It’s understandable when a development team makes changes between an original game and the sequel. But in the case of Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair, the team at Playtonic Games switched the entire formula. The original game was an ode to 3D platformers like Banjo Kazooie. And in some ways, the formula worked. It had its share of problems, but the first Yooka Laylee was entertaining and brought back fond memories of games of old.
With that in mind, I was a little surprised to see a shift to 2.5D platforming. If anything, Playtonic Games could have tweaked the original formula and fine-tuned the gameplay and it would have been fine. But they went in a different direction. And let me tell you that the switch to 2.5D was exactly what the series needed.
Let me briefly sum up the story (and it will be brief since it’s more of a plot point instead of a full story). Your nemesis, Capital B, has a device that controls all the bees. You have to get to him and defeat him, but it won’t be easy. He is hiding like the coward he is at the end of his lair, which is appropriately titled The Impossible Lair. Right from the start, you attempt to defeat him and ultimately fail. You can keep trying or simply go all over the land collecting bees that will protect you against the gauntlet of traps and enemies in the lair.
There are a couple of really interesting things going on with this plot. One of them is the ability to tackle the Impossible Lair at any time. If you haven’t had any bees collected, then you basically have 2 hit points. One hit will send Laylee flying away which severely hampers what you can accomplish. The second hit will kill you completely. You can jump and try and grab Laylee, but that can be a challenge when you are surrounded by raging death traps. So in theory, you can totally try and defeat the game with no bee shield, but it is very hard.
I hope I don’t sound like I am complaining because I definitely am not. I think it is a cool feature to truly test your platforming abilities. You can see your progression before entering the lair, which helps you judge how well you are doing. I did really poorly (about 5% progress), so my only course of action is to find the bees in the Overworld. But I can’t help but think about the fantastic gamers in the speedrunning world! I can’t wait to see some of them attempt to speedrun and beat the game.
If you are like me, you will want to find every bee guard you can because it lets you take extra damage during the Impossible Lair. You accomplish that by platforming your way through 20 levels. These levels look incredible. They are colorful and full of life. There are multiple pathways and hidden areas that you can explore for quills and coins. There are plenty of different enemy types in each platforming area. And most important of all, the controls are smooth and responsive which helps elevate the experience.
Typically, a game with 20 platforming sections would keep the game very short. Thankfully, the levels can be tweaked thanks to different components that can be added to the levels. For example, an early level features water fountains. When you complete it, you will come across a fruit. This fruit, when thrown on the icon representing the level, freezes the water in the level. By freezing the water, you access other areas of the level that contain coins and other goodies. It’s a really nice addition that extends the game time and creates a whole new way to play the levels.
Because of these tweaks, there are essentially 40 levels that you can explore and play. I wouldn’t say that the tweaks bring massive changes to a level, but just enough to give them a fresh feel and give you the option to explore other areas. There are 48 guard bees that can be collected, and just remember that you can collect as many as you want. Not only that, you can find tonics in the world that can alter the game either subtly or drastically. Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair can fit just about any play style and ability level thanks to these changes in the formula.
I do have a very minor complaint. Like the last game, the characters don’t have voiced dialogue. Instead, each character makes unique sounds. I would love some voice acting during the cutscenes. It’s fine in the Overworld when characters interact with each other, but I would love to hear dialogue instead of weird noises. Despite that complaint, the music in the game fits perfectly and is a joy to listen to.
Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair is one of those rare games where the development team makes a substantial change that completely works in its favor. The platforming levels are a blast to play, and each level is colorful and unique. The Lair itself is very challenging, which encourages you to play through all the levels and their variations. If you are a fan of 2.5D platformers, then you really need to add this to your collection.
Note: GameOctane editor Ryan Welch received a digital code from the publisher for the purpose of reviewing this game. Any code or product intended for reviews is distributed to the team to review and stream for our audience.
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2.5D levels are challenging and fun
The Impossible Lair offers a very challenging platforming experience
I wish it had some voice acting