Xbox One Review: Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair

Yooka Laylee Country Returns…

Yooka & Laylee are back in a brand-new platform hybrid adventure. They must run, jump and roll their way through a series of challenging 2D levels, face a puzzling Overworld and rally the Royal Bee-tallion to take down Capital B and his Impossible Lair.

I loved the original Yooka-Laylee as well as it’s spiritual successor Banjo-Kazooie and its sequels, which I hold up as one of my favourite series next to the likes of Zelda and Mario. But not everyone enjoyed the original Yooka-Laylee which I still don’t understand…I loved it so much I got the game twice for PS4 and Xbox One and guess what? I plan on doing exactly the same thing with The Impossible Lair, which is more a homage to Donkey Kong Country than Banjo, which I didn’t expect…but at the same time, it works and it works well.

You begin battling Capital B in an unwinnable boss fight, after your defeat you discover you can get extra hit points against him and his Impossible Lair by completing levels and collecting Bee-tallion soldiers to power up your shield for a potential total of 48 extra hits. The game’s levels play out like Donkey Kong Country with it’s platforming and instead of collecting the KONG letters, you instead collect T.W.I.T coins that you trade with Trowser to open barriers called Paywalls in an obvious dig to microtransactions.

All in all, there are 20 levels but these can each be manipulated in the Overworld to give an alternate level, resulting in 40 levels. For instance, you can throw honey in a cauldron for it to throw up on the level book, resulting in sticky surfaces for you to climb areas you couldn’t beforehand. The Overworld itself is a like a big level in itself as you try and solve how to unlock the alternate states for levels, as well as collecting Tonics that can give you bonuses like extra checkpoints or just silly visual effects like different resolutions, playing in black-and-white or even in pixelated form. There are dozens of them scattered and finding them all is no small feat, I’ve played the game a lot and am still missing around 20. The game also has billboards that you can pay for tips on how to find tonics, but one even tells you that there is no tip in-game and that it should surface online, which was no help to me since there’s no online guide or tips just yet.

Some of the levels have secret exits, which is how you can some of the remaining 8 squad members of the Bee-tallion, while others can be accessed in hidden paths in the Overworld. But so far, I’ve only found half and have been racking my brains to find the last 4. The T.W.I.T coins are also well hidden and took me a good number of playthroughs of each level to find them all, which in turn grants you a fourth Tonic slot from Trowser.

The finale always comes down to facing off against Capital B like you did in the beginning of the game, but even at this point with 44 extra hit points…I can see why it’s called The Impossible Lair, which is a combination of boss fights and platforming stages designed from the pits of hell. The difficulty spike definitely leaps forward here, which makes me hope that there’s some added bonus for collecting all the Bee-tallion soldiers, which I hope to discover the second a guide comes out with the Secret Exit locations!

Visually, The Impossible Lair is a charming game that is vibrant and well detailed. It runs smoothly despite coming across some areas where I was able to actually burst through invisible walls to fall endlessly, which to be fair…only happened like 2-3 times. The humour that comes with Yooka is obviously thanks to members of the original Banjo team and it still shines through well here, while the soundtrack is superb thanks to the likes of legendary composer Grant Kirkhope. I honestly still hum his Banjo tunes randomly to this day!

The Verdict

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a superb homage to Donkey Kong Country, while not losing its identity as a Banjo spiritual successor. The decision to not make a direct sequel seems to have paid off and while I hope that the next game will go back to Banjo-type, I would still like to see a sequel of kinds to Impossible Lair or even just a few levels set in the style. One thing is for certain, this is the surprise game of 2019 and deserves to be played.

Score: 9.0