Five years ago today, Yooka-Laylee was released on PC, PS4, and Xbox One platforms, with a Switch release coming later that year. It seems safe to say that, in the past five years, there hasn’t been another quite like it. That’s not to say that there haven’t been platformers, as the genre has produced many more modernized games like It Takes Two and Psychonauts 2 in recent years.
None of them capture that same “classic” feel, nor was that their purpose. “Classic” platformers are a thing for a variety of reasons, but Yooka-Laylee tried to capture that lightning in a bottle again when it came out. Comparatively, even Kirby and The Forgotten Land feels like a modern take on a classic, which is perfectly fine, but these classics aren’t made because of age—but how it feels to step into these characters’ shoes.
Yooka-Laylee has been said to be a spiritual successor to Banjo-Kazooie, but it’s more than that. Yooka-Laylee followed in the path of Banjo-Kazooie, Jak and Daxter (Precursor Legacy), Crash Bandicoot, Gex, Spyro, Sly Cooper, and more. Many of these games, though not all, have not had a sequel in years, despite there being a large demand for them. Yooka-Laylee tried to fill that demand with a fresh character, and while perhaps it didn’t work for everybody, it shows how important these classic platformers are.
Yooka-Laylee and Platform Games
Yooka-Laylee had a mixed reception, but part of that was a question of if a new game could be a “classic” platformer. It’s a question worth asking. Some felt that it was trying to simply rake in nostalgia, while others weren’t sure about the approach in a “modern” era. Platform games have generally moved on to bigger and more modern conceits than what simply defined the actual classics. But in the five years since then, there comes another question worth asking: where are these classic platforming games?
Pretty much all the aforementioned characters were considered brand mascots, but that cannot be said of recent platform games. Indeed, there’s certainly room for more new games and characters in the style, but the lack thereof can be felt in games like Yooka-Laylee. This genre defined the industry in the 90s and early 2000s, and some of that pure fun has been lost, converted only to nostalgia. Crash Bandicoot 4 shows there’s a love for these characters as one of the few to get a new game recently, but that's so far and few between. Yooka itself captures an essence that has hardly heard a peep over the past five years when it's clearly something desired and accomplishable. That’s saying something in an industry where anything and everything can stand out.
Yooka-Laylee did get a much better-received sequel in Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, and there is a third Yooka-Laylee game in development. It’s going to be a 3D platformer, much like the original. It doesn’t seem that Yooka-Laylee has given up on the idea of a classic platformer in the modern era, and perhaps one of these days, the gaps between its releases will be filled by those looking to take the same leap—whether with classic characters like Sly Cooper or newcomers.
Yooka-Laylee is available now on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One.
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