Banjo-Kazooie was one of the standout platformers of the early 3D era, and even though that genre has fallen out of favor compared to shooters or open-world action games, some of the people responsible for that Nintendo 64 classic have come back with Yooka-Laylee.
Playtonic Games, a studio composed of former Rare employees, is releasing Yooka-Laylee for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 on April 11. Like Banjo-Kazooie, Yooka-Laylee has you controlling a pair of characters as one, cohesive unit. Instead of a bird and a bear, this time you’re a lizard and a bat, but that’s a new skin for an old, familiar control scheme of running and jumping. And this is the part that works best in Yooka-Laylee. The running and jumping feels nice, and it makes me want to hop around and explore the environment.
The other standout aspect comes in the form of the visuals — at least on PC. Yooka-Laylee sports a clean, high-def version of the Banjo-style art, and it looks rather stunning in 4K at 60 frames per second.
But while it is technically impressive and fun to navigate, Yooka-Laylee has a number of big problems that I spotted in my first five hours with it.
Most notably, its camera is trash. Instead of giving you control over where you look with the right analog stick, the perspective sticks to where you’re running. It makes it hard to see what’s happening around you while also giving the game a claustrophobic feel. I think the game even gave me a headache because the camera was moving in an unnatural way that I found distracting and disorienting.
The other major issue is the structure. Banjo-Kazooie had players unlocking moves throughout the game, and that’s back here — but it doesn’t work. For example, an early mission requires you to break windows to let light into a room and then shoot objects in that room. To do this, however, you need to buy two distinct moves from a sleazy snake using collectibles as currency. But when you start this quest, it seems like you’ll only need the butt stomp. So you go out, collect 30 of the golden quills, and buy it to bust open the windows. As soon as you do that, though, you find out that you need to go out and collect another 30 golden quills to buy the projectile-firing move. It’s annoying, and it destroys the pacing.
I was looking forward to Yooka-Laylee, and you can see me give it a try in the video above. But it has disappointed me so far, and I’d probably have a better time going back to Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts in the Rare Replay Collection on Xbox One.