Back in the days before game developer Rare got bought out by Microsoft, and ended up being relegated to designing Xbox 360 Avatars and Wii Sports knock-offs (a relegation from which they're only just starting to recover, with development on pirate 'em up Sea of Thieves now well underway), the quaint British studio was perhaps best known as the kings of the platform game. With a pedigree that included the likes of Conker, Donkey Kong (Country) and Banjo Kazooie, the once-upon-a-time Nintendo studio cranked out many a bad guy-bashing, collectable-hoarding, platform-leaping adventure, to rival everyone's favourite mushroom-munching plumber Mario himself. Following Microsoft's hostile takeover, a number of employees decided the time was right to jump ship, strike out on their own and make the kind of game they wanted to make - and so Yooka-Laylee, the spiritual successor to bird and bear platformer Banjo-Kazooie, was born.
The game sees titular duo Yooka (the sensible green chameleon), and Laylee (the slightly crazy, wise-cracking bat with a big nose), setting off on a world-spanning adventure incredibly reminiscent of the collectathon platformers of old. On a mission to stop the evil corporate creep Capital B and his partner in crime Dr. Quack from absorbing all the world's books and turning them into pure profit, Yooka and Laylee must work together to round up the golden Pagies scattered across the land. Collecting enough Pagies through various platforming and puzzling challenges and missions will open up new areas, jam-packed with oddball characters, and new bosses to defeat in each world.
Old hands familiar Rare's platformers of the past will recognise more than a few nods to their games of old too - and not just how interchangeable the collectable Jiggies and Pagies, and even the protagonists Yooka/Laylee and Banjo/Kazooie are. Each world will have a secret arcade game, hosted by the pixelated T-Rex, Rextro Sixtyfourus, as a homage to Rare's years working on the Nintendo 64. A quiz show will take place before the final boss too, a la the old Banjo-Kazooie games, while several mine cart riding sections are very reminiscent of Donkey Kong Country of old.
Between them, Yooka and Laylee have all kinds of attacks and special moves up their sleeves - as a chameleon, Yooka is not only a master of camouflage, but he can also use his tongue to swing from things, Tarzan style, or whack enemies with his tail, while Laylee lends a hand not just with flying and gliding, but using her sonar abilities too. And, according to the project's Kickstarter page, "there may or may not be a move involving a giant fart bubble", proving that Rare's crude humour is still alive and well in the new studio too. In what is perhaps the biggest departure from the games of yesterday, you'll be able to collect 'Play Tonics', which unlock new character powers and abilities, which you can in turn buy or upgrade as you see fit. In practice, this means that you can potentially complete challenges in different ways depending on how you've levelled up your characters, whether you chose to add more damage, glide farther or swim for longer distances.
And while the two protagonists, Yooka and Laylee very much work together as a team, and therefore as a single character, that doesn't mean Yooka-Laylee is a strictly single-player affair either. In fact, a second player can still jump in and control a totally separate character to 'assist' player one, by stunning enemies, and "helping them tackle tricky challenges". Whether that means it'll be a fully-fledged co-op mode or a Mario Galaxy-esque helper 'Co-Star' mode where you can simply poke and prod enemies and friends alike to make things easier for your buddy, remains to be seen - but either way, it's a great nod to make the game as accessible for the younger audience as it will be for the rest of us.
Yooka-Laylee will be gliding it's way onto most current consoles - Xbox One, Playstation 4, Wii U and PC according to the Kickstarter - sometime early next year. Originally planned for October this year, the folks at Playtonic Games made the difficult decision to delay the game slightly so that it could "add a few extra months' polish to our schedule", so that it could "release a better game to the thousands of fans who've supported us throughout development". Why not take a look at how the game's shaping up in the latest trailer below: