A couple of years ago, a cute platform game called Yooka-Laylee appeared, as an homage to older 3D platformers like Banjoo-Kazooie. It's better to say that a good part of that game’s development team moved to Playtonic Games to continue doing what they like best - creating great platformers. Unfortunately, Yooka-Laylee wasn’t of such great quality, and after that brief dive into something different, the development team realized that it was best for them to go back to the roots of the platformer genre in 2D or 2.5D.
That’s how Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair came to be; a beautiful, amazing and almost perfect platformer that can stand side by side with the games that inspired its making in the first place. In Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair, there is only one task: to defeat the main villain, Capital B, who wants to steal everything that is beautiful and valuable in this colorful and wonderful world. Immediately at the beginning of the game, you will be put in the position to fight him, and, most likely, you will fail miserably. You’ll need a bit of time to realize that he is hiding in the Impossible Lair, and the very name of that “level” speaks of its difficulty.
An interesting take on all this is the fact that you can try to beat the Impossible Lair level right from the start, but 99.9% of players in the world will fail because simply, it’s too hard. That’s when your real adventure begins. In order to defeat Capital B, you have to free the little bees which will help you in the final battle. Every bee gives you one life, or better to say, you are able to survive one more hit. There are more than 40 bees in this world. This number alone is a hint at how difficult the Impossible Lair level really is.
Each level is perfectly designed. Since the game is made by following the example of Donkey Kong, I can freely say that this game in many moments surpasses that level design which stands for one of the best when it comes to this type of platformers. That also means that mistakes in this game are not forgiven and that you can easily get killed and then you have to start over from the last checkpoint.
What’s interesting is that, unlike in the first game of this, I can already say, franchise, here you don’t have lives; when you die, you lose the leaves which you’re collecting. You use those leaves to buy boosts which you can use while you are trying to beat certain levels. Same as in the games that inspired this one, you’re not forgiven for making mistakes, as I already said, so if you have to start the level from the beginning or from a certain checkpoint, it’s entirely your fault.
The controls are perfect; there’s no lagging at all, and the best thing is that this is the case on all platforms, including Nintendo Switch. So, if you want to do something specific in the game, you have to rely exclusively on your hand-eye coordination skills.
On the other hand, most of the platformers who have been released so far rely on you to beat a certain level in the fastest and best way you can; in other words, speed often reduces the risk of dying in the game. Here, that is not the case. It is very important to carefully analyze the situation, look at everything that the level hides, and then decide which way to go. So, it is recommended to pause, think about your next move, plan it and then begin with its execution.
Another nice touch is the overview of the map after each level. The thing is that it is not just a “map” but it is basically a game for itself. That’s the part where you practically go from one level to another that you want to play. However, that “map” also has its secrets and hidden levels. In order to find them, you have to solve small puzzles that are set in front of you. Therefore, at no point will this game bore you. You’ll find fun even in the parts of it where you least expect it.
Some of the levels are easy to unlock, it happens as you beat the previous one, while some are hidden behind certain gates and shortcuts which you need to unlock first. You do that with coins that you collect when going through levels.
If you want to finish the game, you’ll have to go over some levels time and time again but that doesn’t necessarily have to be a “torture” as many would see it at first. The thing is that the levels change as you make progress so their layout might change when you come back to pick up the rest of the coins. Some will freeze, others might collapse in order to open new passages so, generally speaking, you’ll always find new challenges even at levels you beat multiple times.
Yooka Layle and the Impossible Lair is perhaps one of the best platformers that appeared in the last couple of years. Since we haven’t got a classic Donkey Kong sequel yet, this is a great fix, maybe even better permanent replacement. The best thing is that the game is available for all platforms. Also, when it comes to its performance and graphics, there are no flaws. Playtonic Games has managed to make a perfect platformer in their second try, mostly thanks to going back to the roots of the genre. I give Yooka Layle and the Impossible Lair 9/10.