When the team behind the 2 original Banjo Kazooie games took to Kickstarter in May of 2015, they were upfront with the kind of game they wanted to make - a 3D character action platformer with a playful spirit and a jovial sense of humour. Or, essentially, a spiritual successor to their beloved bird and bear games. Given that the project amassed a total of £2,090,104 over it's 40 odd day campaign, it's fair to say that fans also loved the thought of filling that gaping hole in today's gaming landscape.
Backers of the campaign at a £20 or higher tier (myself included) were recently given an opportunity to play around in a pre-alpha toybox mode - a single level with basic geometry and a little flair to give players a feel for how the game was heading. If this build is anything to go by, the game is going to be both really good, and exactly what fans are looking for.
The demo comprised of an open space that would be very familiar to anyone who has ever dabbled in 3D level design. The area is simply comprised of a bunch of geometric shapes, arranged in such a way for a player to explore in. A ton of fundamental building blocks were on display - you will find flat surfaces, sliding slopes, water, floating platforms, see-saw bridges and boxes to push around. A few other regular game mechanics were also implemented - wind that pushed your character around, switches to be butt-smashed. Throw in a few bits of stone and foliage artwork along with a guiding NPC robot, and we have ourselves a functional space to play around in.
Being a Banjo successor, you just know that there were 100 somethings (in this case, quills) to collect, scattered throughout the level. Using your cute bat/lizard combo, you have a limited amount of abilities at your disposal - the aforementioned butt-smash, double jump and glide, high-jump, tail spin and a roll. Yooka and Laylee both are beautifully rendered, and the animation is already top notch. They even have idle animations, should you leave them to their own devices for a few seconds.
As you might expect, it's all reminiscent of the N64 classics that this game is attempting to emulate - very reminiscent in fact. From the flying/ground combo to the speech bubbles, the silly humour to the abilities, the music to the sound effects - this is a Banjo game in all but name. If it weren't for licensing issues, I would firmly believe the two games would exist in the same canonical universe.
The demo did include a few little secret areas that (spoilers) show off a little bit of the more advanced tech the gaming is going for - particular particle effects, different types of terrain. Collecting every quill will net you the final secret, a hidden robot with a hidden message: "When real-world game releases, look to a pirate ship for a surprise... Ground smash lone rock under a nearby tree to reveal the way. Remember this to find the surprise!"
All up, judging solely from this cool little toybox level, Yooka-Laylee is looking to be exactly what it sets out to be - a game that, if the characters were swapped out, would exactly be a 2016 version of Banjo-Kazooie. I, for one, am pleased about this.