E3 2019: Hands-on with Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair
A few years back, I was at E3 when the Kickstarter campaign for Yooka-Laylee went live and when I had a moment, I backed the game. Now that it has been released there was a lot of talk about what the Playtonic would do for their next title, but no-one expected this.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a combination of a 2.5D sidescroller and a 3D overworld, each part brimming with secrets and ready to be explored. The reason for that is that Capital B has created himself a new lair after claiming a new piece of land, but the buzz around town is that people don’t want it around, but he does not care. He is so convinced in the amazingness that is his lair, he has left the front doors wide open and invites anyone who wants to try to clear it a chance. So in order for Yooka and Laylee to stand a chance, they need to head out and collect members of the Queen’s Beetalion as for each member you collect, another hit is granted to you in the lair.
Adding members to the Beetalion is as easy as completing one of the many 2.5d stages, as at the end of one is a member waiting to be released. If you have played Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze, then you will have a base understanding of what to expect in terms of level design, including hidden areas, but the game has added a ton of that Yooka-Laylee charm. The game also provides a little bit of a twist in that each level has an A side and a Bee side, with the latter being a reworked version of A. In order to trigger the change, you will need to solve a nearby puzzle in the overworld, which can turn a simple platformer level, into an underwater level or even change the direction of travel in another one
Playing the game is just as fun as the 3D game that came before it, together the pair have a host of abilities to use, in order to clear each stage and rescue the trapped bee at the end of them. The usual platforming suspects are here, jumping, attack, ground pound and such, but with a few extra ones thrown in, including have Yooka pick up things with his mouth. The levels themselves make good use of these options, with plenty of feathers to collect again, either laying around or obtainable from one of five different types of ghost feathers, that are floating around the place. In addition to the feathers, each stage has 5 coins hidden in them. What these coins do is not yet known, but even if they do nothing, collecting them is a fun challenge.
What I liked about the game, whilst playing it, is that while the charm is still Yooka-Laylee, there is a little more challenge than what was found in the original title. The stages that I got to play, included a new easy romp through a town, later one through a factory, complete with plenty of saw blades, which require some perfect timing to jump over. Should you take a hit, Laylee will get spooked and leave the shoulders of Yooka and you have a limited time to go and collect her again, but each time it happens in a stage, the amount of time you have to get to her again is smaller and smaller. Should you miss out on her, you can get her back by ringing one of the bells, complete with bat wings, that are scattered around the stage. Losing Laylee might sound like it is no big deal, but without her, you lose the ability to roll, ground pound, double jump and a few more moves. Without her, you can take one hit and then its back to the last checkpoint for you, the big catch is that Laylee does not automatically come back after you clear a stage, so you will want to ensure they stay paired up.
The overworld is much the same, with plenty of places to investigate and puzzles to solve and you need to solve these puzzles in order to change the stages. The more you do, the more hits you can take in the Impossible Lair. Speaking of that place, once I got the change to go hands-on, the first thing that I did was run right at it and while the developers were quick to tell me that it is still very much a work in progress, I wanted to put it through its paces and turns out, I needed some Beetalion assistance, as I didn’t even clear the first room. When I died and was taken back to the overworld, the game gave me an update on the number of attempts at the level, it read at two, one for me and one for the devs and a success rate of 0.1%. So there is going to be quite the challenge waiting for players in this devious level, though the team have said it will be possible to conquer, so maybe not as impossible as they say.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is shaping up to be a fantastic title, the game is offering up plenty of side-scrolling action and given how well the studio did in their 3D effort, I can only hope that all the levels in 2.5d are just as amazing, the ones I have played were quite fun. With only 40 levels, before you count their Bee sides, the game might fall on the short side, but with a host of collectables in each stage, there is plenty enough to keep you going and your honey, comb through them all and you will be set.