During my recent visit to Gamescom, I was invited to get some hands on time with Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair. Suffice it to say, my RSVP was a big green tick. Read on to hear my thoughts.
Or skip to the end for a summary and release date….
Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair is the follow up to the Kickstarter funded Rare-vival of Yooka Laylee from Playtonic Studios, a group compiled of ex Rare staffers, amongst others.
While their initial release was a throwback to the collectathons of the N64 era – DK64 and Banjo Kazooie to name a few, this time around they have created a 2D platformer that screams Donkey Kong Country.
Full disclosure, whilst I was a Kickstarter backer for the original game, I could never really get into it. That’s not to say Yooka Laylee is an inherently bad game, it was more the fact that the collectathon titles of yesteryear, to me at least, haven’t aged particularly well.
Within 5 minutes of playing Impossible Lair, I knew that I would love this game.
That’s not true! That’s impossible!
The core gameplay is the aforementioned 2D platforming that made DKC so brilliant back on the days of the SNES. It’s fluid in motion, which, once you grow accustomed to the mechanics of the title, offers a real ebb and flow to proceedings. Simply put, the level design paired with the tight controls means that Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair plays like a dream.
As the name possibly alludes to, Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair sees our dynamic duo – Yooka and Laylee, try to take down Capital B via his Impossible Lair. The core mechanic of the Impossible Lair is that it is a death run – a level so full of traps to traverse that even the most ardent of platforming purist will be pulling out their hair as the difficulty ramps and spikes.
Throughout the course of the adventure – as you clear levels, you will save bees who will accompany you to the Impossible Lair. You can approach the Lair at any time, but the more bees you have present, the more likely you’ll be to succeed.
One bee = one hit.
During my brief time with Yooka Laylee, I took on the Impossible Lair with 15 bees and apparently cleared just under half of the course. It was a nefarious affair and tested my reflexes and lateral thinking to it’s limits. It was also some of the most creative platforming I’ve experienced in quite some time.
The Impossible Lair aside, the other levels that I played all oozed style, offering enough personality to easily differentiate them from any others. On top of that, every single level had an alternate state, which was accessible by manipulating the over world environment.
Music to my eyes
Present at the demo were Hamish Lockwood and Harry Robinson, two members of the Playtonic cog. They were on hand to showcase the game. However, they also offered a fascinating insight into the underlying nature of Playtonic, and how they encourage staff to be creative and express themselves. Music has always been synonymous with Rare games, and two names in particular have been a mainstay. Of course, I’m referring to Grant Kirkhope and David Wise, a pair of legends who should require no introductions.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, here are two of their most recognisable pieces. Your earholes can thank me later!!
Hamish and Harry explained that the world’s over world music was composed by Mesa Kirkhope, whilst the game’s levels were the result of a combination of, not just Wise-San’s contribution, but also of both of the legendary composers helping to sculpt and mould Playtonic’s in house music team. The result is a fresh modern cleanliness, over the inimitable twinge of two monsters of the game.
Playing with tonics
Aside from waxing lyrical about how Yooka Laylee’s in game merchant, a snake, came to be called Trowzer, Playtonic’s double H brigade were keen to show off all of Yooka Laylee’s in game mods – the aptly named tonic filters. The tonic filters manipulate the appearance and play style of Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair. Essentially, they’re Game Genie codes built into the in game reward system. I witnessed all manner of witchcraft; from a GameBoy-esque monochromatic hue, to reversed controls, super speed and even another throwback to the days of Rare, and more specifically Goldeneye – big head mode.
The sheer array of options was staggering. Whilst the build I demoed had everything unlocked from the start (they’ll be unlocked gradually in the final game), the amount of ways in which you could mess around with the visual styles and the game environments really was impressive. This all further demonstrated the impressive level of care and affection that has been put into Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair, from the idiosyncratic lot over at Playtonic HQ.
My initial impressions of Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair were incredibly positive. The game looks and plays superbly and everything appears to be polished to the nth degree, ahead of it’s release next month. Although I had a half hour slot booked, my time ran well over the hour mark – in no small part due to the accommodating nature of my gracious hosts, and the insane amount of fun I was having playing Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair.