Review

Yooka-Laylee And The Impossible Lair Review - Uninvited Nostalgia

  • First Released Oct 8, 2019
    released
  • NS

A switch of perspective isn't enough to feel fresh.

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It's easy to love Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair when you start. The platformer is bursting with bright, saturated hues at every turn, with a whimsical soundtrack that's as catchy as it is cheery. It's a delightful veneer that quickly gives way to an otherwise predictable and unremarkable platformer. Despite changing its formula from full 3D to 2.5D, Yooka-Laylee is still too firmly rooted in a bygone era for platformers.

This shortcoming is hard to see at first, especially with Impossible Lair's intriguing setup. In theory, the Impossible Lair is an endgame challenge you can attempt in the opening moments of the game. It's a gauntlet of spike traps and moving platforms, populated to the brim with enemies ready to chew you up and spit you back out. Each stage outside of the Lair is meant to help you with this. You’re rewarded with a bee when you complete a stage, each acting as an additional hit point when you attempt the Lair once more. Gathering as many bees as you can lets you push further in while affording you more mistakes. This entices you to check back in with the Impossible Lair from time to time, seeing how well your new health pool holds up and if that (combined with your improving platforming skills) are enough to best it.

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In practice, though, you're going to need pretty much every bee Yooka and Laylee can find, mostly due to how ridiculously difficult the Impossible Lair is compared to the rest of the game. It lives up to its name almost too closely, with no checkpoints throughout and long stretches of deadly chasms that will reset your progress significantly should you fall. It's completely different from the rest of the game's stages, which are well-paced with checkpoints and feature options to skip entire segments if you just can't get them right. The shift from accessible, pleasant platforming to a poorly balanced test of skill isn't an inviting one, and it sullies the otherwise interesting idea of having the Impossible Lair accessible at all times.

Outside of the Lair itself, this half-sequel, half-reinvention splits up into two distinctly different types of games. Individual stages are standard 2.5D platforming fare, tasking you with moving from start to finish, while a handful revolve around hunting down collectible items for completion. You navigate through spike traps, swinging ropes, rotating platforms, and dangerous cannons; everything feels familiar enough if you've played a platformer before. Enemies come in different varieties--some will hop in the air, others will charge at you on sight, and still others will simply move between ledges--but their designs aren't visually exciting enough to be memorable.

As familiar as they are, it's not long before stages start to feel like chores. Part of the problem is the merely serviceable platforming at its core. Yooka and his companion Laylee don't feel bad to control per se, but there's nothing exceptional about their move set either. Jumps feel a little floaty and it's annoying that your only attack is mapped to the same button as your roll (any hint of directional movement initiates the latter, and there's no way to change the control scheme), but outside of that there's really nothing remarkably good or bad about making your way through stages. It just feels far too routine, which quickly becomes boring no matter how varied the stages get as you progress.

There are technically 20 distinct stages, but in practice it's double that. Each stage can be manipulated in the hub world to alter both their makeup and challenge. For example, one level entrance on land can be submerged in water, flooding it and making new routes accessible via swimming. The changes are sometimes substantial, like introducing massive gusts of wind to help you float through the air or lasers that chase you through a route that was otherwise safe before. There are routes you'll see on your first run through a stage that are clearly meant for your inevitable return visit under different circumstances, which is a nice touch to their overall design.

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Outside of these stages, the game transforms into an isometric 3D platformer, which lets you navigate through a relatively large world as you hop between individual stages. This area is more than just a hub for the real platforming awaiting; it's a self-contained stage unto itself, filled with its own puzzles, secret areas to uncover, and characters to interact with. Each part of the map is themed--there's one with large sentient fans that block paths with gusts of wind and an arid desert with a winding pipe system encroaching on its sparse wilderness, for example--which keeps things fresh as you travel between them.

Solving puzzles in this hub world rewards you with some additional bees for the Impossible Lair, but also with quills and tonics. You collect thousands of quills throughout your time in the game, using them to unlock the abilities that tonics offer, which can be incredibly useful in some tricky stages. One will force Laylee to stick around longer after getting hit, giving you more time to recover her and regain both her abilities and an additional hit point. Others let you glide for longer after a jump or lets Laylee emit a sonar pulse to reveal nearby collectibles. Others are just cosmetic. You can drench the screen in a variety of filters using FX tonics, or marvel at what a modern platformer would look like in a 4:3 aspect ratio before switching it back. They're good for a giggle or two, but not much beyond that.

Finding tonics is more fun than messing around with the abilities they offer. Secret paths are obscured slightly with the fixed camera angle, which makes picking apart your surroundings and uncovering them a treat. Others require some lightly skilled platforming to reach entrances to small caves (which themselves are sometimes locked away behind rocks you need to demolish or prickly shrubs you need to burn away) or the deciphering of clues from other characters to find keys to locked chests. It gives you more reasons to interact with the hub world behind just shepherding yourself from one stage to the next and lets you tackle them in your own time.

The Impossible Lair is definitely a better attempt at capturing the magic of platformers than Yooka-Laylee's first crack at it, but it's still not remarkable.

What isn't as engrossing is the progression system that governs how you move between each part of the hub world. Gates, jokingly referred to as paywalls, are erected throughout the world, and each requires T.W.I.T coins to unlock. There are five T.W.I.T coins in each stage, hidden in shrewdly obscured rooms or located at the end of particularly challenging platforming routes, both of which are satisfying. Initially it's pretty easy to get by using the few you find naturally through playing. But the high requirement for later gates means replaying stages you've already completed is unavoidable, which quickly introduces an unpleasant pattern of repetition. It's a slog to have to slowly comb through levels you've finished to find one or two coins at a time just so that you can continue on the game's main path.

Having to backtrack through stages to eventually reach and tackle the Impossible Lair would be more tolerable if the final encounter wasn't such a steep difficulty spike, but in truth it's likely you'll tire of its routine platforming well before that disappointment sets in. The Impossible Lair is definitely a better attempt at capturing the magic of platformers than Yooka-Laylee's first crack at it, but it's still not remarkable. If you're itching to return to a bygone era, then The Impossible Lair might scratch it. Just don't expect much beyond that.

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The Good
Levels are smartly designed and feature interesting alternative routes based on their hub world state
Cheerfully bright and colourful presentation is easy to get sucked into
Finding the cleverly hidden collectibles is satisfying
The Bad
The final stage is unreasonably tough and far more challenging than everything before it
Largely forgettable characters and enemies that don't help give the game a strong identity
Mandatory collectibles force frustrating backtracking and slow your progress
6
Fair
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Alessandro hopped, skipped, and jumped his way through all stages leading up to the Impossible Lair, eventually beating the gauntlet after 12 hours. He's also not a fan of Trowzer the Snake. Code was provided by the publisher.
31 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Keivz_basic

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Ouch baby. Ouch.

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Willy105

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If you copy Donkey Kong Country, don't be surprised if Gamespot scores you like Donkey Kong County.

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angrycreep

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To give the game a 6 is just brutal it seems this guy doesn't have a clue how to properly review a game and probably even too young to see the good in the game. Is a great game and should be no lower than at least a 8.5. I just no longer have any faith in any Gamespot reviews they are just too inconsistency bad. Only come for news but for reviews I go some place else.

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DEVILTAZ35

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Edited By DEVILTAZ35

Thankfully i trust John on Digital Foundry more than Gamespot seeing he is an expert at retro type gaming. He loved it that's enough of a review for me.

To be fair they did review this on Switch though which only really works properly in hand held mode at 60 due to a lower resolution. Review it on Xbox one X in dynamic 4k 60 and it really shines.

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R4gn4r0k

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Edited By R4gn4r0k

I totally disagree with this review. It's a solid 2D platformer and the old Rare talent shines in this game.

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adamstorey23

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Was this guy laying the same game I was?

What a self indulgent twit. Really enjoyed it.

Ingnore this guys review at all costs. I'm sure whatever is actually is bothering him (because it's certainly not this very well designed game) will sort it self out.

Play it. If you like very well made platformers.

Geezus

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KyloRen95

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It says he beat the whole game in 12 hours. How is the final lair being called "unreasonably hard" if the game itself only took him that long?

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angrycreep

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@kyloren95: If is as hard as he says it would have taking him a week to finish and instead it took him 12 hours. I no longer have any faith in any Gamespot reviews they are just too inconsistency bad. This is a solid game and deserve a way much higher score than just a 6

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saint311

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Mandatory collecting of items? ehh...

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maximus1983

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Also it kinda sucks that this review knocked the meta score down so far considering such high praise from everyone else. I mean I always felt that a score lower then a 70 should be reserved to broken mechanics. I mean this is more a opinion of taste.

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angrycreep

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@maximus1983: It is a good game and it only takes a few terrible scores from a few idiots to kill the games overall score in metal score there.

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saint311

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@maximus1983: who cares? Metascore is just a near-useless metric anyway.

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Xiricon

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Lol, “Trowzer the snake”. Nice euphemism. ...can’t believe they....slipped that one in. Lol

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MigGui

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I love how hard unforgiving games are hit or miss with reviewers... I know desire of difficulty is a matter of taste, but at least gamespot could have some uniformity when evaluating it. Super meatball and cuphead are as hard as it can get, but both got praised for it

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Neurogia

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Ungh, it looks like these devs just don't have the ability to make top notch games anymore, whether 3D or 2D.

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DEVILTAZ35

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@neurogia: You might want to check this game out on Digital Foundry as John loved it. He is far more of an expert on this type of game than anyone at Gamespot so i would trust his judgement a whole lot more.

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longie_long

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A retro platformer that ISN'T hard as balls, is not a retro platformer. Kids these days don't know how easy their games are until one like this comes along.

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Neurogia

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@longie_long: Super Mario World 1 and 2 wasn't hard as balls, and they are both legendary status.

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maximus1983

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Edited By maximus1983

@neurogia: yeah those games had excellent gauge in difficulty depending on what you were aiming for. But it is fair to point out that they grew from Mario 1 LL and 3 and evolved the formula slowly so maybe in another two yooka games lol

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RdCrestdBreegul

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Wow, this just reeks of the vibe of GameSpot's initial review of Tropical Freeze. Maybe they shouldn't have someone reviewing a platformer who isn't well-versed in platforming games.

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Gelugon_baat

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Ooh man, this article is just begging for "git gud" snap-backs.

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Terrorantula

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"Forgettable characters and enemies"

Weird because the art design is what draws me to the game.

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_THGhost_

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"The final stage is unreasonably tough and far more challenging than everything before it."

That's. The whole. Point. It's called "The Impossible Lair", not "The Relatively Difficult Lair".

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Mogan

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Mogan  Moderator

@_thghost_: That doesn't make it fun game design.

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_THGhost_

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@mogan: If you say so. God forbid that the final stage is remotely challenging in a game these days -_-

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Mogan

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Mogan  Moderator

@_thghost_: I agree that the final stage of a platformer should be challenging, but that's not what's being criticized here.

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maximus1983

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@mogan: especially given its the premise. I mean it seems like the last level serves as a ultimate challenge

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_THGhost_

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@mogan: Agree to disagree. I think having a final stage that you can attempt to complete at any point is a cool idea.

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maximus1983

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@_thghost_: yeah I think it's pretty dope

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair More Info

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  • First Released Oct 8, 2019
    released
    • Nintendo Switch
    • PC
    • + 2 more
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox One
    7.6
    Average Rating3 Rating(s)
    Please Sign In to rate Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair
    Developed by:
    Playtonic Games
    Published by:
    Five Star Games, Team 17
    Genre(s):
    Action, 2D, Platformer
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
    Everyone
    Mild Cartoon Violence