It’s Impossible! … Not To Have Fun! Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair Review

Konichi-what a satisfying feeling, to treat yourself to a game for your birthday and have it be as good as The Impossible Lair is to me! For those who read my rambling and store them in their head a bit , it might not come as a surprise but one of my favourite Platforming franchises of all times was Donkey Kong Country.  I adored those games. So the Sequel to the already amazing Yooka Laylee came out.. and it would mimic the classic Donkey Kong Country games rather than the Banjo Kazooie franchise. I was more than hyped to play this. I figured content would be a bit lacking though so I bided my time to find a good sale.. I sure as heck got my money’s worth now!

Don’t Worry BEE Happy

The Impossible Lair is the second Yooka Laylee game by Playtonics Games, published by team 17.  It enjoys moderate success on Meta-Critic with about a 7.7 user score consistent out of 78 positive reviews, 17 negative ones and 9 mixed ones. I’d say the grade is slightly low.. but that is because this game comes with a bit of a warning and unique concept.  The game has a self imposed style difficulty level, with a rather steep drop in the deep at the end.  It is a game without difficulty settings but instead, you as the player are more or less free to determine your own difficulty level. This however.. does not apply for the final level.. which is a very harsh stage. One life.. and if you lose.. you get booted out of the level.. and since it’s a 30 minute level… it isn’t easy!  Lots of people do not like this system and think the last level is unfair.. but I honestly don’t believe it is. It’s a very natural evolution of the old school difficulty system that blends in perfectly with the ban on traditional stock of lives. Most people play this game the wrong way I think.. and I might have found the perfect way to do it!

The entire concept of this game is that the final stage of the game is also the very first stage of the game. A small story tells you how Capital B, the franchise enemy uses a device called the Hivemind to control all the bees in the world. This leads the queen of the Stingdom to be overpowered and her precious shield gets stolen. Yooka and Laylee but in the fight and get to play the Impossible Lair stage from the beginning. In theory.. you can beat this game  in about half an hour.. if you are a god tier gamer..  there even is an achievement tied to it.. YET people think.. because there is an achievement for it.. it should be doable.. but this game takes a different approach.. it shows you through the achievement it is near impossible to do this. Like.. offering a money fee to people who can hack into your new security system.. it’s not like you want to hand out that price.. you are confident that your thing is impossible to crack!

This rubs a lot of people the wrong way with this game.. but I , who was born without the ability to give any fudges about prestige like things such as achievements or victories over others.. and is just here for the fun,  love this idea. Based on what type of gamer you are you can immediately see if pursuing “platinum” is something you can do.. and I can not!  .. But I am getting a bit of track here! Once you die in the first stage you get booted out and the overworld opens up.. here you can travel to twenty five-ish chapters by exploring the overworld and exploring the stages.  Using T.W.IT. Coins you find in stages and beating special stages you unlock more and more areas in the overworld and learn more about the game.  Inside the stages  you try to make it to the end and free.. one of the 48 beettalion bees. Why? because they become your hit points for tackling that final stage! Man I love that concept!

To BEEt or not to BEEt that is the question

Yes I know I spelled that wrong

Here is how most people tackle this game.. okay so I need to free all the bees.. and then go tackle the final stage.  Most negative comments I’ve seen are of people trying to rush things. Just beat all the stages and gather the bare minimum of T.W.IT. Coins to go through the final stage without any disadvantages or advantages.. This however is the WRONG way to go about that.  The game technically is fairly hard.. though with infinite lives all stages are beatable.. so many people delude themselves that just by beating the game you are good enough for that final stage.. then they plunge into a half hour gauntlet of grueling challenges completely unprepared for what is to come. Most negative reviews say “I was having a lot of fun with this game, then I reached the final stage and could not beat it.. what a fricked up game 0 out of 10… Well first of all if you have 90% fun… just don’t like the last stage.. it is NOT a 0 out of 10 game. This game makes it fairly clear it’s not about beating it. In fact I would have been perfectly content with getting across the finish and just enjoy playing in some very fun stages. See how far you get!

Yet I think if these people played the game the way I play it.. they would have had a lot more fun!  You see.. beating an area , instead of going to the next one first I take a crack at the Impossible Lair first.. to see how far my current Beetalion will get me!   Usually that isn’t very far.. because the final stage REALLY is hard.. but this means I slowly make my way through sections of the stage.. getting a feel for the layout of the place. If I get tripped up by a section with a lot of buzzsaws .. I then will make sure that I 100% complete a stage (as in find all T.W.I.T. Coins)  as a practice for that section.  I then move on to get the next batch of bees and repeat this process.  Yes I failed a few times in the last stage.. but this way I am not going in blind and in the end have to do a 30 minute stage blind. I notice I am keeping my bees with me for longer as I go as well. But here is the truth.. YOU ARE GOING TO LOSE… just like retro games gave you a game over resetting all progress.. this game mimics that by just yeeting you out the final stage without checkpoints. You get good by losing.. not by beating stages.  That’s how these games always worked.. Now there is just a lot of stuff built in to have fun with.. without beating the final stage.

BEE a Hunter

The story in this game is practically non-existent ,  an evil guy causes trouble. .you have to travel to his castle to beat his ass… and that is exactly why I love this game so much. Never did I feel compelled that I needed to see the ending, it’s just a part of the skeleton that can help you have fun.. but even if you miss a single bone  somewhere.. you can probably still have fun! Finishing this game is a cherry on top of a sundae.. or for me.. a chocolate pudding as I don’t like Ice Cream.  It’s not the ULTIMATE goal needed to enjoy the game. There is so much to do that can give you satisfaction.. beat all the  48 regular stages! Find all the tonics in the overworld.. solve all the pagie challenges. Open all the Paywalls (These are the names for checkpoints you open with the T.W.I.T.  coin resource).  There is cute dialogue from familiar and unfamiliar NPC the overworld is colourful and creative and allows you to use all your platforming skills in a 3d setting.. almost in a zelda-esque way.  There is so much to do!  This is a 12-ish hour platform game and that is a lot for the genre!

Tonics make your life easier or harder.. you find them hidden in the overworld, once found you unlock them with feathers, you can carry three at the same  time and these provide modifiers to the game world, some make your life easier.. for example I used the “do not lose T.W.I.T. coins after death”  one.. This one makes sure I keep my coins even if I do not bring them to a checkpoint in time! This means I can leap to my death to obtain some of these.. saving me a lot of frustration. This does mean however that the feathers I collect at the end of the stage get reduced.. to compensate for that I use a tonic that sticks googly eyes on the enemy making them look more cute.. but gives them two hit points instead of one! Which increases my feather count.  Then I use a tonic that makes Laylee the bat.. more tranquil..
In this game you start with two hitpoints. In phase one you have Laylee riding on Yooka but once you take a hit she begins to panic and flap about.. if you can  collect her before you take another hit or you are fine you regenerate that hitpoint.. if she flies away.. your can not be hit anymore or suffer your demise.  So having her more stable allowed me to try some zanier stunts. There are a lot of fun modifiers, such as inverted controls for more feathers, more invisibility frames for less feathers and lots and lots of visual modifiers for no other reason than just to have fun!

“But wait A minute Pinkie.. did you not just say there were 48 bees to collect.. but only 25 chapters.. how does that work”… well my sharp eyed friend.. or people pretending to be clever to the insight I just provided…  Most stages have two varients.  You can unlock a second mode by interaction with the overworld. For example a book on a pond might indicate a stage featuring lots of water elements but by eating an ice fruit and having Yooka spit it at the stage portal.. that same stage is suddenly frozen solid.. which completely alters the stage layout and path.  These alternate stages are very fun and it’s always a surprise to see what happens. There is a stage where the book gets covered in sticky honey suddenly turning a horizontal stage into a vertical stage. There is also a certain book you can read the wrong way.. suddenly you have to backtrack this level.. chased by deadly lasers.. but since there is so little time.. you more or less travel atop of the first stage.  Think of these as the reversed levels of Yoshi’s crafted world.. but done a lot better. It’s not just beating the stage that is a challenge.. it’s also finding a way to unlock the counterpart in the overworld that is a delight.

Finally there are the Pagie challenges, the collectable/Jiggy variant from the first game is back in this game.. not to be collected by you but to use that power you unlocked before in your favour.. but you have to prove your worth to them. The challenge is simple .. beat all the enemies in a single screen without dying and the pagies will reshape the overworld. Allowing you to find more tonics, unlock more alternate stages, get more hit points for the final stage.. or even just find hint signs that provide you with clues where to find a particular type of treasure. Most of the time you can choose what you want to focus on to make progress.  You will need to collect some coins in the stages to get past paywalls in the next areas but I never had too much trouble getting enough of those things without straining myself or feeling I was forced to do this. Even if i did .. feel like “I really should get extra coins in this stage” I either made it training for the final stage OR I decided to reward myself with a vanity tonic and would use my hunt for the coins to reward myself with vanity! It’s super fun and motivating that way.. everything just reinforces each other.

This might STING a bit

Is this a perfect game? No!… Yet in sale I only payed like 10 euro for it and King Coconut and the Shy Coconut helped the blog get some funds for reviewing projects like those..as well as the Buddy Coconut.. so I was super content.  I do have a hand full of grips with the game though. First of all I find the music slightly forgettable.. I love the overworld team and for good reason. It’s Grant Kirkhope. It is fantastic. He made music for both the original and for Banjo Kazooie and it has that distinct feel.  He doesn’t do stuff for the 2d stages and that is okay.. because his style fits the overworld more.. that feels a bit Banjo-esque.. The 2d stages feel like Donkey Kong.. and two people where put  in charge of this Matt Griffin, who does a very good job at capturing that DK spirit but making it feel original and  David Wise.. who makes every stage he designs the soundtrack off sound like that Royalty Free Ukulele music that is everywhere on YouTube… Can you guess which one is the one I consider a downside?! A few stages in and you can really tell who is who and that kind of irked me a bit.  On the one hand we hear how good the music can be.. on the other hand we see what I as an anime fan would call.. musical filler episodes. Blegh! Luckily half of the music is still good!

The second issue I have with the game is it’s level design.. well that is the wrong worth.. the level “assets” and esthetics.  While it is nice that zones are themed we do not get that many themes and it all has this really familiar aspect. The buildings in the desert world look different from the ones in the forest world.. but it feels more like a skin change than an actual change in the assets.. The best way to describe this is.. that everything in the background feels a bit “Little Big Planet ” You know that game with sackboy! There are loads of assets to make your creation look unique but it is all tied to a very similar style. So a tree house looks the same like a cactus house.. the cactus house just has .. hacienda style wallpaper.  It makes the stages a little less exciting than the original game or it’s big inspiration Donkey Kong.  There we have a volcano world, a theme park world.. a swamp world (Okay that is the second Donkey Kong but it’s just so good)  and here.. you’d get.. a Roller Coaster going to the same forest assets.. some hue shifted wood textures to make it look a bit darker.. to signify we are in the swamp.. maybe there is a pool of water.. but all in all I always kind of keep expecting sackboy to come stumbling through. The stage challenges and level design as in.. how to get from A to B is fantastic though. The set dressing is a bit stock.

The final gripe I have with this game is the tiniest one.  There is not enough interaction with NPC’s .. mostly from Laylee.. I loved how bold she was in the last game. While I do get that there is less dialogue in a 2d platform game, plenty of elements in the overworld and sometimes even in the stages talk to you through a small text balloon. It would have been funny to give Laylee a bit more flavour and would make everything pop.  If a Pumpkin tell “hey you are not support to be here” .. it would be fun  to say Laylee tell it to shut up or  she will eat squash tonight..or even give her some 4th wall breaking humor.. that once you encounter the living fans in the overworld Laylee would comment, they are really running out of ideas.  Simple stuff like that could help the game pack that Yooka Laylee flavour a bit more.  THe rest is there.. but the two main characters don’t shine as brightly as I would.

BEE Plus

Time for me to score this game! It is tricky to do this for everyone else so do take note that this is just for me personally. I do think fun, challenge level and time needed are all self imposed. What do you define as beating the game, what do you think is fun to do within the confines of this game?! I really like this.. it has that shovel knight.. feeling of picking your difficulty, there are plenty of ways to make it easy.. there are plenty of ways to make it hard.  Neither should be a gripe as you can choose not to use it.  I will admit that the plunge into the final stage is a bit too steep and I would not call the final stage a great success. It might have been better if you had a few sub tiers and chose to continue  at the last checkpoint with the amount of bees you had left when you got there -1 for each try or go back to the beginning if you lost too many bees in that segment.  Had they done that I would have been perfectly content with this game despite it’s minor flas like generic music from Mister Wise.. and a lack of unique polish here and there. Controls are tight..graphics are fine and in sale it is super affordable.

Now I do have to conclude that not everything in the game is as fun as it can be. Honestly if I have to give advice to people who liked the Donkey Kong Country games.. I’d say the best way to play this game is to pick it up on sale.. play the stages until you had your fill.. try the impossible lair and if you did not reach the 50-70% marker (depending on how many of the bees you got)  and just end it right there! Quit while you had fun, this is a game to have fun with not one I’d say you really need to beat. It’s a neat achievement to check off your list but there is no big epic ending you would need to do it for. It’s the classical video game ending with a story wrap up.. in the vein of those classics.

There is no deep lore you will miss. No secrets that will be needed to play the third game if there ever will be one.. which I would hope mixes the two playstyles.  This is a game to have fun with.. and the game knows it!You can literally put glittery effects when you defeat an enemy, or put googly eyes on an enemy to make them cuter.. sometimes those eyes are on their bumholes! Teehee! Cinematic filters, Dramatic Sepia.. tonics that make you have to play this game like a bat.. Everything screams that this is just a game to have fun with and that’s what I did ! Strawberries all around!

3 thoughts

    1. This one is much less Banjo and way more Donkey Kong Country so you really have to like those ad well. It recently was on Sale for Switch for 10 euro.. so maybe with Black Friday sales being a thing you can get it cheap as well

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This game sounds fun, but I’m terrible at old school 2D platformers 😅 I never beat the original Donkey Kong Country cause I kept getting stuck in the ice caves lmao

    Liked by 1 person

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