Yooka-Laylee still getting love from Playtonic leading up to Switch release

Yooka Lovely

Yooka-Laylee just got a big ol’ patch for the PC and in the near future this will be applied to the console versions later. Yooka-Laylee was well received overall, but a little divisive among the Banjo fans who were really clamouring for its release, with jarring reviews drastically swinging from extreme negatives to gushing positives. People complained the game felt empty, was buggy, and had several irritating components including a divisive quiz component, and the Rextro mini-game elements that people criticized as poorly conceived and tossed in haphazardly in order to pad out the overall content. Others say it felt like a true follow-up to Banjo-Kazooie and that it lived up to their high expectations. But here we are: it came, a lot of people seemed generally satisfied with it, and although the initial hype has worn off the game isn’t finish its run yet with an impending release on the Nintendo Switch coming that could bring in a whole new slew of fans and critics alike in the coming months.          

I personally found the game to be a charming, effective love letter to the Banjo-Kazooie series that inspired it. At Destructoid, our own Chris Carter gave it a score of 8/10 in stark contrast to some of the more cutting ratings out there. Having played Banjo through again just before it I can understand some of the major complaints people were slinging. The level designs didn’t seem as inventive perhaps. The novelty of a collect-a-thon game in 2017 may have been a little shallow and wasn’t quite what people remembered liking from the N64 era. But I had a good time with it, and to my six-year-old daughter who had never grown up with Banjo, it was a great first little foray into the mascot platformer.

I think Yooka-Laylee got the overall reception it deserved; a middle-of-the-road response to what was a reasonably strong effort by developer Playtonic, one that delivered overall on its promises even if the game was stalwart to the overall philosophy of emulating what had come before it.

It’s too bad it was surrounded by controversy right before release and it is tough to tell how that affected the game’s reception. YouTuber Jon Jafari of JonTron and Game Grumps fame was originally meant to play a small voice acting role before putting his foot so far down his own throat that he shit out a shoelace. Playtonic announced that due to his inflammatory rants, he was being removed from the game, and the taint of this reaction is still floating in the air like an errant tuft of flatulence, the most replied post in the Steam discussion forum for the game being a bunch of people arguing about the semantics of the utterly pointless debacle.

Playtonic wisely chose to focus on the release of the game instead of getting caught up in the bitchy nightmare that followed their statement and it seemed to go over well, with Kickstarter rewards promptly followed up on and delivered, and patches promise to address some of the more niggling issues people were so incensed about. 

The latest patch is almost obscene in the number if issues it addresses. Everything from reduced baby talk dialogue that got on the nerves of most adults to improved sections of the game such as the frustrating mine cart segments and the notorious Rampo boss fight, which had an inherently broken camera angle at release, plus numerous other technical bugs. It’s clear Yooka-Laylee really was a passion project for Playtonic and the fact that a couple months out they are still working to address these issues is a comforting notion, not only for those still currently enjoying Yooka-Laylee, but for the Switch port which will have these updates present day one hopefully making for a much smoother experience for newcomers.

Things move super quickly these days, with most games barely getting time to sit on the shelf before everyone moves on to the next thing. Mere weeks after No Man’s Sky famously crapped in its sheets and tossed itself out the window it was reported that the game had been reduced to an abysmal number of active players on Steam. Trust between the developers and the potential player base was crushed under the cataclysmic weight of the game’s numerous promises, most of which have still not and likely cannot be met despite developer Hello Games working hard to implement what is admittedly a generous slew of new content.

For multiplayer or early access games, the shelf life of those experiences is much longer and can go on for years. But for a title such as Yooka-Laylee to hold persistent interest is a far more difficult prospect; it’s a single-player adventure game over in a handful of hours with no compelling multiplayer or online component. While Yooka-Laylee enjoyed a decent little price cut during the Steam Summer Sale, there is no real compelling reason for people who have finished the game to go back and play again in terms of new, engaging content. So it’s even more encouraging to see Playtonic continue to support a game that has effectively ended its initial “run” when they could really just leave it as is, squash the more egregious bugs, and move on to their next project.

I was able to get in touch with Playtonic studio head Gavin Price, who while reluctant to impart any potential information about a Yooka-Laylee follow-up, was kind enough to share his thoughts on continuing to patch the game in major ways long after the initial release.

“We’ve always had a great connection with the community – they’re the reason we exist in the first place – and so we want to make sure we’re doing right by them with every decision we make as a studio, both now and going forward. Following Yooka-Laylee’s release there was a lot of very clear, constructive feedback from fans on how they felt we could improve the game, so it made total sense to us to get back to work and bring it all to life.

There’s a mountain-load of improvement we’ve added based directly on player feedback. This benefits not just existing players, but new ones who decide to purchase Yooka-Laylee in the on-going Summer sales, and of course future players on Nintendo Switch, who’ll hopefully appreciate these changes and additions, available for them on day one.

The team is really proud of what we’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time with a tiny (but experienced) team, especially considering we had to build a company at the same time. Not long ago we were sat in an office the size of a gents toilet, and now we’ve more than tripled in size and have a debut game (and our own IP) on the shelves.”

Yooka-Laylee coming out on the Nintendo Switch might end up being very good timing for Playtonic. The Switch has been selling gangbusters and while there is a fairly steady trickle of content, the platformer genre is a good fit for the Switch. There may be a nostalgic carry over that comes along with playing it on a Nintendo console that hearkens back to the 64 days that people will find appealing as well. 

With the Switch release impending, the final verdict on the success of Playtonic’s flagship title is not in yet, but it’d be really nice to see them own it and produce a sequel or even something else entirely. You can tell Playtonic has a lot of passion for what they do, and in retrospect I think Yooka-Laylee is a pretty exemplary case of a successful Kickstarter project, and a fun game overall despite failing to live up to the expectations of some of the genre’s more die-hard fans.

Joel Peterson