Everything we’ve learnt so far about Yooka-Laylee reads like a love letter to the glittering heyday of 3D platformers. As we hurtle towards launch day for the crowdfunded title, headed up by a quite astonishing lineup of industry veterans responsible for games like Banjo- Kazooie and Perfect Dark, we almost feel nervous for the Playtonic team. Not only is £2.1 million of Kickstarter backers’ money behind this ambitious project, but it can be argued that the nostalgic hopes and dreams of twenty-somethings the world over are riding on Yooka-Laylee being the Rare-style 3D platformer they’ve been awaiting for years.
Playtonic certainly has its mind focused on the modern market and is displaying the technical nous to get a beautiful result out of modern tools, despite the team cutting its collective teeth in the glory days of the late Nineties and early 2000s. However, recent announcements hint at a group of artists and devs with a keen eye on the past, too. For one, Playtonic has included eight distinct minigames in Yooka-Laylee, based in a separate arcade-style environment cultivated by the dinosaur Rextro (complete with utterly mad, garbled voice work that has tumbled straight out of Banjo-Kazooie).
“We’ve always been big fans of local multiplayer games and the kind of interaction they cause that you don’t often get online,” begins Playtonic’s Andy Robinson. “Putting our own competitive games in Yooka-Laylee was mostly because we are fans. The likes of Banjo-Tooie and Smash Bros get rolled most lunchtimes in our office.” The games themselves come in diverse forms, and from recent videos we can see puzzle aspects, a racing game and battlecentric modes, too. This comes at a time when mini-games and local multiplayer modes have rather gone our of fashion, to be honest – online multiplayer is now the order of the day, while local experiences to be enjoyed with friends have taken a backseat. The main single-player mode in Yooka- Laylee also boasts its own local couch-play element. “At any point during the singleplayer adventure, a second player can jump in using another controller and take charge of the Bee Team, an on-screen entourage who can help out by grabbing hard-to-reach Quills, preventing traps from damaging Yooka and Laylee, or by collecting and storing butterflies in order to release them later on when the buddy duo are low on health,” explains Robinson.
Although this Bee Team addition sounds, at first, like it might not be the most meaningful addition of a co-op component we’ve seen, it’s still a taste of how deep Playtonic wants Yooka-Laylee to be. Far from just being a fitting homage to the N64 days when Rare was the best mark of quality a game could bear, the prodigiously talented dev team, marketable characters and varied game modes that make up Yooka-Laylee could mark the start of a new wave of gold-standard 3D platformers when it leaps into action in April.