Released on: October 8 2019
Available Platforms: PC, Xbox One, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch
Price: $33.99 CDN ($29.99 US)
Not too long ago, I reviewed Yooka-Laylee. I thought that the game had charming characters, and a delightful sense of humor, but had vast worlds with little of interest in them. Yooka-Laylee received mixed reviews across the board, so the announcement of a sequel was quite a shock. Naturally, I didn’t pay much attention to the announcement, but then I started to hear positive things about Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair. I saw that it was on sale on the Nintendo eShop, so I decided to check it out. Is Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair the game to redeem the Yooka-Laylee franchise?
That dastardly Capitol B is at it again. This time, he kidnapped Queen Phoebee’s Royal Beetalion. It is up to our heroes, Yooka and Laylee to save the Royal Beetalion from the evil clutches of Capitol B. I do like how the story is more succinct this time around. What’s more, the Impossible Lair keeps the wit and charm of the original, while not leaning as much into it as its predecessor. What’s more, players can find tidbits and jokes sprinkled across the overworld, adding that much more flavor to the world.
The fact that the Impossible Lair is a two-dimensional game, as opposed to a three-dimensional one works in its favor. The graphical flaws were much more noticeable when I could just walk up to an object and notice how flat the texture was. Because of this shift in perspective, the Impossible Lair has more consistency in its graphical quality than Yooka-Laylee. The art style works spectacularly with the world, and everything just feels more vibrant. A huge improvement over Yooka-Laylee in all visual aspects.
Music is another area in which the Impossible Lair makes leaps and bounds over Yooka-Laylee. The original had music that was decent, but unremarkable. The Impossible Lair on the other hand, has catchy and immersive music. From what I gathered they got Grant Kirkhope (composer of the Banjo-Kazooie games and Yooka-Laylee) and David Wise (who did the music for the Donkey Kong Country games) to score the music and they knocked it out of the park here.
The biggest improvement Impossible Lair brings to the table is its gameplay. Opting to be a side-scrolling platformer reminiscent of Donkey Kong Country did a world of favors for the Yooka-Laylee series. Those who have played Donkey Kong Country will feel right at home with Impossible Lair, being able to run, jump, find secrets, and roll (which no longer costs energy) to deal with enemies. Impossible Lair even manages to incorporate tricks I used to use in Donkey Kong Country. In fact, I noticed that Yooka and Laylee can roll twice in succession, making rolling a fantastic way to get through a level quickly. Yooka can use his tongue to carry berries like Donkey Kong carries barrels. Yooka can aim the berries much better than Donkey Kong, as he can shoot them side to side, and straight up.
Level design was an issue I had in Yooka-Laylee. Fortunately, level design is another huge improvement in Impossible Lair. The secrets are well hidden, but not overly camouflaged, the obstacles are surmountable, but formidable, and the overall presentation of the levels is impressive. Impossible Lair also has alternate versions of each level, like Yooka-Laylee. The alternate versions can, for example, freeze a level that was otherwise verdant, opening new areas of the level to explore. The alternative versions of the levels are a fantastic idea. I love the different perspective and ideas the alternate version offers to the player.
What makes Impossible Lair unique, is the Impossible Lair itself. The game tasks the player to beat the Impossible Lair right as the beginning of the game. Pretty bold of the developers to put the final level at the start of the game. Here’s the thing about the Impossible Lair (the level) … it is extremely difficult. Chances are the player will fail on their first attempt, win which case, they will be kicked out and get suggested they go rescue the trapped Beetalion members. Getting hit in Impossible Lair (the game) causes Laylee to fly around aimlessly for a few seconds. If the player manages to grab a hold of her before she flies away, she returns to Yooka and they have their additional hit back. When Yooka gets hit without Laylee, the player restarts from the last checkpoint. What sets Impossible Lair apart from other platformers is that the player has access to the last level of the game from the get-go. It is recommended that the player save as many Beetalion members as possible, since they give the player an extra hit before losing Laylee while attempting to beat the Impossible Lair (the level).
Beetalion members are not the only thing the player can find while exploring the different levels. Players can find feathers, which act as the game’s main collectible, coins that are hidden in secret areas, and, of course, the Beetalion members themselves that clear the level for the player. The overworld also has a few secrets to find too. There is a lot to find in Impossible Lair, but at no point is it overwhelming.
One weak point to Impossible Lair is the overworld itself. While it is not a big point of contention, I did feel like the overworld does slow down the flow of the game slightly. There are a bunch of characters to talk to, puzzles to solve, and nooks and crannies to explore. It does offer the player a bit of reprieve from the platforming, but the platforming is my favorite part of Impossible Lair.
I will admit, despite being quite familiar with Donkey Kong Country, Impossible Lair is almost perfect in its controls, but it is a little bit loose. It does feel like Yooka can slide off platforms a little too easily. I do acknowledge that ninety-nine percent of the deaths are my fault, and that it is just a matter of getting acclimated to how Yooka controls, but it is worth noting all the same. Yooka also only has one speed when playing a level and when in the overworld. The run speed in the level is fine, but Yooka seems to move slightly too slow for my liking in the overworld. These are not huge issues; they are more of a nitpick.
Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a colossal improvement over the original. Better visuals, superior music, improved controls and more things to find make Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair a definite recommendation.