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Thursday, October 3, 2019

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair ISN'T a Mess?!

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - They learned a lesson, I guess. You can learn one, too.

KoopaTV tries to be FAIR & BALANCED in applying our core values of truth & levity. So this article will serve as a parallel to the release article for Banjo-Kazooie-styled 3D platformer Yooka-Laylee back in 2017, which decried it as a Kickstarter-funded mess that was negatively reviewed.

Check out these review scores collated by Metacritic for Playtonic's Donkey Kong Country-styled 2D platformer Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, and have the other article open on another tab and compare:

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair Metacritic scores release day
Hey, they're ten points higher than the 3D one!

The game isn't actually released yet (October 8, 2019), and for all I know, Playtonic is paying all the professional reviewers to give decent scores. That's likely not plausible, however, since Playtonic isn't being bankrolled by a super-duper successful Kickstarter campaign this time. And that's actually a good reason for why the game is better.

When a studio does a Kickstarter, they're obligated to fulfill a bunch of goals and stretch-goals and donor rewards, even if some of those goals are things no one really wants or asked for, and are pretty much nonsense (such as letting donors voice-act character mumbles). That takes time away from the core of what they're really doing. For example, the orchestral score Playtonic promised for Yooka-Laylee still never happened, and Playtonic told backers that it'd be added post-release. Hasn't happened, but hey, now they've made a whole new game since then.

A lot of the problems with Yooka-Laylee at launch were along the themes that it felt uninspired and it was riddled with many technical difficulties. This time, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is not only a simpler project (a whole dimension less than before), but it has a central game design focus other than “be Banjo-Kazooie with new characters”: the titular impossible lair. It's like a platformer version of immediately storming Hyrule Castle in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It's a super-difficult and long final area.

You're meant to explore all the other levels in the game and recruit Beettalions to your cause, which are basically the Centurions from Kid Icarus that take a hit for you. If you complete all the levels and THEN tackle the Impossible Lair, you have a lot more health points than just one, and it suddenly becomes quite possible. Along the way, there's still a lot of interesting collectibles, and an expansive overworld that connects all the levels together that has its own collectibles and puzzles, similar to one of the The Legend of Zelda games that actually has an interesting overworld.

Playtonic brought more than just the characters from the first Yooka-Laylee to this new game, but also some concepts like character-property-altering Tonics; as well as level State Changes, which, based on your overworld activities, may do things like freeze a waterfall, cause an updraft throughout a level, and more. These aren't new concepts to the genre (think Mega Man X and how completing certain levels will greatly impact subsequent levels, like causing intermittent black-outs in Spark Mandrill's stage after beating Storm Eagle's), but they did make Yooka-Laylee stand out a bit and it's good those concepts carry over to Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair.

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair Donkey Kong Country barrel cannons
A moving barrel cannon to shoot your characters up and collect items on your rising arc until you fall down and land back in the cannon?
Very Donkey Kong Country of them. And there's stuff like vine physics and rolling attacks too.

Remember, Playtonic is made up of former Rare Ltd. folks that made Donkey Kong Country. They know how to make 2D platformers. ...Yes, they also made Banjo-Kazooie and know how to make 3D platformers but produced Yooka-Laylee, but based on the reviews, Playtonic learned their lesson and learned how to focus and not behave like a ragtag indie company.

You could consider it an evolved Donkey Kong Country, and that's pretty promising.

Ludwig didn't intend this article to act as an advertisement or endorsement for Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. He just wanted it to serve as a big contrast versus the release article for Yooka-Laylee, which was mostly critical of the release and blamed the Kickstarter and Playtonic being an indie company without oversight or quality assurance. He doesn't know about what kind of internal structural changes happened with Playtonic, but he figures they'd naturally get better their next time around.

Ludwig pretty much doesn't enjoy Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair after playing its demo.


  1. I passed on the first game, but I might actually consider picking this one up down the line. The E3 gameplay footage exceeded my expectations for what this franchise could offer. The DKC games are my favorite platformer series available, so if The Impossible Lair can replicate the controls and level designs, I'll be glad to support Playtonic.

    1. Even I might.

      ...After I get through everything I said I'd do first.


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