Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Yooka-Laylee Review & What Should Come Next


Banjo-Kazooie (hereafter written as BK) is one of my favorite games of all time, in my opinion, it exceeds Mario 64. I think Yooka-Laylee (YL) is as good as the original BK game.

Yes, I recommend it to people like me who loved BK. No, it is not a game for everyone.

One thing that makes BK & YL so special is characters and story, strangely enough. Recent Mario games have bored me for this reason. Mario does the same thing over and over, beat level, kill Bowser. Yooka talks to shopping carts with eyeballs, and I think that’s hilarious. YL and BK have more personality than Mario, in that way. Also, the story is different, changing. Each World in Mario is the same, get to the castle, defeat the boss, save princess/toad. Each World in BK & YL has a different story, and the characters all have different issues. Drop pigs off in helicopters, save a skeleton from being stewed, console a cloud with marital issues, make bubbles in a sentient hot tub, etc.

Mario used to have different villains… Tatanga, Cackletta, Mouser, Wario, Smithy, Wart… but Nintendo recently has been sticking with Bowser for every single game, and it’s growing very dull for me. I guess this is a side note, but I would love a 3D Mario where he returns to Subcon or a brand new enemy entirely.

Anyway, I enjoyed my time with YL, and I believe anyone wishing for the next BK (no more, no less) will be happy with it.

Although, I must say that I encountered a game-breaking bug that is preventing me from getting the platinum trophy on PS4. Somehow, even after collecting all of the chips on Capital Cashino, I still am missing ten. My game shows 0/10 chips, even though I’ve turned all 190 in. I still have a Pagie missing. I’ve read online that this is a common glitch, when you turn in many chips at once and the game forgets to give you a Pagie. I’ve also read on Twitter that Playtonic is going to fix this issue.

So, yeah, I’m mad about that. I still like the game, but I wanted the platinum trophy, and now I’m locked out of it unless they patch the game.

OXYBORB.COM Official Review Score for Yooka-Laylee: 7/10   Now, I scored this as is with a caviot: If Playtonic releases a patch so that I can get the Platinum Trophy without replaying the entire game, then I will bump the score up by 1 whole point.


by the way, all screen shots were taken by ME during my playthrough



Now, on to the constructive criticism:

I’m an idea guy. I don’t just like to critique, I like to creatively think through suggestions to make games better. This is what I plan on doing with YL. 

 

First, let’s talk about Kartos.

The minecart-themed challenges in YL are meant to throw you back to the old rides in the classic Donkey Kong Country games. I’ve beaten all of these challenges, and the cart-boss, too. None of them are impossible. However, they each have issues that strike against the fun factor.

I would love to see Kartos return in Yooka-Laylee 2 under the condition that his challenges are vastly improved. Here’s how:

1. Straight lines only; no turns, no 3D – the challenges in each stage are set over the stages themselves. The tracks appear floating above the sets, weirdly. They curve around towers/mountains/etc. to fit within the bounds. This, however, is not a good thing for several reasons:
  • A. Curving around makes it harder to see what’s coming next, so instead of skill at carting, victory is based on luck and rote memorization.
  • B. If you jump/boost when a turn happens, your minecart can fly off the stage. This happened to me. This is really frustrating, given that there are many, many obstacles, to avoid, some during turns, that are hard to see.
  • C. The cannon fires straight, regardless of curve. So, basically, you can’t shoot barrels or other stuff when there’s a curve. The curve renders the cannon useless.

2. Set each challenge in a cave, not over the surrounding stage – This piggybacks off of #1. If there was one generic cave background for all the cart challenges, then you wouldn’t need to set the tracks floating in the stages themselves. This, for one thing, would make the carting feel more realistic and moody (track hovering over ice castles and casinos is out of place), and also ensure that the carting can happen on a 2D, straight track. The other BIG reason for this is because it’s hard to see the gems, hazards, and jumps with such crazy backgrounds going on behind you. I’d much rather have a mostly-black, cave theme.

3. No more shooting – the cannon is not fun. I don’t enjoy having to shoot barrels to avoid crashing. Also, the cannon hardly ever hits the target, even when I do shoot. This is either because the curvature of the track in 3D space, because when you jump the cannon fires at an angle rather than straight, or because when you land from jumping there’s a few seconds of weirdness that make the cannon shoot in weird directions. Even if the cannon was fixed to shoot straight, I would not want it to return. Like Donkey Kong Country, I want to only be thinking about jumping while carting.

4. Speaking of jumping, let’s talk about that. One of the few movements Donkey Kong does while carting was jumping out of the cart, often to jump on top of enemies. Banjo, and now Yooka, are not Mario, they do not jump on top of enemies to kill them. So, YL solves this by having the entire minecart jump when Yooka jumps, and so the minecart can “hop” on the heads of enemies. The issue with this is that the giant apparatus of 3-characters-in-1 is bulky and the unforgiving game is more likely to give you damage rather than consider the enemy “jumped.” OK, now the fix idea I have for this is to just allow Yooka to purchase “Head Jump” from Trowser in the next game. This would allow him to jump out of the cart and on top of enemies. Done. Fixed. Yooka should jump higher, like DK, out of the cart, and then land back in it as needed. Just make sure the jump goes the same speed as the cart, please.

5. No bees, pick a different enemy, please. One that doesn’t explode when you kill it.

6. Less hazards in general. It seems like the devs got so good at playing the minecarts that they just kept upping the difficulty to unbearable levels. Think about this, sometimes I go play the minecart levels from Donkey Kong Country just for funsies. They have the right difficulty, a perfect balance of hazards and calm. I do not have any urge to replay the Yooka-Laylee cart levels because they are so ridiculously overly hazard-filled that they are not fun.

7. The camera needs to move OUT. I want to see more of the track. I want to be able to see what is coming ahead of me rather than just memorizing it.
8. The breaking/boosting thing needs to go. No more of that. Keep it simple. Think DK Country. I want to focus entirely on jumping, not whether or not I can make a jump by boosting.

9. The boss, I.N.E.P.T., was ALMOST great, but the pattern for jumping over the big spikey balls was impossible to do without taking damage. I honestly do not believe it is possible to avoid them all. Either that, or the pattern is so complex gamers cannot possibly learn it. Playtonic, as a player, I only want to take damage because of MY fault, not because the game’s fault. 

10. There needs to be a “RETRY” button, selectable at any time after starting and even after you die, so that way you do not have to go through the dialog with Kartos each time you die.

11. BONUS ROUND: You should add a minecart maker that allows you to send new tracks to your friends’ games to attempt to beat. That way if we want ridiculously hard levels, we can make them.


Use my suggestions, and I promise minecarting will be a POSITIVE part of your next game, and not a NEGATIVE in a review.


 

Next, let’s talk about Rextro Sixtyfourus and the minigames.

For one thing, it seems like they had to reuse assets because of development time, when they originally meant to make retro-looking minigames. I get that they didn’t have time, but it would have been cool to see some pixel art to match the retro-dino. Now, I have not played any of these minigames with other people, so I can’t speak about how fun they are with friends.

But I will rank them as far as how much I enjoyed them:

1. Gun-let Run
2. Jobstable Course
3. Blag the Flag

4. Bee Bop
5. Glaciators
6. Kartos Karting
7. Up ‘N’ Nova
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8. Hurdle Hijinx

Now, what strikes me as crazy is that my top 3 favorite minigames are the ones not featured in the single-player game. WTF?? They are the best ones, and yet you don’t earn pagies from them. Weird. Most of the minigames are easy enough, but I will say in general, remove the BEES from ALL of them. For example, in the Kartos one, if you shoot a bee it explodes, but the bees are all around corners and cannot be shot until you’re close. How annoying is that?

Side note, there needs to be a “RETRY” button, selectable at any time after starting and even after you die, so that way you do not have to go through the dialog with Rextro each time you die/fail.

Also, if I beat the high score on the first try, then I deserve to earn the high score and get the second Pagie WITH the first. Perhaps, I suggest, one Pagie could be collected within the game, somehow, like by driving into it or finding a secret within the minigame, and the second can be for the high score.

The only minigame that sucks is Hurdle Hijinx, which is sad because it could have been fun. Much like the Kartos minecart challenges, there are just too many hazards and therefore becomes infuriating rather than fun. You don’t lose Hurdle Hijinx because you mess up, you lose because the game isn’t good. Hurdle Hijinxs has serious framerate hiccups that keeps you from jumping. The jump often won’t allow you to switch lanes for no reason at all, and I don’t understand that. The roll move is useless, in fact trying to roll through more than one bad guy at a time will cost you a life. And if you get damaged, you die. It takes a huge chunk of your score and then sends you back so far that you’re not even on your television set anymore. This could have been more fun if your character ran in the middle of the screen rather than right at the very bottom. If this game had less hazards, it would have actually been a pretty fun game all by itself. The concept is really cool.





 

One of the coolest parts of YL: the minigolf courses.

The Capital Cashino’s golf course is nearly perfect. It’s one of the best challenges in the game, and I loved it.

The Black-Hole In One has one design flaw that was very frustrating: the gates. I didn’t think it was fun to have to run to a sonar-statue every few seconds to unlock a gate to pass my ball through. I loved the windmill (and I didn’t even know that there was a button) and all the rest, but the gate was annoying.

Don’t impede players like that. It was just really unneeded. Think about actual minigolf, there’s never a time when you have to go push a button to unlock a gate for your ball. If the gates automatically went up and down, that’d be a different story, but the fact that I had to stop playing golf to unlock the gate was annoying.


But I want MORE GOLF in YL2!

In fact, this could be a really cool multiplayer challenge. I would rather have a golf challenge in each level than a retro game or minecart challenge, in fact. Might even be cool if balls of all sorts were littered throughout the game and Trowser sold a “Golf Swing” move to really give you a good hit.



About the Boss Battles:

First, I’ll rank them in terms of which I enjoyed the most:

1. Trev the Tenteyecle
2. Capital B
3. The Great Rampo

-
4. Brrreeze Blok
5. I.N.E.P.T.

6. Planette


The first three were good, the last three were bad.

Trev the Tenteyecle was the best, most fair boss in the game. Also, his section sported the best graphics in the game. Just a wonderful battle and very fun. Maybe even the best part of the entire game. Capital B was hard but fair. I died a lot but it never felt frustrating, only made me want to try better! Rampo became frustrating because of the amount of health you lose when you slide down (and then going off to collect butterflies repeatedly), hitting each level of logs along the way, but it was unique and fun too.

Brrreeze Blok was uninteresting and easy. Kind of seemed thrown in rather than thought out. I.N.E.P.T. was cheap, forcing players to take damage because the attack patterns were impossible. Planette was all just random chance. The ship transformation was hard to control in the controlled space of the boss fight, and so Planette’s projectiles were unavoidable. I mean, to turn, you had to switch the way you hold the joystick when you reach the walls or you just stop turning. Totally weird controls. Planette and I.N.E.P.T. were the worst because losing wasn’t the player’s fault, but the game’s. Winning equated to random chance rather than skill.

So, the best thing to remember when designing bosses for YL2 is this: When the player can only blame himself for losing, players enjoy the challenge and try harder. When the player has to blame the game’s cheapness or random chance for losing, then the player gets frustrated because there’s not much he can do.

Also, like the retro games and minecart, bosses need a quick retry button.


 

Powerups and downs

I LOVE that Yooka can eat stuff and become stuff and shoot stuff. The character design of the buddy duo is fantastic in that way. The range of moves is awesome. I also really like how Yooka can both become sticky honey man AND shoot snowballs at the same time. Very cool way to create combos.
What I don’t like is that the powerups disappear quickly. I know there’s a tonic for that, but you can only have one (and Fallproof is essential! Duh!) we’ll talk about tonics later. Somehow, I suppose powerups replace the eggs in BK, just as the stamina bar replaces the need to collect feathers and other stuff. I LIKE the stamina bar, and I also like that you no longer need specific platforms for flight and spring jumps. I love being able to fly wherever I am.

But when it comes to fire/water/ice flowers, then it gets a little annoying. I wish they were just ammo that I could collect and store.

My suggestion is this: You can shoot your ammo from anywhere. D-down is shoot. To switch between ammo options, just click left and right on the D-pad. Hold Triangle to access the emotions that currently reside on the D-pad.
The problem with the powerups disappearing on their own is that it turns every challenge that uses them into a timed challenge. You have to complete something in a certain amount of time. I hate being rushed in an open world game like this.


Speaking of timed challenges

It felt like too many challenges were on a timer, and that detracts from the fun. I hate being rushed. There was one in the Hivory Towers that is like a giant slide, and I kept missing the goal by 1 second. It took hours to beat, and it was painful (I beat it to get the platinum [which I can’t get because of the Cashino glitch, grrr!]). Had that challenge not had a timer, it would have been perfectly fun, though. Open world games should be more open ended.



Transformations compared to Banjo-Kazooie

The transformations are OK in YL. They aren’t as special as in BK, and I think I know why: In BK, each transformation made you more capable of movement around the level. In YL, each transformation makes you less capable of movement.
BK’s bee allowed you to fly, the termite could climb better, the croc could swim through piranha water, the walrus let you swim in cold water, the pumpkin could squeeze through holes, whereas YL’s flower prevents you from jumping, the snow plow is hard to control and slides off platforms into water constantly, the piranhas prevent you from leaving the water, and the helicopter makes you fly slower than you fly as normal YL. The pirate ship might be the exception.

In YL2, I want weirder transformations. The everyday automotives are now played out. How about an armadillo? A monster? A UFO? A broomstick? What if you could become a shovel and then play as Shovel Knight? A raccoon or squid would be cool.


Worlds, ranked

The best worlds in order:

1. Tribalstack Tropics
2. Moodymaze Marsh

3. Galleon Galaxy
4. Hivory Towers (the hub world)

5. Glitterglaze Glacier
6. Capital Cashino


I liked the worlds just fine. The hub world is fantastic! Cashino was good, even though I rank it last. It just felt emptier than the rest, and too many of the challenges were slot machines.


My ideas for new worlds:

World: Deep Dark Wood

Theme: pumpkins and creepy beasts haunt the dreary woods, almost an ode to the original Banjo-Kazooie’s Click Clock Wood but with more of a Halloween feel to make it different. A spooky mansion can be somewhere inside, as well as a family of witches wishing to fly to the moon and raccoons who are starving for trash.
           
Transformation: Either a raccoon or broomstick. A raccoon could climb the sides of trees and speak to raccoons or trashcans. A broomstick could fly and help witches complete tasks.
           
Moves to learn: Sonar-Sight, which allows you to see certain enemies and objects through walls.
Swing Launch – Yooka can grab vines and bars and swing from them


World: Coral Reef Corral

Theme: Deep within the ocean, Yooka and Laylee will find themselves in an underwater western, where a rancher of underwater squiddies needs your help.

Transformation: Squid – shoot through the water with a jet (like when Mario grabs a koopa shell in Mario Galaxy), sputter out ink, and also speak with Cthulu

Moves to learn: Batwing Swim – makes the swimming much better to control, like when Mario gets the frog suit
Bubble-lash – Yooka can now tongue-up bubbles to restore his air meter


World: Beanstalk Battlements

Theme: Set around a castle on a cloud, a family of giants stalk the area.

Transformation: UFO – controls like the past game’s helicopter, only MUCH faster. You can zoom around the level. You also have a tractor beam on your underside that allows you to pick up stuff and lasers for weapons.

Moves to learn: Jetboost – During flight, Yooka’s tongue lashes out on pillar points, launching YL into a jet boost [while still flying]
Dive Bomb – YL can now dive bomb during flight, soaring down and then swooping back up into the sky, sort of like Batman in the Arkham games




Tonics
 I love tonics. You should be able to pick more than just one at a time. I LOVE the one that prevents fall damage, but I can’t also use helium-voices? Why not? Why not just let the player decide how many to use? Or, at least, let me pick 3.


What I want from YL2 or DLC:

New Worlds, obviously.

Camera mode – I love taking screen shots… would be great to take better ones with a real camera mode like Horizon: Zero Dawn has.

A new set of expansions to purchase [with pagies] for existing worlds.

A Trophy Room: would be cool to go back to your ship and see some of the stuff you’ve collected or some random objects from your adventures. That party you see at the end of the game makes me think… maybe some of the characters you help can show up at the Bat Ship Crazy just to admire your “trophies” you collect during the game.