I like the idea of doing a blog about game characters! Really good characters (or even just one great character) can help get me through otherwise mediocre games and I know for a fact that other people feel the same way (insert disparaging remarks about The Last of Us or Bioshock Infinite here). So my big, wonderful idea for this month’s BoB prompt was to play a bit or (well, play all of) Yooka-Laylee and A Hat in Time so that I could compare and contrast the two. Both games are lead by charismatic characters, they’re both collectathon platformers taking place in the third dimension, both were critical darlings and both are games that I should probably hate due to my dislike of 3D Collectathons. I’m desperate to expand my horizons and I really want to give games that I don’t normally play a chance to prove me wrong. Here’s what’s actually going to happen: I’m going to talk about Yooka-Laylee because I couldn’t stand to play A Hat in Time for a solid hour whereas I’ve spent over 10 hours enjoying the Hell out of Yooka-Laylee.
(This is a thing that I need. I didn't know this was a thing but I need this thing)
I don’t usually play 3D collectathon platformers. I owned an N64 as a kid but my most played games at the time were Duke Nukem 3D, Tony Hawk, and Ocarina of Time. I’ve played Super Mario 64 a few times as a kid and a few more times on the DS but I couldn’t get into it. I also played Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64 on the N64 but I flatout disliked those titles. I remember liking Conker Live and Reloaded when I owned that on the Xbox but I only played through it once and another collectathon I recall playing through and enjoying was Voodoo Vince. Those last two titles were a bit more mature in their themes, characters, and settings so that’s potentially why I was more easily engaged by them than the more popular N64 games.
So Yooka-Laylee! This game made a ton of money from Kickstarter and has sold over a million copies thanks to successful nostalgia baiting, filling and underserved niche, and just generally looking like a well-polished product. I didn’t buy into the hype, I didn’t donate to the kickstarter and I didn’t buy my copy until it was down to $15 on Steam. I went into Yooka-Laylee knowing that most of the critics I follow said it was fine but it didn’t live up to the games it was inspired by (Banjo-Kazooie). I don’t recall any major criticisms against the characters though except for one person who seemed to think that Laylee was racist for some reason but that wasn’t something I really got from my time with the game.
Laylee is a character who I see as being an opportunist. I’m not sure how she and Yooka met up or how they became friends but I can see her originally getting together with him because he’s characterized as someone who is always willing to help others and indeed, someone who’s always successful in helping people. In a way, Yooka is somewhat bland as a character: He always seems ready to cheerfully agree to help whoever he runs across, almost like a Gary Stu in that he doesn’t have any drive of his own and he’s always successful in his endeavors to help anybody who may be in need (so long as the player character is successful I guess). Another way I see Yooka and Laylee’s relationship beginning is somewhat more protective: Yooka seems to be so willing to help others that I can see Laylee acting as someone who wants to protect Yooka from himself, or at least remind Yooka in her own way that he really needs to stop putting other people ahead of himself.
My reading of Laylee as a character who hangs around Yooka to protect him from himself and the whims of others is probably hard to digest since, for the most part, Laylee is kind of a bitch. While talking to quest giving characters, Laylee will try to steer the conversation in a direction that would result in her and Yooka not doing any grunt-work or minigames or what have you. There’s also an amazing instance wherein she tells a depressed shopping trolley (named Ollie) that he’s basically hopeless. The full context of the exchange has to do with Ollie thinking he can overcome challenges in his life only to be told by Laylee that he couldn’t overcome any of the challenges that she and Yooka have had to endure so far in the game. Laylee can’t stop Yooka (and indeed, the player) from agreeing to help assorted trolleys, pigs, wooden signs, and other such characters with their problems.
(I had a housemate who was exactly like this guy)
As for the characters who are causing problems, there’s the main antagonist Capital B and his Vice President: Dr Quack (No, not the webkinz character). At first I was under the impression that Dr. Quack did all of the work while Capital B took all of the credit but by world 4, we clearly see Capital B isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. Granted, all he really does is sit behind a desk and exchange coins for Pagies. By this point in the game it’s also very likely that you’ve seen a cutscene where Capital B sits through a meeting with his investors. So, with that being said, Capital B is just like any other CEO: He delegates tasks to his actual employees and takes credit for their hard work.
Dr. Quack is more interesting to me as a villain: It’s implied that he commissioned (or possibly even crafted) the large Capital B statues that you see, not only in the main lobby of Hivory Towers, but elsewhere in the various book worlds. I think it’s more likely that he commissioned those statues since there are examples of statues made in his honor which look like they could have been crafted by the Dr. himself. Statues aside, Dr. Quack is also in charge of stopping Yooka and Laylee from reaching deeper areas of Hivory Towers by means of quizzes. These quizzes are multiple choice and are focused on things that you’re likely to have seen in the worlds you’ve been in but also things that are easy to overlook. For example, there’s a question asking how much your first move costs which you may not remember off hand but since the answers are always multiple choice and you only ever have 3 choices, it’s usually easy to suss out the correct answer by using the process of elimination. As easy as these quizzes can be, I recall them being a point of contention back when Yooka-Laylee was new so maybe they were patched at some point to be easier or maybe there’s a final quiz that I haven’t found yet that actually is more difficult.
Ironically, I don’t think Capital B is the best representative of capitalism in Yooka-Laylee which is funny considering his place at the top of the Hivory Tower. I see the actual bastion of consumerism in this game as Trowzer, a merchant and the first NPC you’re likely to meet. Trowzer is a snake wearing a dirty pair of cargo shorts, an outdated necktie, and a filthy trilby. He’s also frequently using a cellphone that’s likely 30 or more years old. Trowzer is a hot mess but he’s got what you need if you have the cash, or rather, if you have the feathers. He never does anything to hinder Yooka or Laylee, he just sells you abilities for reasonable prices so it’s hard to consider him a friend or foe. There are some abilities that he’ll give you for free as you progress through the game. By giving me his free samples, I was always driven to get into the next world as soon as possible to see what other new abilities I would be able to buy off of Trowzer. You absolutely need most, if not all, of Trowzer’s abilities to progress through the game but I never felt like anything he offered was ever too highly priced gives me a hard time in really nailing down Trowzer’s motives. He isn’t like Tom Nook, a character who will give a player a thing that can’t be returned and demand payment but no matter how skilled you are as a player you can’t get into major areas without buying abilities from Trowzer.
I haven’t finished Yooka-Laylee quite yet. I’m at a point in the game where I’ve expanded all five of the book worlds, beaten all of the book world bosses and all that’s keeping me from confronting Capital B himself is finding having found 100 pagies (at time of writing, I think I’m at 70). I kind of wish I could say more about the NPCs of Yooka-Layle: Ollie the Trolly was a memorable character and I think Kartos is endearing. Getting to the book 5 Boss was absolutely hilarious and I enjoyed the personality that was injected into the other bosses as well (not so much the world 2 boss, that one was somewhat forgettable). The main duo of Yooka and Laylee though are really endearing to me but what keeps me playing this game is the gameplay. I don’t particularly like being a contrarian but Yooka-Laylee is easily my favorite 3D collectathon platformer.
(Ironically, this boss killed me more than the other 4 I've fought so far)