From developer Playtonic Games and publisher Team17 Digital Ltd comes Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, the highly anticipated follow-up to their self-titled debut (Yooka-Laylee). This platform hybrid adventure sees you controlling the newest classic duo as they once again try to thwart Capital B’s nefarious plans, this time swapping the full on 3D world for one that includes 2.5D platforming environments, tightly crafted controls, some rockin’ tunes, and more bee-related puns than you have ever seen in a video game.
Capital B is back at it again, and this time he’s captured the entirety of Queen Phoebee’s Royal Bee-tallion Guard! As Yooka (the chameleon) and Laylee (the bat) you must navigate through an expansive world in order to rescue members of the Royal Guard and build up your defensive team in order to stop Capital B’s assault and conquer his relentless Impossible Lair.
Like their first outing was a love letter to classic 3D platformers, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a throwback to the time when 2D style platform adventures ruled the arcade and console landscapes. While the bar is always high when talking about 2D sidescrolling platformers, this game’s exceptional gameplay and addition of a few unique wrinkles to the formula help it stand on its own.
Upon first booting up the game you will find yourself thrust immediately into the Impossible Lair, which was concerning to me because I believed this opening to be a tutorial level of some kind. My initial naivety turned briefly to anger, but ultimately to realization as I discovered (very quickly I might add… I think I lasted about 3 seconds in the Impossible Lair the first time…) that you aren’t supposed to beat this level on your first try, even though I’m sure it is possible.
From this first failed trial you are thrown out of the Impossible Lair and introduced to the sprawling 3D overworld, full of a wide variety of locations to explore, unlock, and manipulate as you search for your captured Bee Guard companions. In this area you’re able to quickly learn what Yooka & Laylee are able to do before tackling any levels. The idea is to always keep our duo together, this maximizes your ability pool and your hit-point potential. If you’re playing without Laylee, it feels as if you’re playing with one hand tied behind your back.
This feeling rarely lasts very long when you’re playing, as there are bells scattered throughout each of the levels that bring Yooka back to you. If you’re hit a second time (without Yooka) you will get sent back to your most recent save point (like the bells, there are loads of these in each level) with our duo now reunited to try the level again.
Each level of the game is presented as a chapter of a book, with 20 total chapters to be found in the game. Upon entering each chapter, you’ll discover many collectibles waiting for you that can ultimately be used in the overworld. Quills function as your basic currency and can be spent on opening treasure chests and unlocking Tonics you’ve collected. Additionally, each level contains 5 T.W.I.T. coins, a more valuable form of currency that are used to unlock the physical paywall gates controlled by Trowzer. Without these T.W.I.T. coins you physically won’t be able to progress further into the game, which makes these coins very valuable and worth hunting down.
While Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair certainly borrows many ideas from games like Donkey Kong Country, this game shakes up the formula by incorporating variant levels. Each of the chapters can be manipulated in the overworld, meaning you can unlock a variant version of each level. These variants aren’t the same for each chapter, however. Some take the form of freezing the level, while others see you flooding the level. There’s even one that increases the difficulty by pumping more baddies into the chapter. Every chapter scattered across the overworld has an unlockable variant of some kind, doubling our level total to include 40 unique environments. While it would have been easy for the development team to simply re-skin the levels, the variants feel fresh and brand new, making the additional playthroughs feel more exploratory in nature, rather than like backtracking.
Another wrinkle comes in the form of Tonics, which are designed to modify your ability to collect quills in a level by modifying your approach. Some Tonics are exclusively cosmetic, while others allow you easier paths to completing a level. This unique customization option can also help to break up the feeling of monotony often associated with 2D platformers.
Overall the gameplay is incredibly polished, allowing for an experience that you’ll find to be very familiar, in addition to some small innovations that help set this game apart. I think the depth of the overworld is something that should be commended as well. Even with the 40 different chapters to explore, the overworld offers up different puzzles to solve and also has a few Bee Guard companions waiting to be rescued.
If it wasn’t initially obvious that this title is of high quality, look no further than the graphics and sound design. Boasting an incredibly charming and colorful art style, the game’s rich visuals don’t stop at just the character models. Each of the unique chapters is painstakingly crafted to showcase the unique environment based on the theme of the chapter, both graphically and musically. The depth ratio of each level allows for the 2.5D style to work perfectly, and it’s worth it to simply stop your progress through a level to just sit and enjoy the work put into this game.
I appreciate so much the care that goes into the musical elements of a video game. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair offers such an inviting experience, with each level providing something completely unique from the previous one. Whether it’s a more upbeat and intense track for a challenge level, a wintery soundscape for an ice level, or just an absolute jam of a rhythmic backdrop for a standard level, the variety is so incredible. The fact that this effort goes through the entirety of the game is a real testament to the work of the development team.
What’s left for me to say about this game?! As the highly anticipated follow up to Yooka-Laylee, adding the Impossible Lair and shifting the focus to include 2D platforming was definitely the right move for this team. The gameplay is top notch, the innovative features are well thought out and contribute significantly to the overall experience, and graphically, this game is right at home on the Nintendo Switch with the music being given equal amounts of care and integration. Each of these elements comes together to create a worthwhile gaming experience that is well worth every penny you’ll spend on it. This game is definitely a Nintendeal!
Platform – Nintendo Switch eShop Download & Physical Cartridge (Amazon)
Publisher – Team17 Digital Ltd
Developer – Playtonic Games
Price – eShop – $29.99 Physical* – $33.99
Genre – Action, Adventure, Platformer
Size – 4.6GB
*Prices for physical cartridges are reflective of the time of publishing and may change. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
A native of Minnesota, Brandon has been an avid Nintendo fan for as long as he can remember and enjoys being able to escape into the vast worlds offered in their games. Some of his favorite games include: Pokemon Blue & Silver, Earthbound, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Risk of Rain 2, and of course LoZ: Breath of the Wild.
Outside of gaming Brandon enjoys riding motorcycle, listening to music or podcasts, cooking, watching movies, and is a big sports fan. He is always carrying his Switch with him wherever he goes, so feel free to add him if you’d like to lose at MK8D.