When Project Ukulele was announced over 18 months ago, the excitement was real. A 3D platformer adventure title with more than a few Banjo Kazooie vibes that was being made by Playtonic, a studio comprised of ex-Rare veterans? Well, sure we'll take that. Now known as Yooka-Laylee, the game easily met its Kickstarter crowdfunding target and is well on its way to bringing plenty of colour and harmless fun to a console near you. We gatecrashed the Rezzed Zone at EGX to get a hands-on preview with the upcoming title.
We first arrive in the game to find the duo standing in an area called the Tribalstack Tropics. Surrounding them on their stone plinth are shiny golden quills, which are the game's currency. These quills can be used to purchase new abilities from Trowzer, a red adder snake who wears a pair of shorts, an explorer's hat and a striped tie. He also seems to spend far too much time on his brick-sized mobile phone and he's conveniently standing just a few feet away. As eight quills are not going to buy much, he instead offers us some advice for climbing the incredibly slippy and mossy slope in front of us that we need to navigate if we want to leave the area. Curling up into a ball and rolling up the slope will get us safely to the top but this also consumes energy, so we had better keep an eye on that energy bar in the top left corner of the screen.
At the top of the slope we reach a deceptively large open area and we set out to explore. Next to a nearby flowerbed is a couple of blue gremlin-like creatures. These are corplets and they're the easiest enemy that players will encounter in the game. The corplets can be defeated with just a single simple spin attack and provide little threat. Despite this, if you find yourself outnumbered then we are told that we can regain health by eating butterflies, which can be found flying around the area or they can emerge from defeated enemies. If you have enough health, just running into them will fill your energy bar instead.
Looking for a new challenge, we run up a path into a gated area. In the middle of this arena is Clara, a skeleton that is also wearing an explorer's hat. Unfortunately she is rather busy, or should we say tied up... literally. The corplets have taken Clara hostage and are boiling her in a cauldron to eat later. If we're to save her, we must defeat the waves of corplets that are emerging from the dark tunnels ahead of us. After a brief battle, Clara is saved and we are rewarded with a pagie, a glowing piece of paper from the Grand Tomes. Another collectible, these are used to unlock new worlds and there are several within each land. We're going to find more of them.
Over the next ten minutes, we face many simple puzzles and platforming challenges in our bid to locate more pagies. We jump, and glide our way past moving platforms. We use Laylee's Sonar Shot ability to reveal invisible platforms that take us to previously unreachable places. In one of these unreachable places, we find a third type of collectible: a ghost writer. There are five ghost writers in each level and collecting all of them will grant us a mysterious special activity. This ghost writer is the rather aptly named Hungry. To catch him, Yooka must eat frostberries from a nearby bush and then spit ice back at him to feed Hungry and change him into a green colour. Hungry wasn't the only ghost writer that we encountered before our demo time ran out; we found the blue Hidey that was invisible and needed to be revealed with Laylee's Sonar Shot ability. On the contrary, we also found the green Evadey, who ran us ragged until we managed to corner him.
Intrigued by the game, we later returned for a second hands-on demo. The demo area was so large that in the following 15 minutes, we managed to find a completely different set of activities to try than we had in our first session. While investigating a deep underground ruin, we found a play token. These yellow coins with blue arrows were originally the game's main collectible before being replaced with the quills. The tokens can be used at the arcade machines that are found in each game world. Unfortunately, while we found the play token, we failed to find the corresponding machine and were unable to try out the game.
Further into the area, we found another NPC character. Dr. Puzz is a scientist who is part human, part octopus after a slight accident with her latest invention, the D.N.Ray. This machine can be used to transform Yooka into different forms, but we need to find a mollycool to make it work and Laylee has more than a few reservations about the machine's safety. We wander off, only to encounter a Bush plant who refuses to speak to anybody that isn't a flower. It looks like we need that transformation machine after all, so we locate a mollycool and miraculously change safely into Yooka's flower form. In this form, we're able to pollinate the now forthcoming Bush plant and several smaller plants that surround him, only to be rewarded with a pagie.
Our time ran out for a second time and we still hadn't seen everything that the demo had to offer. You can see many examples of the type of gameplay that we experienced in the following video, which also showcases footage from other levels:
Away from the Rezzed Zone, Playtonic's studio head Gavin Price, Yooka-Laylee's project director Chris Sutherland and character artist Steve Mayles took to the developer sessions stage to answer questions from both the session presenter and the audience, as well as reveal some of the many characters that Yooka and Laylee will meet along their travels.
There will even be a special guest appearance. After teaming up with Yacht Club Games, the latter team's most famous hero Shovel Knight will be attempting to help the pair and become "a decent NPC to work with", according to Laylee. Take a look at the newest trailer:
- Capital B - Cunning bizzness executive Capital B is the CEO of diabolical corporation Hivory towers, which has recently joined forces with ingenious tech firm Quack Corp. Together, they’re about to launch their most devious scheme yet: To absorb all of the world’s books and take over the world!
- Trowzer – The serpent salesman claims to be the most skilled and knowledgeable character in the game, though Laylee suspects he’s little more than a dodgy dealer. During their adventure, Yooka and Laylee can purchase advanced manoeuvres from Trowzer’s travelling moves shop.
- Dr. Quack - The former partner of Dr. Puzz, Quack’s increasingly wild experiments lead him down the path of corruption. Now fully clad in a not-so-hi-tech ‘biosuit’, the ‘good’ doctor uses his scientific expertise to power up Hivory Towers’ Corplet employees
- Dr. Puzz - A hapless scientist who’s experience more than her share of tentacle – erm ‘technical’ issues, Dr. Puzz will use her D.N.Ray to transform Yooka and Laylee into a plethora of crazy critters and help them on their adventure.
The full presentation, including the above trailer, is below if you want to take a look:
You'll be able to meet all of these characters when the game is released on Xbox One and Windows 10 in Q1 2017.
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