Evaluating Yooka-Laylee: Some Dos and Don’ts

Anthony looks at some things Playtonic should strive for (and avoid) with its Banjo-Kazooie successor.

By Anthony Pelone. Posted 05/20/2015 07:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

Things are looking up for the new lizard-and-bat duo. Yooka-Laylee‘s Kickstarter smashed through all of its initial goals and scored more than two million USD for funding, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. Its opening promises were already the stuff of dreams (composers David Wise and Grant Kirkhope teaming up?!?), but the stretch goals and rewards are just mouth-watering: eight multiplayer games, a N64 graphics shader, an embarrassing new rap courtesy of Grant Kirkhope, and even an authentic N64 cartridge! (Not playable, sadly; it’s just a flash drive.)

So already Yooka-Laylee is looking chock-full of content and has earned more than enough promotional buzz…but what, exactly, can we expect from the final product? It’s something of a homage to the classic Banjo-Kazooie, but how much of that beloved series will be channeled? Actually, how much of it should be channeled? Translating a Nintendo 64 platformer into the modern age is certainly no easy task, and certainly developer Playtonic Games is aware of that. In light of its”Rare-vival,” I’ve put together a suggested series of dos and don’ts.

Strive for World Size Balance

Banjo-Tooie and Donkey Kong 64 are often criticized for their sprawling world sizes and convoluted tasks and character-switching systems. Many fans champion the original Banjo-Kazooie‘s simpler worlds, but the first several locales are rather too elementary to hold up well (Mumbo’s Mountain takes fifteen minutes, tops). Clearly balance between the two models is needed, but how to go about that…

Much of Yooka-Laylee is currently surrounded in mystery, but Playtonic Games is clearly aware of the above issue, as it’s been quite open about world progression. Yooka and Laylee will collect trinkets known as “Pagies,” which can expand worlds to open up new challenges. We don’t know the full process of how this works, but apparently this world-expansion bit can be entirely skipped over if the player so chooses. In this way, a direct road to the final boss can be forged while avoiding any possible tedium.

And while apparently the guy behind Donkey Kong 64‘s piles upon piles of trinkets is on the team, he’s been given “a stern word,” so it looks we don’t have anything to worry about here!

That Said, Five Worlds Sounds a Bit…Small-ish? Maybe?

Pagies expanding worlds seems like a flexible feature…but is it enough? A world count of just five seems like a drastic cut from the nine or so levels of the earlier Banjo games. Of course, we still don’t know the full scope of Yooka-Laylee, so it may be premature to comment on this. After all, by now Playtonic has been promised more cash it probably knows what to do with, so all that extra funding may lead to a surplus of new playgrounds.

Should the developers stick with the original five world plan, though, they’ll have to work all the more harder to ensure they’re that much more distinct. The brief glimpses we’ve seen of the jungle and snow worlds seem imaginative enough, but are the three remaining worlds based on other familiar tropes? At this point, it might be worth considering to add in another world or two.

Potty Humor? Bring it, But be Smart About it

Through characters that speak in burp noises to the possibility of a fart bubble attack, that trademark sense of juvenile Rare humor is back in full-force in Yooka-Laylee. While it’s certain the game won’t go Conker’s Bad Fur Day on us, exactly how far into the depths of toilet humor will it plunge into? Whereas Banjo-Kazooie relied entirely on gross-out humor, Banjo-Tooie definitely had the smarter writing out of the two Banjo games, what with how it dabbled into dark humor via the tragic sentient ice cube couple (seriously, that was straight-up murder!).

According to the Yooka-Laylee‘s Kickstarter page, writer Andy Robin is the only Playtonic employee who isn’t an ex-Rare veteran. Despite being an avid player of the N64 Rare games, is he up to the task? At the very least, if he was responsible for writing that delightfully witty Kickstarter page (“Don’t give a monkey’s?”), I think we’re set. Just remember: it’s not all about butts and farts, although they certainly are funny.

Orchestra, Please

Again, I repeat: David Wise and Grant Kirkhope are collaborating on this! Their respective preview tracks for the game are veritable slices of aural heaven; in particular, Kirkhope’s “Jungle World” transported me right back into Banjo’s glory days, tubas and xylophones and all. In fact, Mr. Kirkhope is quite interested in heightening the music experience via a live orchestral score! What more could you ask for?

Believe it or not, some fans are actually opposed to this idea, as they believe that a MIDI-based score would conform closer to the N64 score. It’s just about the silliest “controversy” ever, if you ask me. While there’s certainly times and places for orchestral music, how could you say no when a) Kirkhope has already proven himself in the genre via Viva Pinata and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts; and b) as far as I know, it’d be the first orchestral score David Wise would helm.

But it’s not like anyone’s opinion matters, anyway, for the stretch goal of orchestrated music has long since been reached and Mr. Kirkhope celebrated that quite jubilantly on Twitter. Hooray!

Downgrade the Wii U Edition if You Must, but Not Too Badly

Us Nintendo fans know the score when it comes to multiplatform titles these days: every non-Nintendo game gets the shiny production values while we get the half-baked versions. The development team’s passion aside, could the same happen with Yooka-Laylee? What we’ve seen from screenshots looks like it could run on Wii U just fine, but they hail from very early builds.

I confess to not being much of a graphics/tech power guru, so I don’t know how reasonable my request would be. While I certainly wouldn’t want Yooka-Laylee to be held back by Wii U limitations, I don’t want the Wii U version to be relatively gimped. After all, the game is a homage to N64 platformers, and I can’t help but desire to celebrate that by purchasing it on Wii U. The best way to experience Yooka-Laylee will probably be on other consoles, but playing it on a Nintendo console would make it feel much more like home.

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