Yooka-Laylee: Banjo-Kazooie Nostalgia Comes A-Calling

While at EGX I had a few minutes of hands-on time with Yooka-Laylee [official site], Playtonic’s love letter to older 3D platformers like Banjo-Kazooie. It even shares team members with those older games. It was a strange experience, if I’m honest. Bright and daft and instantly evoking those hundreds of hours of play as a child in Rare’s worlds. But at the same time I found myself not really playing so much as constantly drawing the parallels with the older games – oh, that’s this game’s version of a Jinjo, oh, that’s this game’s version of a Mumbo Jumbo transformation, oh, that’s what Banjo and Kazooie would look like if you had to use a chameleon and a bat instead of a bird and a bear…

Obviously I only had a snatched snippet of time on a busy show floor so I’m willing to play the game when it’s released on 2017 and see how I feel, but the impression I currently have is that rather than this being a new game it’s very much like finding an alternate universe’s version of Banjo-Kazooie and playing that.

There are characters talking in rhyme, collectibles all over the place, wisecracking, none-too-subtle gaggery like the snake who teaches you about your abilities whose tail coils through a pair of khaki pants because he’s a trouser snake. Called Trowzer. There was a scientist who, when you bring her a molecule (I think that was called Molly Cule?) transforms you into something else – in the level I was playing that was a plant and I could then chat with plants, so she’s basically Mumbo Jumbo/Humba Wumba. You can get Kazooie Laylee to eat berries and then spit them out as projectiles. The level structure… the music… the noises the enemy mobs make…

Essentially I’m writing this post because I’m still trying to work out my reaction to playing it. On the one hand it’s gorgeous and I’m glad to see a current gen version of games I loved and which were vibrant and funny. On the other hand it didn’t feel new at all so it’s weird going back to read the Kickstarter page and seeing the phrase “Introducing our all-new buddy duo” because it’s like, well, you kind of redid Banjo and Kazooie? I mean, I know there are new moves and things but the basic idea seems the same and the dynamic is similar, right? Laylee seems less of an out-and-out berk than Kazooie maybe (Kazooie is my spirit animal) but… it’s Banjo-Kazooie, right?

What I’m getting at is that I can see the appeal – I’m not immune to nostalgia, plus those games were good (I think I’m also fonder than most when it comes to BK2) and I would like to see them get new audiences. But in the same breath, I didn’t see anything in my time with the game that actually felt new or which took me by surprise. I was just marking off the elements from the older games as they popped up, getting a pang of recognition and then noting the difference in this game’s version.

The best way I can currently think to describe it is like when you tell someone about a dream and try to explain “You were in it but it didn’t look like you but I knew it was you.” My current worry is whether, once the initial glow of nostalgia fades, it will continue to sustain my interest as a game in its own right, not just a tribute. From the EGX demo I feel like it’s something I would show to a kid, hoping they got out of this what I got out of Rare’s games when I was little but not something I would prioritise for myself.


  1. genoforprez says:

    I actually don’t really mind if it is just a re-skin of Banjo-Kazooie. I mean, I doubt that’s entirely the case, but I really wouldn’t mind, because another Banjo-Kazooie is what I basically wanted. But I can’t have that because Microsoft, so a reskin is the best I can get, and I’m fine with that.

    Is it really an unpopular opinion that Banjo-Tooie is amazing? I think it came out at a weird time that made it go a little more unnoticed and maybe harder to appreciate in its general environment of other games being released. But judged simply as an evolution of the first game, it is effing terrific.

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      Philippa Warr says:

      It’s not a straight up reskin, it’s just so clearly a Banjo-Kazooie game by another name, if you see what I mean. You see all the familiar elements in terms of how the game fits together but there are variations in the execution, like some of the character skillsets. From a personal perspective that might be great and something I want to play beginning to end, or it might be nice for the duration of the initial nostalgia and then fall off or start to feel like pastiche hence feeling really cautious.

      BK2 observation is because my friends all seemed to think BK2 had overextended and become flabby in some ways where BK was tight. I see where they’re coming from in some of that but I still loved it. I also really liked Nuts and Bolts. It’ll be nice to hear that other people felt similarly.

      • Veles says:

        Nuts and bolts is one of my favourite games on the Xbox 360. I can understand why people didn’t like it. It was a BK game that wasn’t really a BK game, but I think we didn’t really need a third rehash of BK. It has all the character of BK but I’m a very unique package. I loved the variety of ways you could complete some of the challenges and how vast some of the areas were.

  2. Frank says:

    I’m fine with them rehashing B-K since I never played any of them and there aren’t that many good 3D platform games on PC — Psychonauts, Tiny and Big, Rayman 2 … and what else is there, not counting climb-em-ups (Prince of Persia, Tomb Raider) and metroid/zelda-likes (Arkham, Darksiders)?

    As long as it can be played with keyboard and mouse and has not-terrible camera controls, I’ll give this a shot.

    • April March says:

      There aren’t many good 3D platformers period – they showed up around the N64/PS era, and then quietly disappeared, as if everyone tacitly agreed they were just a way to figure out 3D spaces. Which is very sad, since there were some excellent games in the genre and I’m glad to get a few more.

  3. April March says:

    It seems you posted the wrong best B&K song.

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      It is okay to share something you like without calling someone else wrong, you know.

      • MattM says:

        It is, and I avoid using this contrasting joke formulation, but the “You must have made a mistake or be crazy” structure is really common on RPS and is frequently used by post authors. See any post on MYST for examples. It seems unfair to call out this poster for their comment.

  4. Ericusson says:

    Evokes old memories of Jumping Flash! Rabbit on the first PlayStation.
    Such a weird game that felt astobishingly satisfying to play once you got into it.

  5. Cerulean Shaman says:

    Never understood this argument to be honest. Many series continue and expand on very similar core concepts and do very well. If all this game turns out to be is another fantastic platformer with a fresh world to explore then isn’t that mission accomplished?

    What are we expecting here? Reinventing the wheel? Does every game have to utterly destroy and redefine the genre? I love it when games (books, anime, movies) do, but I also want to make sure when I play a fighter I’m not always going somewhere offbeat like: shooting frogs in tutus in space while using a rhythm game system to “fight” my opponent. Yeah, sometimes I just want… you know, a regular old genre standard shooter, you know.

    • Veles says:

      I think the point here is not reinventing the wheel but doing more than a rehash and reskin on a existing game.

      You make a point about a series building on predecessors. But this isn’t a series, this is a new IP. If it wasn’t for the fact that there were a lot of BK devs on the team, people would be saying its a BK ripoff.

      If you take Spyro and Ratchet and Clank as an example. They are games by the same developer and both 3D platformers, but they are worlds apart in gameplay.

  6. MajorLag says:

    I’ve always wanted another Mario 64, and no, Mario Galaxy doesn’t count because the paths were far too linear. Another BK is close enough I guess, though I personally always felt it was inferior.

    I will now leave this comment section forever to avoid the inevitable hostile disagreements.

    • cheesysmell says:

      Don’t leave until you’ve explained why Sunshine doesn’t count.