I haven't posted much on this forum as I've been waiting for the game to come out. I know there's a discussion thread but this is gonna be fairly lengthy and full of spoilers so I figured that it might not belong in a place where someone may accidentally read it while browsing the thread. If this is wrong then I apologize and feel free to merge it. So like the title says; I've fully completed Yooka-Laylee and will be discussing my experience here in great detail which means that if you haven't played/fully completed the game then DO NOT READ THIS THREAD AS THERE WILL BE NO SPOILER TAGS TO HIDE ANYTHING SERIOUSLY CLICK OUT NOW AND CALL THE POLICE.
Yooka-Laylee is a special game to me. It's a return to the style of games that went away as I grew older and a reminder of what games used to be like. Often while playing it, I had the sudden realization that it was a brand new game and not some retro game I bought on an auction. What first hit me is how much time went into the atmosphere and characters of the game. There are little animations and facial expressions for many things that makes the world spring to life; not to mention that the tiny animations Yooka and Laylee have, make the game feel more satisfying to play. I found that the controls were very tight and responsive and enjoyed the swiftness of the characters more than the likes of Banjo and the Kongs. The music brings the whole package together with brilliant music from David Wise, Steve Burke and that one guy that ported Wise's music to Donkey Kong Land 2 (anyone know the name of that one? Just kidding, let's not forget Grant Kirkhope). Seriously, all of these 3 coming together results in a masterpiece of a soundtrack. This is very important, too, since music is what really brings the atmosphere together.
Let's look at the hub:
The hub takes on more of a role in this one compared to previous installments and feels a lot like a level on its own. To be honest, I feel that we're at the point where the hub should've just been a full level; give it a full set of pagies and quills to collect and some more puzzles. I greatly enjoyed how it was soaked in Capital B's personality much like Gruntilda's lair but on a whole new level. It managed to feel like a real place where you felt like someone worked and lived in which I'd say is unlike Gruntilda's lair, which felt like a lot of stuff thrown together but a lot more like Isle o' hags since it also felt like a genuine place. Really appreciated the touch of the hub music changing more and more as you go on since this really makes you feel like you've progressed through your adventure. Finally getting to the great tower that is tall enough to reach into the sky and hearing the bombastic music was a great feeling of "you've reached the end now, it's time to do this". Seriously, I really wish that Hivory towers could've been a fully fleshed out level instead of a hub. Why can't a full on level also be a hub? Food for thought?
On the note of the quizzes I have a few things to say. I don't agree with other reviewers in that they're annoying and keep sending you back. I beat all 3 on my first try and felt that they were just hard enough to be manageable. However, I'm not a fan of how it was all handled. It simply felt like something that was put into the game because the others had it. What made me love the quiz at the end of BK and BT was the fact that it all came at the end to sort of test you on your whole adventure and it felt very special because of this. With the quizzes coming during the game, it made the final one feel very anti-climactic and not special at all. More like going through hoops than a final encounter with Dr. Quack. Second thing I loved about the old quizzes were their implementation in the sense that there was always a gameplay twist and always a thematic touch that felt like it was part of the world and reflected the personality of Grunty. In the first one you have a full on boardgame with more challenges than just questions and in the second one you get the twist of competing with Grunty's sisters and differing quiz rules as Grunty grows more and more frustrated. In the case of Dr. Quack, the quizzes all have a special room that looks almost identical to the others and disconnected from where you are in the world. They're always also just straight up quizzes with the same rules and Dr.Quack always gives out the same responses with some slight variety once you win. They came off as a bit generic to be honest. I expected the last quiz to have a twist but there was none.
So what to do about Dr. Quack? I feel that Dr. Quack's time would've been better spent as a recurring boss as you go through the hub. Think Klungo in Banjo Tooie but more interesting. Why not have Dr.Quack challenge you with some new ridiculous invention every time you face him? They could grow increasingly more deadly, desperate and ridiculous and Dr.Quack more hysterical as you keep beating him. Not only would it provide a sense of progression and personality, but it would also be funny. Then, once you reach the tower and its elevator; Dr.Quack challenges you via the elevator speaker and THIS is when the quiz happens. I imagine it going something like this (sorry in advance for shoddy writing):
Yooka: That's weird, why did the elevator stop?
Dr. Quack: Attention intruders! You have trespassed your last trespassing. I told you before that I would never let you reach "The boss'" office.
Laylee: It's just the gumball dispenser.
Yooka: Can't you just let us go? We've had a long day.
Dr. Quack: Silence! You may have bested all of my proficient killing machines; but I have yet to subject you to...MY QUIZ QUESTIONS.
Laylee: They clearly blew the budget on proper boss battles.
Dr. Quack: It's all I have lef- I mean, THIS is where I will destroy you.
At this point you get to go up floors depending on your correct answers but if you get a question wrong, then the elevator stops and opens its doors. What comes through could be a lot of things, from a bunch of enemies or a room where you have to complete some sort of platforming puzzle to get the elevator working again. The player could choose to fail a question in order to see what the floor has on it as they could sometimes have a hidden collectible that gives you the ability to skip a question. Why skip questions? Well maybe you sometimes stop at a floor with a skull on it that will just instantly drop the elevator and kill you if you fail the question. To add an extra layer to it; the entire thing could be on a timer and if you don't reach the top floor in time, then the elevator drops all the way down which kills you. Add some constant chatter from Dr.Quack and Capital B (berating Quack) as you make it up for added humour.
Other than the hub I really enjoyed most of the worlds. I initially thought Tribalstack Tropics was going to be a snorefest due to how much we'd already seen it before the game came out but it managed to be very captivating and ended up being one of my favourite worlds. I was also a huge fan of Galleon Galaxy as it reminded me of an idea I've had for a 3D platformer for a good while now and playing that level felt a bit like seeing that dream come to fruition. You didn't just settle for a basic theme but took that and added some spin to it. So then we have Capital Cashino...my least favourite level.
The reason I didn't enjoy Capital Cashino was that it felt too...generic? I don't like using that word as I feel that it's too negative but the world was basically just a casino without a twist. Winning coins is a neat concept on paper but in gameplay it just makes the reward feel less special. I also really hate when games force you to play casino games to win. Roulette or other mostly luck based ones. I don't think it's fun and it bogs down the pacing. I appreciate that there was an attempt made here to switch each activity up but it just doesn't do it for me. The best parts of the level were the ones where you leave the casino area and go behind the scenes and deal with the challenges there. The worst offender for me personally, though, is the atmosphere. What I've always loved about platformers is their way of transporting you to adventurous worlds filled with a sense of wonder. When you transport me to a casino...I'm just in a casino. It's the very same reason I didn't like Super Mario Sunshine; it was too busy making it all feel like a real consistent world that it forgot to make those places interesting. I feel like it should've been a casino that had a twist of some sort. Maybe it's a casino where all the security bots have taken over, turning the casino into a giant death trap and Capital B has to begrudgingly team up with you in order to save his profits. Witchy world worked in Banjo Tooie because it was a demented carnival. It didn't just feel like a straight up real place if you know what I'm saying? Another idea for the casino could be that Capital B built it over an egyptian pyramid (like the wall's images would suggest) and it turns out to be haunted because of it. Maybe then there's the top layer casino area and the bottom layer egyptian catacombs area.
One final note of the casino is its boss. First off; I really love its design, the way it surprises you and how you have to fight it in a minecart. What absolutely killed the fight for me were two things: it's a little cheap at times and it's a "wait for the weak point" boss. I would often die to this boss due to some cheap attacks (the part with the missiles really should've given you a fair chance to see those missiles coming) and then I would have to just sit and wait for the boss to be "attackable". I absolutely cannot stand this sort of design for boss fights unless the fight is already very fast and goes by quickly. There's nothing worse than dying at the end only to have to essentially sit through a fight that drags on and on again and again just so you can try that last part again. If there is a way to attack INEPT more quickly and consistently then please tell me as that would fix the biggest issue I had with the fight. I think the fight could've been better off as a straight up minecarting obstacle course where you actively dodge attacks and dodge gaps while you keep shooting the boss to wear him down. The importance here being that the better you are at shooting the boss WHILE dealing with the attacks, the faster the fight goes by.
On the topic of bosses:
Minus INEPT I absolutely loved the bosses in this game. They were just the right amount of challenge to have me invested but not so frustrated or bored that I wasn't having a good time. Absolutely had a laugh when the boss of Galleon Galaxy was introduced. That boss was brilliant! I spent ages trying to find that boss and the level has so many places that scream "HERE IS WHERE THE BOSS IS" but it was never there. I kept thinking "where the hell is this boss? I've been everywhere" until I ran into what seemed like an insignificant "here's a pagie" NPC...and when I blew him up my jaw dropped to the floor before I cracked up at what I had done. Then I freaked out when the boss came out of nowhere. Yes! Absolutely perfect! I also think you nailed it with Capital B! He's on Grunty levels of awesome but not as cheap to fight. I think he's not only my favourite boss fight in this game but in all of your games except MAYBE (though I'm not super sure) K.Rool in DK64. A perfectly designed final boss that I did not mind losing to and fighting again.
Some final stray thoughts:
The last few tonics I unlocked for beating the game felt pretty pointless to me. I can get a long power meter and challenge myself with less health or listen to the characters speak like they've swallowed helium...but I just beat the game. I've done everything so what use do I have for these? Maybe a new game plus would've been cool here since those tonics would've seen more use. I also really like the tonic system and would love to see it expanded upon in the future. It could be turned into something like the cheats in Goldeneye and Perfect Dark (those were SO MUCH FUN). I also absolutely ADORE the pirate treasure collectibles. I've always been a huge fan of the DK coins in DKC2 and the way you have this super secret collectible that forces you to think outside of the boss and when you find it you feel smart and like you've stumbled upon something very few others have. It was a blast to hunt for these and the Galleon Galaxy hiding spot was my favourite. I only wish they did something? Do they? Does anyone know what these do?
Some camera thoughts are that, yes it does need some polishing up, but its issues have been greatly blown out of proportion. If you're well adjusted to the way the camera handled in BK then you'll have no issues here. I do feel like the Kartos challenges would do well with a similar camera to the modern DKC games since it's a little hard to see and react to what's coming up ahead at times. Really had fun to with the Kartos segments otherwise!
So in the end, as a backer of this game did I came away satisfied? Absolutely! What would I like to see from the next Yooka-Laylee? I uh...have enough ideas to fill that game myself almost (would anyone be interested in a "hypothetical Tooka-Laylee" thread? Could be fun maybe?) but in short I want you guys to spread your wings a little. With this one I feel that you felt a little bound and restricted both by expectations and the engine itself. Try moving away from Unity and don't be afraid to take it in a less strict BKish direction. Just...just no cars please? Maintain the core gameplay but change it up outside of that and try to innovate a little on the 3D platformer genre.
Also you need to have an NPC that is basically Arnold Schwarzenegger and he speaks entirely in Arnold noises. HOW HAVE YOU NOT DONE THIS YET IN ANY OF YOUR GAMES IT SHOULD BE ILLEGAL. *Ahem* sorry about that! But overall I am very satisfied and happy with what I invested in. You did not let me down and I am greatly looking forward to hearing more about this V.I.L.E group.
I have so much to say about Yooka-Laylee that I no doubt forgot a lot of points...but them's the beans I suppose. I also don't REALLY expect anyone from the dev team to read this even though I kinda wrote it like that although it would be fantastic if that happened. I guess I'm just interested to hear if anyone agrees/disagrees?