I very much enjoyed Yooka the Chameleon and Laylee the Bat’s first adventure on my Nintendo Switch, and so I looked forward to the 2D sequel to the 3D platformer game. One of the stranger transitions I’ve heard of, a series starting in 3D and then going into a mainline 2D sequel.
Strangeness aside, or perhaps in part because of it, The Impossible Lair feels like a glorious and surprising modern twist on the old Donkey Kong Country formula. If you’re not old enough to remember DKC, don’t worry. This is an intravenous injection of 200cc of distilled DKC. So if you like this game but wish there was more, you should find a way to play the original Donkey Kong Country trilogy on the Super Nintendo, or barring that the DKC Returns games.
If you’re familiar with the original YookaLaylee or with SNES & N64 era Rareware, you’ve seen this Style before. Colors are lush and vibrant, everything looks like it crawled out of a cartoon, the character designs are expressive, it all comes together well.
Our story begins with the villain of the first game, Capital B, returning along with an awe-inspiring Airship. Using his newly unveiled firepower, the broadly back-sided Bee began a broadside barrage to batter our beloved Bat and Lizard. The Corporate Crook didn’t just come back for revenge though, he came back to Krool the Royal Stingdom. Which by the way is apparently the nation in which both the first and this second game take place.
The heroic pair are granted a temporary boon in the form of the very handy Beettalion shield from the rightful Queen Phoebee. Using the Beettalion shield, which is really a swarm of dutiful Bee Knights defending the user, Yooka, and Laylee quickly break through the onslaught… Things then take an abrupt Southerly turn when Capital B LITERALLY waves a wand to take the Beettalion away for himself to use. This wizardry-esque wand technology is called the Hive Mind and is a device designed to dominate and enslave Bees. Including Queen Phoebee. Fortunately, some misfortune befell the big Bee when his wand went limp. Out of battery. So he left to recharge the wand whilst Yooka, Laylee, and Queen Phoebee are left to formulate a plan.
First, a probably foolhardy attempt is made to topple the aptly named Impossible Lair. YOU CAN WIN THIS WAY. It’s at least immensely unlikely, but you really do start off trying to beat the last level of the game as your first non-tutorial gameplay.
After you and every other human short of demigods & Chuck Norris fail their first attempt, we are brought to the Overworld for the first time. Here we see the setup of our game’s intended progression. Whilst the Beettalion is not in use, the individual members are kept contained across the world. Queen Phoebee uses her Standard Issue Videogame Royalty Magic to summon what I THINK are portals to the locations the Beettalion members are being held? I don’t understand if they were placed within the books or the locations the books connect to. But regardless, a good old fashioned explosive failure occurs whilst the spell summoning the books is cast. Blasting books to places all across the Overworld Map.
Essentially, this begins the rather lengthy quest to topple the titular Impossible Lair. Not easy, as the name implies. To this end, you must travel the Overworld and find the enchanted books and venture through them to free the imprisoned Beettalion members within each, as well as some contained within the Overworld itself. So let’s talk about Gameplay.
Yooka jumps. Stand still and press the Attack button, and he will whip his tail. Press it while running, and he will roll.
If Laylee is with Yooka, his roll’s can be sped up greatly by pressing the button again. This can be used to roll off a platform and jump in midair like a pseudo double jump. Pressing Attack in midair will cause a normally only debatably useful Spin.
Pressing the Left Shoulder button/s while jumping with Laylee will cause a Buddy Slam. Which sends the pair slamming down at high speed. Useful.
You’ll run through 2D stages in traditional platforming manner, avoiding enemies and seeking out hidden goodies while hopefully not while most certainly dying a few more than occasional horrible deaths.
Fortunately for you, Dr. Puzz has returned from the first game with handy devices called Checkmates that mark your progress and return you to life. Considering how she came to be in between species at the moment, one might expect the Checkmates to malfunction eventually. Have fun with that while repeatedly relying on these googly-eyed movie cameras to reconstruct your atoms!
In all truth, they are benevolent inventions. And if you get too stuck, will offer to skip you ahead. They won’t mock you or tell anyone. I was genuinely surprised by this and fully expected Yooka’s head to be replaced with that of a Chicken when I first tried it out. But again, these are inventions by Doctor Puzz, wouldn’t be like her to cock something up now would it?
Within each stage, generally hidden, are five T.W.I.T. coins emblazoned with the face of Trowzer, or some slithering relative, snakes all look like a big ‘ol sack of NOPE to me. These coins will be needed later to pay off the scoundrel at one of several paywalls. Render unto Caesar and all that eh?
You can equip Tonics you find, up to three at once, after you have found and paid for them in Quills you gather throughout stages. Do you need to drink these? How do they work? I sincerely hope Yooka and Laylee are offscreen knocking back crazy cocktails (No doubt Puzz’s creations) that make everything pixelated or black & white. I truly hope this becomes canon, please PlayTonic!
Tonics have many uses but in the ultimate test of the Impossible Lair… You can’t use any of them. Not one. Instead, you’re on a Mission from God to bring the band back together to play Minnie the Moocher live and raise money to save the orphanage you and your buddy grew up in! How is that for motivation? Really feel that tension? Go watch The Blues Brothers.
Oh and the Bettalion shield blocks more attacks with more bees or whatever. Sooo go get lots of bees I guess.
All in all,
YookaLaylee and the IMPOSSIBLE Lair lives up to its name, to the hype, and has surpassed my expectations in nearly every way it could. It has real difficulty in sections, joyously diverse levels, and an unbelievable soundtrack you might actually want to Purchase instead of going all Yo Ho Ho about it.
Get to Bandcamp.com and look for it! It’s somewhere on there I’m fairly sure.
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Robert Kelly Ball
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