Now, I’m going to be honest with everyone, I did not purchase a Nintendo 64 until around 2005 or so. I was lucky enough to find a new Star Wars edition on an unnamed auction site. Once receiving the console, I immediately scoured the internet and game stores for N64 games that I was told I must own: Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Banjo Kazooie, Banjo Tooie, and Donkey Kong 64 were all high on the list. I had seen Conker’s in action a few years before while I still lived in Colorado and simply loved the humor and style of the title. I thought Rare was the bee’s knees and had to find as many of their titles so that I could catch up on what I had been missing. I never got very far in any of the titles–I can’t explain why–but I always seemed to give up after an hour or two, which really upsets me because these games are on my bucket list. Yooka-Laylee has now been added to that bucket list. Developed by Playtonic Games (Old Rare) this title has everything I could ever want in a spiritual successor to the Banjo titles.
What first caught me about the game was the fact that Playtonic Games kept what I like to call “Rare-Speak.” It’s a term I use to describe the weird dialogue sounds that each character makes as they speak. No English for these games, just some cute gibberish! Just those gibberish sounds alone took me back to a time when the technology wasn’t advanced enough to allow for full dialogue in some games. Cartridge games having the least amount of power to draw from, which is why most of Rare’s old games had “Rare-Speak.” They were even nice enough to open the game with a song, and man, that brought back the nostalgic tears. These games bring back such great memories for me, and I’m glad that Playtonic Games brought me one more to enjoy and hopefully complete this time around.
The graphics are also amazing, which is a very welcome feature. Rare’s games on the N64 looked good for the time, but haven’t aged that well at all. The Xbox 360 upgrades are nice, but Yooka-Laylee was built for current gen consoles and it shows. The hub world, while small and confining, is still a sight to behold: the gold glistens and the fires feel like they could burn you if you touch the television screen. The worlds that you unlock are vast, expansive, beautiful, and wrought with secrets. The character models are gorgeous and all the main characters have a special sort of air to them. They feel like real people with their palpable, diverse personalities, some of which you’d invite to dinner, others you’d cross the street to avoid.
I did have some problems playing this title. I still have to get into a certain frame of mind to acknowledge that I’m playing an older game or a retro style game that ignores some modern gaming expectations–games were very different just ten years ago. There is no hand-holding in these types of games, and you’re left to your own devices; the same is true for Yooka-Laylee. I found myself extremely lost in some levels because I simply didn’t know what to do or where to go. Back when the titles that inspired Yooka-Laylee came out, there really wasn’t an internet to surf to figure out where to go or what to do. Thankfully some walkthroughs pointed me in the right direction so that I didn’t waste time dinking around. I don’t mind a little bit of being left to my own devices, but man, after accomplishing a few things, I simply had no idea where to go next to unlock the next world. Some people miss that in games; I don’t mind a little handholding now and then, but only a little.
It’s kind of sad that during such a great year of games some truly amazing games were overlooked. I feel that had this been a slower year for games, Yoola-Laylee would have been a Game of the Year contender. With all the amazing games this year, it’s kind of been pushed to the wayside for bigger and flashier titles that we’ve all seen done before. Hopefully some folks will pick up this title on Black Friday for a pittance because we need Playtonic Games in our lives, and we’ve lost them already when Microsoft bought Rare. Let’s not lose them again because of a huge glut of games this year!