights of the game.

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