After months of anticipation, Yooka-Laylee has finally arrived on Switch and it feels right at home. Playtonic's debut is a sprawling platformer with a focus on exploration and the jump to modern hardware has enabled its designers to create worlds much larger and more complex than the games which inspired it. And that's precisely why there has been some trepidation leading up to its release on Nintendo's hybrid. After all, Yooka-Laylee is a large-scale Unity game on the Switch and while we've seen a lot of Unity titles on the system since its launch, the average performance level hasn't always been optimal, even in relatively simple games.
After handing PS4 and Xbox One conversion duties for the original release to Team 17, Playtonic itself handles the Switch conversion and it's clearly a lovingly crafted piece of work - and worry not, the quality of the visual feature set and performance level is generally excellent. What's interesting about this port is the approach: rather than brute-force PS4 and Xbox One assets into the Switch version, Playtonic has crafted brand new 3D art where required, better suited to the system's overall power level. On top of that, there are nips and tucks, but they're intelligently handled. Unless you're carrying out side-by-side comparisons, you'll struggle to tell the difference.
Of course, we've done just that, but rather than serve to the detriment of the new version, it only serves to highlight how much effort was poured into tweaking the visuals and presentation for the platform. On top of that, this is also the latest iteration of Yooka-Laylee, including various tweaks and changes designed to smooth out the experience. The camera system is improved, and the overall game simply feels more polished and buttoned up all around.
Digital Foundry runs the rule over PS4, Xbox One and PC versions.
Two years after a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, Yooka-Laylee from Playtonic Games is ready for action. At its core, Yooka-Laylee draws platform gaming inspiration from the Nintendo 64 era, specifically tapping into Banjo Kazooie and its sequel, which makes sense considering that a number of key ex-Rare staffers helped form Playtonic. From a design standpoint, this is a decidedly retro affair and one that we had a lot of fun playing, but there has been plenty of controversy surrounding its performance - and we wanted to put that to the test.
Out now on Xbox, other platforms to follow before launch.
Playtonic and Team17 have announced a patch for cheery Banjo-Kazooie homage Yooka-Laylee. It's out now on Xbox One, and will launch on PC and PS4 before the game's 11th April release.
The update resolves a number of glitches and improves general performance. In particular, it takes aim at the game's camera - one of the rougher aspects of a not-unworthy platformer that is a little too in thrall to the classics. Here's the changelog in full:
[Fixed] Camera will become locked in place after completing Gravity Room challenge in Galleon
The legendary composer on glorified doorbells and leaving Rare.
On the off-chance that you haven't heard of David Wise, you've almost certainly heard his music. As a third of Rare's trio of ground-breaking composers, he was responsible for the tunes behind Battletoads, Wizards & Warriors, the RC Pro-Am series and countless licensed titles for the NES and Game Boy - plus, of course, the ever-popular earworms that form the Donkey Kong Country soundtracks.
Whatever else it is, Yooka-Laylee is one gigantic joke at its own expense. The game's surprisingly beefy script seemingly can't go a moment without poking fun at itself and video game foibles at large - everything from the level design's love of bobbing collectibles through optical drive loading times to how much cash developer Playtonic blew on the boss battles.
Many of these in-jokes are distinctly contemporary - there are a couple of gags about crowdfunding that may not entirely amuse the project's Kickstarter backers - but the majority take aim at the golden age of early 3D platforming, before the first-person shooter became the console industry's flagship genre. The game's grand yet dinkily styled, themepark environments teem with retro parodies, all of whom express themselves in authentically inane, pre-CD-ROM gibberish. Among other dramatis personae, you'll tangle with a maniacal low-res arcade mascot who presides over clumps of coin-op mini-games, a stony goliath perched atop a series of ramps, like the Whomp King in Super Mario 64, and a jovial minecart who pines for the days when hurtling along a rail was a charming novelty rather than the hoariest of cliches.
As is often the case with this kind of humour, the self-awareness is by turns infectious and grating - jokes about unskippable dialogue and quality assurance are only so funny when they occur in a game that does, in fact, feature the odd wodge of unskippable dialogue and a rather unwieldy camera. The aggressively ironic tone also betrays a certain insecurity about whether the type of game Yooka-Laylee aims to be still merits attention, a commitment to making light of the whole enterprise lest it prove surplus to requirements. After 15 or so hours with the game I can answer that yes, there's still call for a platformer of this hue today, but Playtonic's devotion to the classics does feel like more of a check than an advantage in places, and the execution is a little too uneven for comfort.
Yooka-Laylee developer Playtonic is removing the vocal performance of YouTube personality Jon "JonTron" Jafari, who plays a bit part in the game, after he made a series of inflammatory comments about immigrants and people of colour.
Welcome to your weekly round-up of the video goings-on over at Outside Xbox, where this week we enjoyed a sandboxy nostalgia trip through Yooka-Laylee.
Yooka-Laylee is a spiritual successor to the classic N64 platformer Banjo-Kazooie by Playtonic, a studio made up of former Rare employees, and the best way to revisit 1998 that doesn't involve a flux capacitor. Watch us play the game's Toybox demo on Xbox One in this new gameplay and marvel at how little our precision platforming skills have atrophied.
Also this week, we've been playing Final Fantasy 15, out now on Xbox One and PS4. Final Fantasy 15 tells the story of Prince Noctis, who sets out into the world to reclaim his kingdom, accompanied by his three bros, Ignis, Gladiolus and Prompto.
PC, PS4, Xbox One versions launch April. Switch version planned.
The Wii U version of Yooka-Laylee has been cancelled, with developer Playtonic blaming "unforeseen technical issues". The studio is now looking at releasing a version for Nintendo Switch instead.
Playtonic will now launch Yooka-Laylee for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One only on 11th April 2017, as per a release date we spotted on the Xbox store overnight.
Nintendo fans - including those who backed the game on Kickstarter specifically for a Wii U copy - must now move their pledge to another platform or wait for news of the Nintendo Switch version - something which Playtonic has said it will announce details of in "early 2017".
Yooka-Laylee, the crowdfunded spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie led by many of the same developers, not only raised over £2m on Kickstarter, it managed to raise enough to fund themed socks celebrating the game.
Yooka-Laylee may have been delayed until early 2017, but we're hopeful that Playtonic can match the lofty expectations that come with creating a successor to Banjo-Kazooie. From our early look at the studio back when they revealed their Kickstarter campaign, to this most recent gameplay reveal, it's difficult not to get swept up by the enthusiasm.
First off, the bad news: Yooka-Laylee will no longer launch this year. Instead of an October release, British developer Playtonic has rescheduled its love letter to classic Rare platformers for arrival in Q1 2017 - in other words, sometime between the beginning of January and the end of March.
Earlier this week, Tom and Aoife got their hands on Unravel, the cutesy platformer developed by ColdWood Interactive and published by EA. As they played, they got to wondering - seeing that this undeniably indie-feeling game is being published by one of the biggest companies going, can it really be called an indie?
Ex-Rare developer Kevin Bayliss has joined Playtonic Games as Character Artist. Bayliss is best known for his work on Killer Instinct, Diddy Kong Racing and Perfect Dark Zero, but will now be working on Playtonic's upcoming platformer Yooka-Laylee.
By the time this article goes live, my journey to E3 with Aoife, Tom and Oli will be underway. A frenzy of writing, filming, coffee drinking and very little sleep awaits, and I couldn't be more excited. There's so much to look forward to already but, if there's one thing E3 is good for, it's producing the odd surprise.
Ahead of its big Kickstarter push for Yooka-Laylee, we visited the newly-formed Playtonic Games to chat about the team's extensive history with Rare. Between the six of them, they had worked at that studio for over 100 years and I wanted to find out what finally convinced them to leave and start afresh.
In September 2012 a rag-tag crew of former Banjo-Kazooie developers calling themselves MingyJongo announced that they were working on a spiritual successor to the bear & bird-based N64 platformer series. Unfortunately, that project is no longer in development.