I am a longtime fan of the Banjo-Kazooie series; to this day, Banjo-Tooie is one of my favorite games of all time. When Yooka-Laylee was first announced, I was skeptical and didn’t back the Kickstarter. Time wore on and, a mere day before the game was released, I caved and pre-ordered. My first impressions based on the Toybox demo weren’t great, but I kept the game and committed to trying out the full game the next day before passing judgment.
So far, for the most part, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. I’m now several hours into the game, having primarily only explored the Tribalstack Tropics world, and I’m having quite a bit of fun. It’s about what anyone would expect it to be, a reasonable resurrection of an all but forgotten subgenre of platformer that couldn’t possibly live up to its predecessors because it’s not part of the same franchise.
However, the game has two features that are driving me absolutely mad. Let me explain.
It’s Constantly Breaking the Fourth Wall
Yooka-Laylee has very apparently never even heard of the art of subtlety, much less come anywhere close to mastering it. It’s a video game and the characters are well aware of it. Whereas the Banjo-Kazooie series was known for the occasional jab at something in the real world and subtle jokes that reflected what the player may or may not have been thinking at the time, Yooka-Laylee is constantly reminding you that it’s just a game and that anything that happens in the world is inconsequential. While I know that it isn’t the case, it feels like I haven’t gone through a single conversation that doesn’t break the fourth wall since I first entered Tribalstack Tropics. There are constant jabs at various conventions of game design, the fact that the game industry has largely moved on since the days of arcades and Banjo-Kazooie, and any of a myriad of other topics that simply don’t fit into conversation in a natural way.
I should note that I had previously been concerned about the fact that Shovel Knight was included in the game at all, much less in the very first world. Having encountered Shovel Knight and experienced the breaking of the fourth wall that is its existence in the world of Yooka-Laylee, I can say that it doesn’t feel as haphazard as you would think a cameo like this one would be, and I can certainly see what they were trying to do, but I still would rather they have not included Shovel Knight at all.
While I will concede that many of the jokes are funny, it’s a bit jarring to constantly have characters in a video game reference the fact that they’re in a video game.
Cinematics Ruin the Sense of Exploration
When I first expanded Tribalstack Tropics, I was greatly looking forward to seeing what awaited me. Up until then, I had enjoyed the quirky cast, the puzzles, the mini-games, and even the somewhat trial and error race against the cloud. I was excited to see what awaited me. Dialogue blasted over the intercom in Hivory Towers seemed to indicate that there would even be a boss fight. Then I re-entered the world.
When you first re-enter a world after expanding it, the game forces you to watch a flyover cinematic that shows you what you’ve unlocked. The problem is that it doesn’t show just a few things; it shows you literally everything that you’ve just unlocked, the worst part being that you cannot skip it. In a matter of seconds, the simple joy of slowly discovering the newly-unlocked parts of the world had been torn away from me.
I’m unsure of why this feature was included—the only similar feature I can think of is in Super Mario Sunshine, where a cinematic would show maybe two or three parts of a zone before you took control of your character, often hinting at where you needed to go in order to complete that particular star’s goals in that particular version of that world—but it is a feature nonetheless. While it doesn’t devalue the content itself in any way, I still would have largely appreciated finding and exploring the new content on my own.
I’ve yet to put more than a few hours into Yooka-Laylee and these features may eventually come to bother me less than they currently do, but at present, I’m less than happy about them. Regardless, I am still playing the game, so they’re not too much of a detriment.