Nearly two years after the project first appeared on Kickstarter, Yooka-Laylee has started to appear in the wild in anticipation of its official launch date on April 11th. The reviews up to this point, however, have been all over the map, making it hard to figure out whether this game is worth buying or not. It seems like every aspect of this game, from the controls to the graphics to the genre itself, has been both loved and hated by some subsets of reviewers. What’s a consumer to do?
From my perspective, the critiques of Yooka-Laylee fall into two major categories:
First, you have the Genre Complaints:
- “Despite attempts at modernizing the formula, its style of gameplay is still outdated, and it doesn’t stay challenging or interesting for long as a result.” —Gamespot
- “Developer Playtonic has been carefully faithful to what made those first [Banjo-Kazooie] games memorable…But well-regarded as those games were, 19 years have passed since the first Banjo-Kazooie, and Yooka-Laylee remains too true to that original formula.” —Polygon
To me, complaints in this category aren’t terribly convincing. We all knew what sort of game this was going in: An open-world platformer with an emphasis on collecting anything and everything you could find. What’s so outdated about that? Heck, even Zelda: Breath of the Wild relies heavily on this formula.
The major draw of an open-world game is the ability to explore, and having collectibles to find gives you the incentive to do just that. It’s no more or less fun to do now than it was in 1998.
The second category, however, is Technical Complaints, and these carry a bit more weight:
- “There’s literally nothing stable about Yooka-Laylee on Xbox One. Stuttering, slowdown, and frame drops are ubiquitous…” —GameXplain
- “The game’s camera is dependable enough…but anything that actually requires a measure of precision…can be a headache.” —Eurogamer
- “…the controls and physics never feel quite as polished as the old-school Mario, Banjo, or Ratchet games.” —IGN
These are substantial problems that must be addressed ASAP. Games shouldn’t just freeze in the middle of the action, and the player needs both the controls and the camera to be in good working order to do what the game requires them to do.
Playtonic is releasing a patch to mitigate some of these problems, and it’ll be worth watching to see just how successful they are in doing so. If the team can prove that they can handle these problems and gradually improve the Yooka-Laylee experience, then I’d say there’s enough here to justify picking up the game. If the problems persist beyond the first few patches, however, then that suggests the game is as good as it’s ever going to be, and unless you’re a diehard Banjo-Kazooie fan, you’ll probably want to save your money.
Just like with the Nintendo Switch, I’d suggest taking a wait-and-see approach to Yooka-Laylee. Unlike the Switch, however, you should actually be able to find a copy of the game if/when you decide to buy it.