Friday, May 19, 2017

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Yooka-Laylee"

...yeah, no. Totally still topical, right?

I was a big fan of Rare when I was growing up, still would be if they weren't the dilapidated corpse that Microsoft has turned them into, producing...that game I cannot mention without breaking out into a rage-induced rant.

No, not that one.

But yes, I was a fan of Rare. When I heard that Playtonic was made up of former Rare employees and they were working on a spiritual sequel to the Banjo-Kazooie series, I was delighted! Ecstatic, even!

Then they dropped JonTron as a voice.

And yes, I'm aware of all the things that went along with that. It's their business and he himself even said he was understanding of their decision. So that's put to bed as far as I'm concerned, much as it would have been nice to have him in the finished product.

Then we got the finished product.

Let's unpack this a bit, shall we?

Yooka-Laylee is the tale of a lizard and bat who totally are not suspiciously-similar to a certain bear and bird. They live in a shipwreck that they dub the "Bat Ship Crazy" (HA!) and are the keepers of an old book that suddenly gets sucked up into the sky because of the machinations of an evil bee known as...Capital B. This bee, working from his hideout in the Hivory Towers is totally not at all similar to a certain evil witch in that served a similar role in that other game. It appears the book that they got a hold of is "The One Book" - a book that can rewrite the laws of reality completely. Thus with the pages (called "Pagies") out and about across various worlds within the hub of the Hivory Towers, Yooka and Laylee head out to reclaim it.

Aided by a snake named Trowser (HA!), a scientific octopus named Dr. Puzz, and sentient vending machine known as Vendi, the duo will gather all the moves, transformations, and tonics they need to defeat the Capital B and keep him from using the One Book to rewrite the universe to his whims.

No doubt the pages will inevitably lead to a wide conspiracy about the meaning of background items and their references to future games.

Or, y'know...they could just spend their time cracking jokes about Swop N' Stop and other Banjo-Kazooie related things.

I joke, but there's legitimately two (count them - one, two) Ice Keys that crop up. Because references to past glories are far better than making anything new.

And that, really, is the problem I have with this game on the whole - it really, really wants to be a Banjo-Kazooie game so hard it burns. So much so that it doesn't really try anything new. Sure, there are a few tweaks and variations on things, but it's trying too hard to recapture the feeling of the original two games and not focusing enough on being its own thing. Some would say I shouldn't complain. After all, Playtonic could have just thrown non-sequitur cars in for no adequately explored reason because a man with a television set for a head told them to.

Yes, I'm still pissed off. What of it?

But the fact remains that this would make a very good Banjo-Kazooie game. And, mechanically, it does. Yooka and Laylee homage the bear and bird they're spawned from in their movesets, species-oriented differences aside. I could see many of these moves easily fitting into Banjo and Kazooie's arsenal with a little bit of a name and anatomy change.

I understand the use of the formula and them wanting to tap into the nostalgia. But from both the standpoint of creating something new...they really didn't. Even Yooka and Laylee could very easily just be replaced with Banjo and Kazooie and there'd be no real difference. Their personalities are so similar as to be indistinguishable (Yooka being perhaps a bit more eager to get on with the adventure than Banjo was).

The collectibles nature of the game was enough, and there's certain plenty to collect: pages, quills, and ghosts that are totally not Jinjos. But the game is self-referential to the point where the original game (which was, itself, self-referential) is telling it to stop. It doesn't allow us to really go in different directions or explore anything new that hasn't been or wouldn't have been in a proper Banjo-Kazooie game. In trying to recapture the past, Playtonic didn't really get what made the game a huge success in the first place.

While Yooka-Laylee does bring some colorful characters to the table, not a lot of them are memorable. In Banjo-Kazooie? Some of the background characters are memorable. They were awash with personality and humor. The humor is here...if it's a little less leaning on the fourth wall and more breaking it entirely when the characters have to refer to the fact that they're in a game every five minutes...but none of the personality. If we had some unique development of the main duo as characters, that would be something.

And that's not to say that there aren't some unique and interesting characters in Yooka-Laylee, there are...but they just lack that memorability, or are Banjo-Kazooie characters who have been painted over. There's nothing new here. You have the full recaptured feel of a platformer from the Nintendo 64 days...but that's it. It's a recaptured feel, and it's definitely good if you want that particular itch scratched. But it doesn't really do anything new, and it feels like a game that was pulled right out of that long-ago era.

So yes, it's good mechanically as I've said...but it's also because the formula is a tried and true one, not because of anything Playtonic has actually done to update it, or to create a memorable cast of characters and carry the game through on their charm. If you haven't already and want to get your collect-a-thon on, go for it! If not...this probably isn't the game for you, sorry to say. Even if you were a Banjo-Kazooie fan.

Yooka-Laylee is now available from Playtonic Games and Team 17 for Linux, macOS, Microsoft Windows, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, May 5, 2017

MadCap At The Movies - "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2"

Twice the Guardians! Twice the Galaxy! Twice the fun!

Also, spoilers. And obscure references.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is now in theaters from Marvel Entertainment.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, be sure to follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.