For so many genres 2017 was a very solid year and nowhere is this more true than with the 3D platformer, a genre that had been largely dormant for years came back in a big way with many fantastic games. And while I technically appreciated Super Mario Odyssey more than Yooka-Laylee, I can’t deny the intense feelings of nostalgia that Playtonic’s debut game delivered all wrapped around a very solid gameplay design and artistic presentation. When I consider all of the games that came out in 2017, I really feel like the one that meant the most to me, personally would be Yooka-Laylee.
For many years, there was something missing in the industry as a whole. Rare’s N64-era platformers, with games like Banjo-Kazooie (and Tooie), Donkey Kong 64 and Conker’s Bad Fur Day were defining titles of the era that hold a lot of special memories for not only myself but a whole generation of players. However the genre seemed to fall out of style for about a decade and half with not many notable games being released in that span. Yooka-Laylee however brings the tell-tell style back in a big way and feels like a love letter to some of my favorite games of the N64-era and it nails everything that made those games so special.
But it’s not just the gameplay that makes Yooka-Laylee special but the game’s presentation is nothing short of world-class. The graphics are impressive and feel like what we would have gotten if the Nintendo 64 was capable of HD visuals and the characters all come to life with sharp animations and personalities that really shine through. But of course we can’t talk about Yooka-Laylee without talking about the fantastic soundtrack and perfectly fits with the style and tone of the game. This is a game that is just as much fun listening through as it is actually playing it and that’s a very special and unique feeling.
It’s very true that Yooka-Laylee has divided many fans of the genre, and while those feelings are definitely legitimate I honestly can’t think of a video game I fell more in love with in 2017 than this one. The gameplay is spot on, the story hilarious, the graphics well done, the art style is sharp and the soundtrack is world-class. This is a game that just hits all the right notes and is simply a blast to play from start to finish. So while it might not be the ‘technical’ best game of the year, it stands as my personal favorite and a game I will always strongly recommend to fans of the genre.