Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair on PS4
When Yooka-Laylee released as a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie two years ago it was met with a positive, yet somewhat mixed, reception. The throwback collectathon has largely been praised for replicating the old 3D-plaformer greats, as well its colorful cast of characters and great writing – although some felt that developer Playtonic stuck too closely to the spiritual successor idea, ignoring how much games have changed over the years.
Now the follow-up, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, is finally here, and it’s a rather different beast. The game largely eschews the third dimension in favor of a 2.5D platforming format. Playtonic has also embraced a smaller scale for the game, but somehow they’ve managed to jam-pack it with even more character, mechanics and collectables that the first game.
These are some pretty significant changes, and the result is that Impossible Lair feels much less bogged down in copying the nostalgic of 90s games past, like what happened with Yooka-Laylee, and instead is more of its own kind of game.
The story runs down like this: Your favorite chameleon and bat duo (the only one to be fair) are back again to battle the evil Capital B. The corporate bumble bee has brainwashed the private army of Queen Phoebee, a new addition to the cast.
The queen’s beetallion act as a super shield in the first section of gameplay, before being kidnapped and mind controlled. You’ll need their numbers if you want to take on Capital B in his eponymous Impossible Lair. To help out, Queen Phoebee pulls out chapters of the Grand Tome which contain the pre-brainwashed beetallion.
The chapters scatter across the world, waiting to be discovered. Each chapter contains a challenging level and, at the end of it, a beetallion member waiting to be rescued.
Gameplay is largely divided into two sections: the 2D platforming levels found within the chapters and the 3D overworld. The chapters themselves are your standard 2D platforming fare, reminiscent of the Donkey Kong Country series. Levels start out easy, but quickly ramp up in difficulty.
There’s a huge variety of enemies which force you to change up your playstyle with each new situation. There are a lot of environmental hazards too, much of them mechanical and several requiring pinpoint platforming timing.
This precision can be hard to pull off with the fairly sluggish way Yooka and Laylee handle. These controls are easy to get used to, but you’ll never be quite as fast as you feel you should be.
Similarly, there’s an inconsistently slippery quality to many of the platforms, which will sometimes send you hurtling to your doom even if you stick the landing.
The duo only have two lives – one with Laylee on board and one without. If the team is hit Laylee will be knocked off, leaving you a limited amount of time to get her back before she panics and flies away.
Once Yooka’s alone, one hit means death and starting over from the last checkpoint. This gives you a good incentive to not roll off without her, although her haphazard flapping can make getting her back a chore.
Platforming aside, The Impossible Lair is still a collectathon at heart. In addition to the beetallion and the quills of the last game, you can also find find five T.W.I.T. coins in every level. These have the sole purpose of being paid to Trowzer, who’ll open up more of the overworld map for you, although they’re well hidden and often a challenge to reach.
Unexpectedly, the overworld offers just as much enjoyable gameplay content as the levels themselves. Small but dense, you soon realize just how interconnected the areas of the map are.
So much of the overworld is interactive and changeable, with a verticality that slowly unfolds the more you explore and the more puzzles you solve. The world conjures up a huge sense of wonder and you can tell that Playtonic really got to stretch their creative legs in designing it.
One of the game’s best features is that changes made to the overworld will affect chapters and change the mechanics of the level. For example, flooding a chapter’s surrounding area will turn it into an underwater level, opening up new sections of it to discover.
The Pagies from the first Yooka-Laylee are back. Solving their challenges allows them to drastically alter the landscape, letting you access parts of the map and items that were previously unreachable.
The Tonics themselves are one of these items, and one of the most publicized features of the game. They’re incredibly fun, with the ability to alter the chapters you play through in a variety of wacky ways.
Some are great if you’re struggling, like increasing the frequency of checkpoints, while others add to the challenge, like the Upside Down tonic, which forces you to fight off motion sickness as you play every level upside down.
Impossible Lair itself is aptly named. A final boss level that’s available to you from the very beginning, the lair is a grueling assault course of enemies, hazards, timing challenges and intermittent fights with Capital B.
If you’re a seasoned platformer you should be able to beat the lair without all 48 beetallions shielding you, but you really feel the addition of each beetallion you rescue, as each bee tanks a hit for you.
While The Impossible Lair’s story is not unlike that of the first game, the characters burst with even more personality this time around. For instance, Laylee getting panicked and flying away is a mechanic but also adds to her character, helping me view her more as Laylee and less as Purple Kazooie. Trowzer’s just as lovably smug as usual, though other characters, like Vendi, feel underutilized.
The bright, sunny visuals are in keeping with the last game and look just as beautiful in scrolling 2.5D. The wonderfully atmospheric levels are helped along by an equally mellow soundtrack. Grant Kirkhope and David Wise are back as composers and boy does it show, with many musical pieces sounding straight out of Tropical Freeze.
Another added audio bonus: if, like me, you found the grunt-speaking of the first Yooka-Laylee beyond grating, you’ll be happy to know it’s been almost entirely done away with. Characters make way less of a racket when they chat now, with speech similar to that of Super Mario Odyssey.
The massive changes make to Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair are refreshing, but it’s a great sequel not simply because it’s different from the first game. In fact, so many of the designs, characters, music, and meta humor are exactly the same.
There are, however, tons of little tweaks and improvements all throughout. The key impression is that Playtonic had time to evaluate their last and really put effort into bringing even more creativity to the sequel by shaking up the formula.
In many ways the first Yooka-Laylee felt like the developers were trying to make up for lost time and bring audiences the Banjo Three-ie everyone wanted. With this follow-up, you get a distinct sense that the game has been allowed to breathe and find its own identity, and it’s an overwhelmingly positive thing.
Score: 4/5 – Great
- Huge variety of puzzles and challenges
- Very engaging platforming
- Great sense of progression throughout levels and overworld
- Sluggish controls
- Inconsistent environmental hazards
Should you Buy Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair?
If you enjoyed the first game, or are a fan of platformers and collectathons in general, you should absolutely pick up this game.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair Platforms and Release Date
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair will launch on October 8 on PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair Developer
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is developed by Playtonic. Made up of several key former members of Rare, Playtonic developed the first Yooka-Laylee with the aid of Kickstarter.