Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a truly delightful platformer with so much to explore and several entertaining characters to meet along the way. The music is very uplifting and it is easy to quickly become immersed in this vibrant world packed full of exciting puzzles, colourful levels, and hidden collectable items which allow the player to modify the game to their personal preferences.
Yooka and Laylee are on a very important quest to help Queen Phoebe restore order to the Royal Stingdom by completing levels and freeing the members of the Royal Beettalion Guard that are currently imprisoned by the evil Capital B (who bears a remarkable resemblance to a particular villain from Despicable Me!).
The levels are 2D but they are located in a vast 3D overworld which also contains several hidden areas and even more characters that will support Yooka and Laylee on their journey. One very helpful component is that once a level has been played, it is possible to warp there from the map view so it is certainly easy to navigate. At first, it feels a little slow to play but it doesn’t take much time to adjust to, and it actually makes for a more relaxing gaming experience overall.
The game initially appears to be targeted towards children, but as all the intricate details begin to emerge, it becomes clear that it will undoubtedly appeal to a much wider audience, which is typically quite difficult to achieve. It caters for the majority by having the option to adjust levels and character abilities, complete challenges scattered around the different areas which transform the landscape, find a multitude of collectable items, enjoy the brilliantly themed music or even to just leisurely stroll around and enjoy the scenery. Included in the array of collectable items are 62 Tonics (to customise the level or characters), 48 Royal Beettalion Guards (each with their own comical names and descriptions), Quills (currency collected in the over-world and chapters used to unlock Tonics) and T.W.I.T coins (to pay Trowzer to open new areas in the over-world).
The overworld is very distinctive, almost creating an additional game where it is even possible to change the state of levels (for example freezing them or flooding them), which opens a second version of each of the 20 levels. It also gives give the player the chance to obtain 5 more coins and rescue another Royal Beettalion Guard to help battle with Capital B in the Impossible Lair with each Bee taking a hit for Yooka and Laylee. This gives the player another chance to customise their gameplay because they can attempt to defeat Capital B at any time with as many (or few) Bees as they wish.
The entire game creates a particularly positive atmosphere and playing experience. For example, Laylee gives Yooka certain special abilities but if Yooka is hit by an enemy then Laylee will fly around in panic, eventually completely flying away if Yooka doesn’t manage to get close enough in time. But it is possible to get Laylee to come back by ringing one of many hidden bells placed around the levels and if Yooka is hit when Laylee has flown away, then the duo will just restart from the last save point so there is no harsh penalty for losing. Another encouraging feature is that if the player keeps failing to complete a section, a very friendly and reassuring message comes up giving the player the option to skip that area. This is extremely helpful for younger players and also gives anyone the option to continue to enjoy playing through the game just for fun, without feeling any frustration at all for getting trapped on a level. It might even motivate some players to continue to complete that section knowing that they didn’t take the easy route so it is a positive experience either way. But for those who would find this too ‘easy’ they can always use the Tonics and customise the number of save points or make the enemies harder to defeat.
There were only a few very slight hindrances. The first being the rather long loading times compared to current games, which for the more youthful gamer could be slightly off putting but for those who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s it isn’t much of deterrent. There was a small glitch when the characters became stuck under a piece of dangerously spiky scenery but, by a stroke of luck, no one was seriously injured as the presently invisible duo managed to roll all the way along and pop out of the side of the platform without even a single scratch! Disaster averted! Lastly, all of the dialogue is captioned and not spoken which, although gives the player more control over the conversation allowing them time to read it at their own pace, makes it less accessible to younger players who might not be able to read it all and those who find clicking through every sentence somewhat tedious. However, some of humour in the dialogue could have been very easily lost if it wasn’t for the captions in this game so it does serve a purpose from that perspective and certainly had me chuckling out loud on more than one occasion. If the negatives of a game can even bring amusement to the player, the creators are evidently doing something correctly!
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is very enjoyable and should appeal to many with its distinctly memorable characters and almost limitless customisation opportunities. It certainly has a high entertainment value bringing a more up to date and fresh approach to a genre that other developers have tried to revive with somewhat less success. The music is exciting flowing seamlessly through different areas and never becomes irritating. No part of play gets frustrating because of the ability to skip or customise levels and the depth of design in every character and their dialogue brings it all together so seemingly effortlessly. A confident thumbs up!
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.