by Kenneth Kok
previewed on PC
Gotta catch her
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, that’s quite a mouthful. I’ll shorten it to Yooka-Laylee, and I will be talking about the upcoming sequel, not the 2017 original. I visited Team 17’s Gamescom booth together with Joel for a hands-on session with developer Playtronic. Within minutes I had a controller in my hand while Joel was taking notes.
I am not big on platformers, but even so Yooka-Laylee turned out to be great fun for me to play. Much of that enjoyment was due to features that you do not often see in other platformers. The game consists of an open, 3D overworld filled with all kinds of weird and wonderful things, including entrees to 2D platforming areas. Early on, the levels are pretty straight forward platforming. You’re running, jumping, evading and dodging, and attack enemies by doing a pirouette swipe with your tail or rolling towards them like a genuine Sonic.Getting hit by an obstacle or an enemy causes Laylee (one half of the Yookaa-Laylee team) to fly away. You must catch her before getting hit again or you’ll die and have to start over or a savepoint.
A changing world
The fun part, and where Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair stands out for me from other platformers, is when you advance through the game and the developing story. Each level is designed to play in a different way from the others, and you can even make changes in the overworld to alter how the levels play. I found a lever in the overworld that completely changed a level I visited earlier into being submerged. Water poured in through a canal, forcing me to swim where I could walk before, but also allowing me to reach areas that I could not reach the first time around. What I liked most about that, was that I was always motivated to look for solutions. If only I can get onto that one ledge... there must be a way...
You gather bees (yes those yellow and black flying hazards) and feathers. Bees fill your hit points, or maybe I should call them life points. Laylee functions like a dynamic hitpoint that you have as long as she’s nearby. If she’s missing, each time you get hit in a boss fight or something else in a level, you’ll lose a bee instead.
What a rush!
One of the best surprises I had all Gamescom was when the devs showed me a menu where I could activate new alterations (they’re not quite abilities). At this point I really started to have fun. There is a collection of alterations that you can unlock by getting “knowledge feathers” that you can find in some of the levels. I tried out a couple that the devs recommended, including Super Speed and Super Spin which made me run and spin several times faster. These sound pretty simple, but there are some really crazy ones, like the ability to turn the level upside down, or even to reverse the controls. I had all the onlookers in stitches when I combined the two and still tried to move around - not an easy task..
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair has huge replay value, and it’s very challenging to boot. You can do speed runs, challenge your friends with in the upside down (where have I heard that term before…) and reverse controls. Or how about making everything completely dark with only a spotlight on Yooka to see what you are doing? These are just a couple of the alterations the devs put into the game and you can go crazy activating and combining them. What a rush!