Monday, November 4, 2019

Eric Vs. 365 - Day 127 - Yooka-Laylee

Yooka-Laylee is a hot mess and I hate it. Sorry I'm 2 1/2 years late with that hot take, but there was no way I was going to spend money for this and played it on Game Pass instead. I love Banjo-Kazooie, but it is increasingly looking like a singular happy accident than a showcase of Rare's brilliance at the height of its N64 powers. Could Rare have maybe been overrated? Did Nintendo bail out on them for reasons other than a dump truck of money from Microsoft? We look at all of these things and more so click to read and watch Yooka-Laylee on day 127 of Eric Vs. 365.

I guess, first off, is to clarify that Yooka-Laylee was made by former Rare employees that formed a new company - Playtonic Games - to make games like the good old days and not by Rare itself. Because of the talent involved, and intentionally making it this way, it looks and sounds and plays exactly like a Rare game from the days of old. This is problem #1.

Yooka-Laylee is EXACTLY like Banjo-Kazooie down to every obnoxious detail. The art style is exactly the same. The characters all mumble in unique Simslish voices. The gameplay is exactly the same. Every object has a wacky personality. You collect hundreds of doo-dads in order to unlock new levels. This was all OK back in 1998 because everything was smaller in scale and more manageable and because it was new and unique at the time. Plus, we didn't have much else to play on N64 ...

The problem with Yooka-Laylee is that, not only did they not do anything new or interesting, they just turned turned all of that stuff up to "11" and went way overboard with it. Banjo-Kazooie had relatively compact levels with straightforward progression and objectives that made sense. Yooka-Laylee's levels are massive and sprawling (and can even be expanded to be even bigger once you collect enough doo-dads) and the objectives are still simple and straightforward and boring. They stretch each level far past the point of being fun or interesting to play in. The gameplay is fine. It actually feels good to control these characters. The stuff you do, however, is boring. 

My other main issue with Yooka-Laylee is that I just plain hate the character designs. Yooka and Laylee are freaking ugly and un-appealing and the supporting cast range from OK-ish to horrible abominations that should have never been birthed into this world. And they All. Talk. So. Damn. Much! I'm 100% sure I would enjoy it more if every anthropomorphized doo-dad and tchotcke didn't have to explain every detail of it's cursed existence for 5-minutes. If you just let us play the game without constantly interrupting it with quirky "funny" dialogue it would be a lot more enjoyable.

So, I freaking hate Yooka-Laylee. The thing about it, however, is that even "peak" Rare on the N64 was in a decline as well and I think that's why Nintendo wasn't reluctant to sell them to Microsoft. Of course, GoldenEye, Perfect Dark, Blast Corps, and Banjo-Kazooie were all fantastic and still hold up to this day. But what about Rare's other games? Killer Instinct 2 / Gold paled in comparison to KI1. Conker is mediocre at best and is carried by the "M" rating. Banjo-Tooie is too bloated and repetitive and boring (gee, sounds familiar). Jet Force Gemini has terrible controls. Donkey Kong 64 is too bloated and repetitive and boring (!). Mickey's Speedway USA is a dumpster fire. Star Fox Adventures is bloated and repetitive and boring. We'll toss in their first Xbox game, Grabbed by the Ghoulies, too as it was just not fun for a variety of reasons. They pumped out a lot of big budget crap. They mostly sold well, of course, but the quality was in steady decline. 

I genuinely think Nintendo bailed out for a reason. Microsoft didn't "ruin" Rare. Rare ruined itself.*

*With the exception of Viva Pinata and Trouble in Paradise. Viva Pinata is probably Rare's secret best game