I’ve long speculated why the 3D Platforming genre disappeared from the gaming industry. Two hours with Yooka-Laylee has me wondering if maybe it just wasn’t that good.
I’ve put a lot of focus this year on the potential re-emergence of 3D Platformers. I’ve always looked back at 3D Platformers as my favorite gaming genre with many fond memories and I wasn’t alone. Yooka-Laylee was hyped up as the game that was going to bring back the classic genre that was loved by many; a modern spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie. Just that premise alone resulted in the game matching its Kickstarter goal in 40 minutes before ultimately capping out at £2,090,104. But now that Yooka-Laylee is officially released, I’m sort of checked out of it.
Yooka-Laylee released over a week ago and I’ve logged a total of two and a half hours. I started the game when it unlocked on Steam, took a quick food break in the middle of my session, played for another hour or so and I haven’t even felt the desire to touch it since. I don’t really want to say it’s a bad game because I didn’t really sink my teeth into it but it certainly wasn’t good enough to compel me to keep playing.
I played through the majority of the game’s first world; beating the boss, unlocking new abilities, exploring all of the little crevices in the world and collecting everything I found… but I just didn’t like it. I didn’t think the world was particularly well designed. Collecting all of the different quills felt like more of a chore than anything else. My recollection with 3D Platformers was that the items were generally spread out in a pattern or at least a somewhat logical path. In Yooka-Laylee, the quills are spread out to the furthest corners of the world and are anything but logical to find. The camera wasn’t particularly good and at times resulted in frustrating gameplay. The characters repeating the same nonsensical, irritating noises to mimic voices during dialogue was annoying and couldn’t be shut off unless you shut off all of the game’s sound effects. I really just found Yooka-Laylee to be annoying to play and that sucks.
I really want this genre to make a comeback. I’ve never played Banjo-Kazooie but I have played quite a few 3D Platformers and I reject the idea that you had to like Banjo-Kazooie to like Yooka-Laylee. If a game can’t attract an audience on its own and relies entirely on a past audience to succeed, then it’s probably not a good game. The fact is, Yooka-Laylee didn’t really modernize the genre; it kept the genre the same and fixed none of its problems. The game’s even loaded with an overbearing and tiring amount of 90s references because it’s basically Nostalgia: The Game. Yes, I remember what a memory card is, you don’t have to remind me just to shoehorn in a bad joke. I legitimately can’t tell if Yooka-Laylee is just that bad or if it’s the genre as a whole. If I had to guess, it’s probably a little of both. There’s a reason this genre went the way of the dinosaur.
I think that if I was a kid again, Yooka-Laylee would be just fine. This kind of game is perfect for a younger kid or a family to sit down and screw around in a video game, which I think was the strength of the genre. But as an adult who has become accustom to identifying and critiquing the quality of games as I play them, Yooka-Laylee just doesn’t have it. I know a lot of people are genuinely enjoying the game and that’s great, but it’s not doing it for me. I want the genre to become more popular again, but I also want those games to actually be good.
I’d probably recommend Yooka-Laylee to younger gamers but caution most people to hold off until the game either receives a price drop or goes on sale. Maybe I’ll pick it back up sometime in the future and give it another shot but I have no desire to do so at the moment. I still think this genre can make a comeback, but it has to be held to a higher standard. I’m still looking forward to the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy in June and I will never stop asking for a Spyro the Dragon trilogy remaster, but I’m certainly taking a harsher look at a genre that I was probably looking back on with gigantic nostalgia goggles.