Yooka-Laylee is a wonderful tribute to the 3D platformers of the N64 era. In fact, if you didn’t know that Yooka-Laylee was made by former Rare developers, it would be easy to call it a shameless rip-off. The characters and music aren’t quite as endearing as the original Banjo-Kazooie games, so it does feel more like a clone rather than a spiritual successor. But they pretty much nailed the same tone and design otherwise, warts and all. Yes, warts. I seriously forgot how frustrating and tedious Banjo-Kazooie could be. I kept wavering between splashes of gleeful nostalgia and moments of “are we still doing that?” annoyances.
I loved exploring the worlds and looking for secrets, but so many of the Jiggies… I mean, Pagies… are only obtained by completing a mini-challenge, be it a puzzle, boss battle, or time trial. I do remember Banjo-Kazooie following the same template, but was it really this prevalent? After a while, I felt like the joy of exploration had been taken away in favor of these one-off challenges. Near the end, I just started saying, “Nope, not gonna do that one,” and sought out a different Pagie. Years ago, I would have accepted the challenge, but as an older, jaded gamer, these gimmicks are just that… gimmicks.
It was weird to stumble into one of the game’s mini-challenges, though, and realize that this whole room and puzzle were created for just one Pagie. The developers really outdid themselves in making sure Yooka-Laylee was brimming with stuff to do, even though you may only ever see half of it. After collecting my 100th Pagie to unlock the end boss, I was ready to call it quits. But it took me 12 hours to get even that far, and I had fun maybe 85% of the time. Sure, there were your typical camera/control issues that plague most 3D platformers, but this is such a well-crafted love letter to an older generation that I can’t stay mad at it for long.