Yooka-Laylee first impressions: A rush job, but polished in the right places

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Enlarge / Yooka (the lizard) and Laylee (the bat) run around their game’s opening level, Tribalstack Tropics. (credit: Playtonic Games)

ANAHEIM, California—Upcoming video game Yooka-Laylee is set to bring the 3D platformer genre back in a big way next year, but can it live up to high expectations? The game’s team of ex-Rare developers charmed fans into coughing up £2.1 million of crowdfunded money last year, mostly on the promise of reviving the glory of Banjo-Kazooie. Are we anywhere near a true “Banjo-Threeie” here?

That’s a tough question to answer after only a 20-minute demo, which I got to test at this weekend’s PlayStation Experience event. For now, my dive into the game’s opening level has revealed a mix of humor, charm, rough production values, and darned good gameplay.

Laylee, ease my worried mind

Yooka-Laylee’s opening world, called Tribalstack Tropics, plays like a heaping helping of N64 platformer comfort-food—with the added juice of modern 3D hardware, of course. After I hopped, ran, and spun over a variety of familiar platforming challenges, I reached the sunny, green level’s mountain peak, and then I was told to jump all the way down. And jump I did—while holding the game’s hover-jump button to glide long and fall far. The game, running on a PlayStation 4, kept draw distances high during this whole sequence, and I was delighted by the sense of scale. (Soon after, I found out I could run into a warping door to get back to the top and hop all over again. Whee!)

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