With the exception of perhaps Nintendo's first party output, good old fashioned platformers have become something of a lost art as of late, with nary a collectable-packed, run-and-jump a-thon in sight. Rewind a couple of decades and you could barely move for the things, yet now every other game is a shooter or sports game. Times may change, things may move on, but sometimes it's nice to revisit the oldies, relive your childhood and remember why platformers were great. And that's just what the folks at Playtonic games have done, with their upcoming platforming adventure, Yooka-Laylee.
The game sees the titular duo Yooka, the sensible green chameleon, and Laylee, the smack-talking purple bat, setting off on a world-spanning collectathon adventure to stop the evil corporate creep Capital B from stealing all the world's literature and turning it into pure profit. In order to stop him, you'll need to take a trip into the various worlds and round up the missing Pagies, generally by helping out Yooka-Laylee's cast of crazy characters with all kinds of kooky quests, in order to thwart Capital B's dastardly plan. And if it sounds somewhat familiar, there's probably a reason for that - the team at Playtonic Games are almost entirely ex-Rare employees, who worked on such platforming greats as Banjo-Kazooie, Conker and Donkey Kong Country. And following an astounding performance on Kickstarter, they've decided it's about time for a bit of a retro revival.
And, as we found out when we went hands-on at last week's gamescom, Yooka-Laylee really does hark back to the good old days too, with jam-packed worlds to explore, filled with blue skies, rainbows and googly eyes. As with Banjo-Kazooie, both Yooka and Laylee move as one (the bat rides the lizard's head), with their disparate moves complementing each other - Yooka's double jump can be extended with Laylee's glide to cross larger distances, while her sonic stun is a great way of freezing enemies in place before Yooka whacks them with his tail. Smart use of the pair's extensive move set looks to be key to progressing through the game, such as using Yooka's roll (which see's Laylee jogging around on top of a ball shaped Yooka) to get up steep inclines, while there's plenty of new moves to unlock and upgrade using the game's feather quill collectable currency. Opening up new moves will open up previously inaccessible areas, letting you take on new quests for the elusive Pagies (the game's cornerstone collectible - like Jiggies in Banjo) and move one step closer to saving the world.
One of the earliest quests we stumbled on featured a rather unfortunate explorer - a skeleton who's been captured by the natives and lobbed in a pot over an open fire, ready to be their next meal (seemingly they aren't very smart enemies). Having been promised a Pagie for our efforts, one of Yooka-Laylee's cornerstone collectables, we lie in wait for her captors, and beat them up on her behalf, releasing her from her lunch-time doom. Or, at least we thought - although that doesn't explain why, when we trotted by later, she was still sitting up to her shoulders in the pot, seemingly just chilling - we can only assume that with no meat on her bones, she found it a bit too nippy outside her little stew pot...
True to form, there's no such thing as a 'normal' character in Yooka-Laylee, and during our short time with the demo, we'd met a part-octopus scientist spurned by Capital B and searching for a 'Mollycule' for her transforminator invention; Kartos, a talking mine cart you can ride around a Donkey Kong Country-inspired mine cart track; and Sir Scoffsalot, the rather podgy porcine Knight of Hamalot to name but a few. And, let's not forget the legendary Trowser, a dodgy salesman snake wearing a pair of trousers, from whom you can buy various upgrades and new moves from throughout the game. Pun-tastic, full of sigh-worthy jokes and references, alongside a healthy dollop of double entendres (Trowser snake lol), it's shaping up to be a return to form to the glory days of Rare's biggest and best platformers. Oh, and there's also a race of rather racist flowers who refuse to talk to such lowlifes as chameleon's and bats, naturally.
Another of the more unusual characters in the demo world is Nimbo, a down-on-his-luck cloud whose wife recently left him for a hotter typhoon or something - perched atop a rainbow-topped mountain, his bladder problems are key to altering the landscape. Essentially, once you've managed to make him pass water, you can then spit the various elementally-charged berries/flowers out at him, hitting him with ice to make it snow, or fire to dry up the rivers instead, each of which opens up new, previously inaccessible areas and quests to complete, like ice skating races against Nimbo's hyperactive little nephew, Nimble, likely with a Pagie or two as a reward.
Also hidden in each area will be five collectable Ghost Writers, very similar to Banjo's anteater-like Jinjos, who took a fair bit of tracking down back in the day. Some Ghost Writers are pretty easy to find - we stumbled on the one hiding in a little cliff-side alcove while exploring generally - while others are a bit trickier. For example, one plump Ghost Writer, sat at the top of a rocky outcrop, was stood around pining for a bit to eat, before he'd let us collect him. With nary a burger bar in sight, we had to resort to the next best thing, sucking up some ice crystal flowers from a nearby plant. Giving Yooka and Laylee temporary ice powers, we then had to race up the side of the hill, leaping from platform to platform all the way up, before firing the ice crystal into the Ghost Writer's gaping maw - all before the ice power timed out. Given our 'talent' for platformers, it did take us a couple of goes to get it right, but before too long we had ourselves a well-fed Ghost Writer in our collectable stash.
Unfortunately, our time with the game was decidedly brief, with our wanderings around the first world of the game, Tribalstack Tropics, lasting but half an hour - and given it was me playing, half of that was spent falling off things. Packed with crazy characters, oodles of collectables and an undeniable Rare-ish charm, we can't wait to get our hands on the full game when it hits the Playstation 4, Xbox One, PC and Wii U in early 2017. Why not check out the brand-spanking new Gamescom trailer below: