GAME REVIEW | Bee Protected and Beat "Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair"
Yearning for the return of something you enjoyed in the past can be a mixed road that leads to either joy or disappointment. Platonic Games set about revitalizing the void left by the folks over at Rare by making a spiritual successor to Banjo Kazooie, which was called Yooka-Laylee. The results were mixed, but I was happy to see the initiative taken to bring collect-a-thon games back to the present. Now, Playtonic Games have brought back the duo in a sequel titled Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, which takes those collect-a-thon principles, shifts them to a 2D platformer, and borrowing some cues from Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, makes a solid game that introduces some new concepts and pushes the genre forward.
The namesake for this game, The Impossible Lair, is actually simultaneously the first and last level of the entire game. That’s right, the game starts off by automatically dropping you into the, very appropriately named, Impossible Lair right off the bat. Pun intended. I am sure the person who actually beats the Impossible Lair on this first attempt will exist eventually and I would gladly shake their hand, because the level is both length and tough-as-nails. If the level is so hard, then how do you eventually get through it? That is where the main conceit of Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair comes into play.
After being knocked onto your butt by Capital B, who was the villain from the original Yooka-Laylee, and his Impossible Lair, you are tasked with rescuing the Royal Beettalion of Queen Phoebee, which are little soldier bees found at the end of each level. Each Beettalion member will take a hit for you during your next run through the Impossible Lair. At any point, if you think you have enough hits, you can take another shot at making it through the Impossible Lair and when you fail, it will show you how far through the level you managed to make it. Be aware though, that it also keeps track of how many attempts you have made, so if you’re not careful that number can start to climb very quickly.
The main set of levels in the game still manage to keep up a level of difficulty that challenges each time. The pacing of the difficulty in these levels is impressive as it keeps feeling challenging as you progress through the game, but if you revisit an old level, you might notice it was easier than you remember. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair does an excellent job of building up player skill as the game progresses in order to better prepare you for making it through the Impossible Lair in the end. The levels have some very interesting mechanics associated with them, including things like planks that make platforms fall from the sky and a level that focuses around finding items near a central hub. These features keep the game feeling fresh and never overstay their welcome.
The collect-a-thon roots of Yooka-Laylee are felt very strongly in The Impossible Lair as well. There are many things to collect in the game including: Bees, coins, quills, and tonics. Each of these things ends up feeling useful and necessary, which is commendable for any collect-a-thon game which often contains at least some useless collectibles. Quills and coins both unlock areas and secrets in the hub world, quills can be used to unlock tonics, tonics unlock new bonus abilities for our heroes and we have already covered the bees. The only thing I would say is that the tonics, while often very silly, suck up a large amount of quills to unlock, which is unfortunate since they are also useful for unlocking cages containing puzzle elements in the hub world.
Speaking of the hub world, this is another very unique element of Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. Observed from a top-down view, this section of the game has you pushing around crates, shooting elemental fruits and interacting with lots of googly-eyed creatures to unlock the various levels of the game. These puzzles are rarely taxing, but they break up the gameplay in a good way and give the player something to do between the challenging platforming taking place in the levels themselves. The only hub world concept I wasn’t crazy about was the “paywalls” maintained by Trowzer the snake. Obviously, these are not actual paywalls, but you do need to be collecting the coins in each level in order to unlock new parts of the map. Sometimes these coins are deviously hidden and searching for them slowed down my progress through the levels to a negative degree.
While there are boss fights in the Impossible Lair itself, yes that plural was intentional, I was disappointed at their absence throughout the rest of the game. This may be more down to my obsessive need for a function that has been slowly becoming defunct, but I think the minds that made this game could have come up with some cool boss fights, so I was sad to see a lack of them outside of the Impossible Lair.
- Very clever and well-paced level design
- Collectibles felt important and useful
- Impossible Lair is as difficult as advertised
- Paywalls had me focusing too hard on coin collecting
- Tonics went unused due to high quill costs
- Load times on Switch version were a little high
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair makes me very happy to see Playtonic Games pushing this franchise in a very positive direction. This game is designed very differently from the 2017 original, but manages to keep the DNA that makes it feel like a true follow-up. In spite of a few minor hiccups, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is an easy recommendation for any 2D-platformer fans out there looking for something to challenge them and tickle their collect-a-thon bone. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is available October 8th, 2019 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC.
Promotional consideration provided by Team17 for this review. The Nintendo Switch version was played for this review.