The first Yooka-Laylee had really been a mixed bag. It had a lot of character that tried to be reminiscent of Banjo Kazooie. The voices and music really hearkened back to such a classic game. But the execution was a bit lacking. While I enjoyed my time with the game, I knew it was really going to grate on me as I tried to do the collect-a-thon at the end. Too many quills in random places and some bad mechanics really began to harm the experience (bad camera is a big no-no for platforming in 3D).
This sequel simplifies matters. The game is 2D sidescrolling (or 2.5D given the graphical styling). Additionally, there are a lot less moves and upgrades to worry about. In the first game, we had the following to find over sprawling 3D realms:
- Gold Quills
- Retro Coins
- Ghost Writers
- and more...
This time, we only need the following:
- TWIT Coins
While the number of objects is similar, the reality is that the collectibles are much more straightforward. Bees are guaranteed for beating the levels while quills are not limited to a particular number per level and thus collecting them is easier. The tonics are solely in the overworld and there are 5 TWIT coins per level. The fact that the levels are linear in a sense make it less guessing about locations for the coins as well (they occur in order, mostly).
Let's talk about the game more.
The game itself is divided into 2 sections - overworld and levels. In the overworld, you move around and open levels and collect tonics. Each level has 2 variations. You make a change in the overworld to create the alternate version (it's quite well explained in game even if it sounds odd here).
These different versions of the level aren't minor edits either. Each variation makes grand changes that fundamentally look and play differently. Some examples:
- Level is Frozen vs Thawed out
- Factory has Power vs No Power
- Side Scroll vs Vertical Climb
- Clear Day vs Stormy Weather
These mechanical changes really lead to different paths through levels. In some cases, you'll notice a path you took the previous time is blocked off or that an entrance you couldn't reach is now the primary path. It makes you question things while running levels (especially if you want to collect everything the first time), but it's a cool idea.
But the big piece of the game is the title - the Impossible Lair. What is it?
The Impossible Lair is the final level of the game. And you can attempt it whenever you want. It's available from the start of the game. Only problem is that it's long and challenging. This is where the bees come in. The bees are extra hits you can take during the lair. There are 48 to unlock. Without them, you still have the one hit you can take that causes you to lose Laylee (and try to recollect), but that will greatly reduce your movement options along with leaving you in danger.
This end challenge really is a cool idea. I decided to do runs throughout my time with the main game. This strategy allowed me to learn what was going to happen and see improvement with the concepts while also having a larger arsenal each time. Paired together, I could make larger improvements rather than grinding out portions of the game. This kept it fresh and reduced my own frustrations.
The tonics are one mechanic I skipped over a bit. I'm not sure how much they help at times. They increase/reduce the amount of quills you get at the end of a level depending on if they hurt/help you. I intended to use them more for the Lair, but the ones I planned on didn't seem to provide the benefit they specified. For example, there is one to make it possible for Yooka to walk on ice easily. Unfortunately, I found myself still slipping all over the place with it equipped. I will mention that the negatives definitely do make the game harder though. Replaying levels that way could be an interesting challenge.
The achievement list for the game will have you trying to complete everything. You'll need to do all 20 levels twice (once for each variation) while getting the TWIT coins. Some levels also have an additional run due to alternate exits hidden in the level. I found some of these on my own, but there were others that I needed some help with. Purchasing all of the tonics at the end felt like a grind unfortunately, luckily there was an easy method to get enough to finish it off briskly.
Overall, I enjoyed my time with Yooka Laylee. Rather than reminding me of a Banjo Kazooie game though, it felt more like Donkey Kong Country back from the SNES. Either way, this was still a lot of fun and worth experiencing if you enjoy collect-a-thon platformers. If Playtonic keeps in this direction, I really look forward to what they have to offer going forward.