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Will Yooka-Laylee be Any Good? The Legacy of Banjo-Kazooie

by William Schwartz

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Banjo-Kazooie has been MIA since 2008. Our favorite bear and bird, while once the most recognizable characters put out by Rare (next to Donkey and Diddy Kong, of course), have unfortunately fallen by the wayside over the years.

When a group of veteran Rare employees, including character artist Steve Mayles, banded together to form Playtonic Games, we paid attention. And when the words “Project Ukulele” were being bandied around, we got excited.

While we may never see a proper Banjo-Kazooie title that matches the spirit of the original, we may get to see a new pair of characters take the helm. Yooka-Laylee, to be exact. Starring Yooka the lizard and Laylee the bat, the game’s intended to be a multi-console 3D platformer. Just looking at the two characters, it’s not hard to see that they’re the spiritual successors to Banjo-Kazooie. Laylee even sits on Yooka’s shoulders the same way Kazooie used to sit on Banjo’s.

Playtonic Games will be funding production of the game through a Kickstarter, which is set to launch tomorrow. We already have some gameplay footage to feast our eyes on, the result of three months of development. Which begs the question: will Yooka-Laylee be any good? Take a look at the trailer via IGN.

Fans of Banjo-Kazooie have seen it all: the titular bear and bird have both fought witches, piloted planes, and raced against blue hedgehogs. So to consider Yooka-Laylee as a spiritual successor to the classic Rare title is to almost see a return to form. The original Banjo-Kazooie was, like Yooka-Laylee, a 3D platform. Part of the fun was getting to explore a vast, vibrant world and using Banjoe and Kazooie’s unique abilities to overcome enemies and obstacles. Yooka-Laylee seems like it will veer in this direction. In the select gameplay footage we’ve seen, players will be able to grapple hook with Yooka’s tongue and unleash solar blasts with Laylee. And like Banjo-Kazooie, the two characters of Yooka-Laylee can even join forces and glide for short periods of time in the air (no word on if Laylee can abandon his partner and fly solo though).

So on the surface, Yooka-Laylee is veering close to the original Banjo-Kazooie. At this point in time we don’t know much about the actual game itself. But what we do know is that Yooka-Laylee has some pretty impressive pedigree behind it. With Playtonic Games hosting a number of Rare veterans, this should allow Steve Mayles and company to design an authentic Banjo-Kazooie experience without the influence of, say, Microsoft or another larger corporation. The last thing we need is another oddly placed Banjo-Kazooie racing game. What we do need is an honest to god 3D platform that reminds us of everything that we used to love about Rare, including colorful characters, innovative gameplay, and an eccentric feel.

I’ll be honest. I’m excited to see what comes of Yooka-Laylee. I’m not looking for a Banjo-Kazooie sequel. But if I can have a game that reminds me of why I liked Banjo-Kazooie in the first place, I’m all for it.

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