It's always a danger when an old formula is brought into the present day in the hope that people will still appreciate it. Time is an extremely cruel task master as anyone who has played Dino Dini's Kick Off will attest.
So, when I was asked to see Yooka-Laylee, a game spawned from the very people who made Banjo Kazooie I did so with some caution. Thankfully, my fears were very much unfounded, for Yooka-Laylee is as far removed from a rehash of the old as it could possibly be, which is a very good thing.
The player takes control of two characters simultaneously. One is a chameleon called Yooka and the other is a bat who bears the name Laylee. I know, surprising eh? Anyway these two work as one, with Yooka having two forms of movement, running and rolling. When Yooka rolls his speed is increased significantly and Laylee must run along Yooka's back as he tumbles about.
The controls are extremely responsive as they are varied, with a slight hover being possible care of Laylee along with sonic blasts being emitted, provided there is power available to do so. By emitting these sounds objects in the world unlock, giving access to further areas in the lush green world that defines Yooka-Laylee.
At EGX 2016 I had the chance to play the game at some length and discovered, to my relief, that it retains the charm of the old while bringing in the new. The old has the player collecting items in an open 3D realm that can be traversed in any way necessary.
The new is the fourth wall breaking satire that has Yooka-Laylee openly laughing at itself by asking the player to collect stuff for no apparent reason. It's not just the humour either; the game has modern design sensibilities such as subtle signposting and a very rich and detailed world that does not stutter or get surrounded by a dense fog just to maintain the frame rate.
The current alpha state Yooka-Laylee is in means that there are some glitches present that can easily be fixed. The one I encountered was the camera that I found to be somewhat difficult to control. This caused me to collide with bits of scenery that I couldn't see, which was somewhat frustrating. This will hopefully be addressed via play testing, which Playtonic Games will no doubt employ over the months prior to Yooka-Laylee being released in Q1 2017.
Yooka-Laylee will arrive in Q1 of 2017 for Windows PC, Mac, Linux, PS4, Xbox One and Wii U.