When you buy new games on the day of release, there are a few different ways it can go. All too often, the game you bought at launch, which you expect to be pretty great, ends up being a broken mess. Maybe a patch will fix it soon. Maybe not. But either way, you’re burnt. A lot of players felt this way when they picked up Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night on Nintendo Switch.
And then, sometimes you get your launch copy of the game and it’s exactly what you expected.
For me, Link’s Awakening was like that. I knew how it would look from previews and press art. I knew how it would play because I had played it many times before on Game Boy. Truth be told, I was sort of disappointed by how predictable Link’s Awakening was. I really hoped Nintendo would go beyond my expectation, but they didn’t. They delivered exactly what they promised and nothing more. (You can read all about my Link’s Awakening opinion here.)
And once in a great while, a game launches with everything you expected, everything you anticipated, plays how it should, and even expands on your expectation to create a great gaming experience right out of the box. That’s Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair.
I took NO chances with Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair
When I say Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair plays perfect “out of the box,” I’m being figurative. There was no box. I bought it on Steam. And I’ll tell you why.
You see, I had gotten burned like so many others with Bloodstained: RotN on Nintendo Switch.
I didn’t buy it at launch, but I got it close enough that I paid almost full-price (Not a very ghetto move.) I downloaded the Big Patch before I played it, and assumed that the problems others had experienced would be fixed. And they were, partly. But not completely.
Bloodstained was laggy in places and the graphics were not what they could have been. But besides that, the pace of the game felt wrong. When I watched videos comparing the Switch version to other ports, I couldn’t even look at it any more. I ended up selling it for a fraction of what I paid. Lesson learned.
So yeah. With Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, I wasn’t taking any chances.
I initially bought it on Steam at full price (at $30, it’s already $10 cheaper than the Switch version). Steam has an automatic refund policy where, if you request a refund on a game you’ve played less than 2 hours, they automatically refund your purchase and remove the game from your library.
So I gave the game a two-hour trial. And when the two hours was over, I was hopelessly hooked and knew I wanted to keep it.
So being super-ghetto, I returned the Steam purchase, got my money back within the hour, and went to Humble Bundle where I purchased it at a 20% discount (because I’m a monthly member. Highly, highly recommend!) So that saved me another $6.
They don’t call me The Ghetto Gamer for nothin’.
All told, I paid $23 for my copy of Yooka. That’s on launch day, mind you. I got to try-before-I-buy, and I know it’s worth owning. And now I am absolutely loving every moment of this game.
I didn’t like the first Yooka game that much
I played the original Yooka Laylee, but wasn’t that impressed. I’ve heard mixed reviews, and I think it has to do with whether you prefer your adventure platformers in 2D or 3D. I’m truly a sucker for 2D platformers, and didn’t play much of the 3D N64-era platformers. I’m not saying Yooka-Laylee 1 was bad at all, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.
By contrast, the Impossible Lair is my cup of tea many times over. It’s my pitcher of tea, in fact. It’s a bathtub full of my tea and I am bathing and singing in it with a shower cap and a rubber ducky.
Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair perfectly encompasses everything I want from a retro-inspired adventure game. Let’s break it down.
The first thing I noticed about this game was the crisp graphics, shortly followed by the witty dialogue.
Having spent so much time with my Switch lately, I’ve forgotten how nice it is to play PC games. My computer is decent, but nothing spectacular (I built it myself for under $500. Can you say ghetto?) And it manages to run this game runs at maximum graphics, maximum resolution, with vsync turned on, at frame rates that never dip below 30 fps.
While they are never completely over the top, the graphics are very competent and well-done.
Backgrounds are richly detailed, lighting effects are subtle but slick, character animations are smooth. Just about everything feels like it was done by a AAA studio.
I haven’t heard feedback regarding the Switch version of this game, so I assume it does fine, too. But I love the way my PC handles this game with higher-than-Switch framerates at almost half the cost.
Witty dialogue and character banter often grate at my nerves in video games. Could be because of cultural differences. A joke that’s funny to the culture that developed the game, might fall flat in the US. Especially after translation. Yooka does not have this issue. I think this is mainly because they don’t try too hard to be funny.
The game is buzzing with bee puns and dad jokes, all of them delivered with a dry wit that says, “we know this isn’t funny, but we can’t help ourselves.” Bad jokes told without remorse is something I can 100% empathize with and I found myself chuckling at times despite myself.
The obvious inspiration for Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is Donkey Kong Country. This is evident in the game’s graphics, attack styles, controls, and gameplay. There are even “barrels” you have to get in and shoot yourself out of.
Except, Playtonic Games has cleaned up the bits that made Donkey Kong Country such a harsh and frustrating game. They’ve kept the controls super-responsive as in DKC, but took out a lot of those infuriating barrel sequences. (So far. I’m only a few hours into the game.) And overall, the main levels are more forgiving and are just as rewarding to snoop around and explore in.
They replaced DKC’s map-navigation screen with an actual overworld a la The Legend of Zelda. If I didn’t know better, I would guess that Playtonic drew some inspiration from the Switch’s Link’s Awakening. While navigating the overworld, the game uses that familiar top-down view. You can even attack tufts of grass like Link. haven’t found any chickens to attack yet, though.
Rather than just being a hub between levels, the overworld is fun to explore in its own right. There are many, many secrets to be found there and a few enemies to dispatch as well. There are also plenty of familiar friends to interact with and re-introduce yourself to.
The Impossible Lair
The overworld map—and indeed, the entire game—is centered around Capital Bee’s Impossible Lair.
This is pretty much exactly how it sounds. A very difficult, punishing boss lair. It’s a long and painful platforming and boss-battle slog to the final battle. And while you have access to the lair from the very bee-ginning of your adventure, conquering it this early in the game is… well… impossible! [Laughs way too hard.]
Most of the negative criticism I’ve seen for this game stems from the impossibility of the boss lair. I would argue that that’s dumb. “Impossible” is right in the name of the game. And to be frank, this is about as difficult as the classic games Yooka is based on. So my opinion is either git gud or go home. Just sayin’.
The theme of this game has players running around the overworld in search of magic bees that surround their keeper like a shield, absorbing hits like armor. Each bee you uncover can absorb one hit before it dies. There are somewhere around 40 bees in the game, and you’re likely to need all of them to beat the Impossible Lair.
Bees are uncovered by completing the game’s stages and by finding them hidden in the overworld.
A few more things
There are 20 different levels you can access from the overworld. But when you interact with their portals, you can create elemental effects that will change the world, allowing you to re-play it and unlock another bee.
For example, one early level has its portal in a shallow pool. By throwing an ice-berry at the pool, the portal and the whole level becomes frozen. So you can re-enter and re-play the level, but the dynamic water obstacles are now static ice obstacles and you can reach totally new places. It’s very clever and fun. I’m into it.
Overall, I can’t heap enough praise onto this game. And I highly recommend you pick it up from Humble Bundle with the monthly plan discount. But if you absolutely need to have this in physical form, I’m sure paying almost double for a version that doesn’t perform as well is fine. Juuuuuust fine.
However you play it, I highly recommend this game. It is bee-utiful and it’s so much fun it stings. Or something.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is ghetto approved!–GG