Playtonic's tribute to Banjo is a gentle, irreverent platformer let down by spotty handling and a slight shortage of genius.


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The wait was worth it for Yooka-Laylee on Switch

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.

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Yooka-Laylee finally has a Nintendo Switch release date

At long last, Yooka-Laylee will launch for Nintendo Switch on 14th December.

Pre-orders for the game go live a week beforehand, on 7th December, from the Switch eShop - where Yooka-Laylee will be exclusively available as a digital download.

So why has it taken so long? I chatted with Playtonic director Gavin Price and asked him that very question. Here's what he had to say:

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Yooka-Laylee patch will tone down gibberish voices

Yooka-Laylee patch will tone down gibberish voices

UPDATE: Update available on console, Switch version teased again.

UPDATE 10/8/17 3.45pm: Yooka-Laylee's first big update is now available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Delightfully named as the Spit 'n' Polish Update, this patch tones down the game's gibberish voices, adds new pause menu music and improves the game's camera.

"As smug PC types will attest, this rather large update adds more polish than Madame Tussauds' supply cupboard," Playtonic trumpeted.

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Digital FoundryDoes Yooka-Laylee really have performance problems?

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.

Yooka-Laylee patch targets camera issues and performance

Yooka-Laylee patch targets camera issues and performance

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

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From Donkey Kong to Snake Pass: the music of David Wise

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.

Yooka-Laylee review

Yooka-Laylee review

Medium Rare.

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.

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Yooka-Laylee will include its own version of the DK Rap - the infamous musical number from Donkey Kong 64 - which was revealed live on stage today at EGX Rezzed.

Watch: Yooka-Laylee is a blast of nostalgia in Xbox One gameplay

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.

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Yooka-Laylee cancelled for Wii U due to "unforeseen technical issues"

Yooka-Laylee cancelled for Wii U due to "unforeseen technical issues"

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".

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It looks like Yooka-Laylee will launch in April

It looks like Yooka-Laylee will launch in April

Pre-order to get Toybox demo on console.

Long-awaited adventure Yooka-Laylee will launch on 11th April 2017, according to a new Xbox store page which Eurogamer spotted pop up online tonight.

You can pre-order the game now for 34.99 (around double the price Kickstarter backers paid) and get its Toybox demo, which was previously available to backers on PC.

The British-built platformer has had a long road to development since its hugely-successful 2.1m Kickstarter campaign back in June 2015.

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VideoWatch: What's new with Yooka-Laylee?

We catch up with Playtonic Games.

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.

VideoWatch: What makes a game indie?

Good question, Eurogamer show.

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.

Yooka-Laylee to launch DRM-free on GOG

Yooka-Laylee to launch DRM-free on GOG

Kickstarter campaign steaming to a close.

Just over a month ago, a motley crew of ex-Rare employees revealed Yooka-Laylee, their spiritual succesor to Banjo Kazooie.

The newly-founded Playtonic Games is now in the final days of its Kickstarter campaign, and has added the option to receive a DRM-free PC copy of Yooka-Laylee via GOG.

Anyone eligible for a PC copy as part of their backer reward will be able to choose between Steam or GOG versions, a new blog post has detailed.

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Playtonic launches 175k Yooka-Laylee Kickstarter campaign

Playtonic launches 175k Yooka-Laylee Kickstarter campaign

UPDATE: 1m stretch goal reached in less than 24 hours, simultaneous console release confirmed.

UPDATE 2/5/15 2.30pm: Yooka-Laylee has surpassed 1m in funding in less than 24 hours.

This milestone will mean that the game will now launch on all of its platforms simultaneously (that's PC, Mac, PS4, Wii U, Xbox One), as opposed to having a staggered release.

1m had been the final stretch goal mark, but Playtonic has now come up with further features should the campaign continue to rise even higher (which certainly looks likely).

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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.