While we couldn’t get our grubby claws on the demo, Yooka-Laylee is looking very promising!
At E3 2016 NWR we sat down with Andy Robinson to check out their much anticipated 3D platformer, Yooka-Laylee, coming to Wii U and other platforms early next year. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to play the demo ourselves, since Playtonic wants kickstarters to be the first outside of the development team to control Yooka and Laylee in their upcoming “toy box” release, but Andy gave us a tour of the first world from the game and its main features.
As advertised in Playtonic’s Kickstarter, Yooka-Laylee is a spiritual successor to the Banjo-Kazooie games, with development led by many of the same individuals. This is immediately apparent when watching the game in action. Yooka the chameleon and Laylee the bat are a dynamic duo with a wide arsenal of moves, from basics like the ground pound to more advance features like flight and camoflauge (cloaked) mode. Anyone familiar with the predecessors will immediately recognize the same snarky wit, from Laylee’s sharp retorts to amusing subtext from some of the game’s more colorful characters like Nimbo, a troubled cloud who arguably has a problem with his urinary tract. Of course, dialog is accompanied by the same distinct, delightful gibberish-speak. There are several collectables – butterflies (for health and power), quills, and various power-ups – in addition to the primary McGuffin of the Pagies, used to progress through the game. Players must keep an eye on their power meter, which many of the duo’s moves consumes, and there are also berries sprinkled about that modify combat, such as by allowing the heroes to shoot fire or ice. According to Playtonic, these mechanics will be combined strategically to challenge and reward players for tactful use of their moves.
Playtonic is promoting the game’s more dynamic features that allow for players to customize their experience. Players can purchase new moves (from Trowzer) that can be used for combat or access new areas, making them at least semi-optional. Players can also equip tonics that augment abilities (or may just be silly visual modifiers), and have the option of spending their hard-earned Pagies in the hub world to unlock new worlds or extend existing worlds. Tonics that were listed in the demo’s menu (but not shown off) included “64-bit” and “Pants”. Extending a given world adds new sections to explore with even more missions. Andy pointed out that this allows for the team to include more difficult sections for advanced players, even in the first world. There are also optional missions to complete (e.g., kill a certain number of enemies) which can unlock things like new potions. One of the more interesting sections, near the end of the demo, involve the previously mentioned Nimbo. By using the berry powerups Yooka and Laylee could modify Nimbo’s state to change the weather. By making him rain, a dry riverbed filled up, modifying the environment. And then causing him to snow will result in that river to freeze over. Andy mentioned that freezing the river opened up a race with one of the supporting characters (surely with a Pagie as a trophy), although we didn’t get to see that in action.
Playtonic was showing off the PC version of their game, so unfortunately we cannot speak to how well the game runs or looks on Wii U. That said, the game’s worlds look vibrant and engaging, and the music seems like vintage Kirkhope. We noticed a little texture pop-in at times, and there were some occasional camera hiccups, but the game is still under development so hopefully these kinks will get worked out prior to release.
Please also be sure to check out our interview with Character Art Director Steve Mayles and composer Grant Kirkhope, where they discuss the development process, the team’s sense of humor, and more.