Price: £34.99 Developer: Playtonic Games Publisher: Team 17 Platform(s): PC, PS4, Xbox One Version Reviewed: PS4
Nostalgia is a funny thing. Nostalgia is what has my friends loudly crowing that Goldeneye is the best multiplayer shooter ever made. Nostalgia is the reason I reinstall and start a game of XCom: Enemy Unknown — the 1994 one with all the soldiers — every single year before having to abandon it because it takes too damn long.
Nostalgia is the reason 73,206 backers pledged £2,090,104 to bring Yooka-Laylee, a game that is — whisper it — actually quite bad to life.
This one's on you, rose-tinted spectacles. After all, Yooka-Laylee is exactly what it promised: a spiritual successor to the N64's classic 3D platformer Banjo-Kazooie, ticking the same box as Rare's classic with a lot of employees poached from the studio that made the thing, repackaged for the modern era.
As a Banjo-Kazooie clone, it works. Sadly, it doesn't have many ideas of its own to bring to bear, or indeed, lizard. This is a shame, because when it's not trying to copy-paste mechanics, it has its most exciting moments. One of the most enjoyable parts of my time with the game was playing around in the arcade, a collection of retro-inspired mini-games often accompanied by Rextro, a polygonal dinosaur obsessed with the remnants of the 90s and the retro games contained within. Many of these are well put together, asking you to race around a top-down course or blast through a shooting gallery.
The fact that the best time I had in the game was in its collection of minigames should be your first cause for concern. But the main game largely replicates Banjo-Kazooie as well as the faults contained within said 19-year-old game with a remarkable amount of accuracy. In many cases, it's just the details that have been changed: You're looking to collect pages of a book (Pagies) instead of Banjo Kazooie's jigsaw pieces (Jiggies), and you're collecting quills instead of musical notes for currency.
It's so accurate that it includes some decidedly archaic flaws from the early 3D era when games just didn't know better. The camera is awful, changing angles seemingly at random, and with movement relative to the camera direction. When combined with a first boss, it angered me to the point that I went down to the end of my garden and had a little shout. The boss in itself isn't that annoying, just a sentient stone slope spewing out logs to try to stop you from ascending to its peak, where its giant gurning mouth is. Hit a log, and you'll take damage and be tipped back down to the start, where the camera will switch back on you. Turn to move back toward the slope, and the camera will pivot again, but as you're still holding down the analogue stick to move, you'll likely pivot on the spot and turn back around again, causing the camera to shift again.
It's annoying, but there are two big holes directly next to the bottom of the slope. Get confused by the constant camera movements, and it's not inconceivable — at least, not if you're a clumsy prat like me, who did it twice — that you could fall out of the boss area back down to the main level. This means starting the boss again, no matter where in the three stages of the boss fight you've taken a tumble. It made me very cross.