The original Yooka-Laylee quite rightly had its eyes set on the past. Pitched as a tribute to retro 3D platformers, Playtonic’s debut was made by veterans who helped define the genre for diehard fans who helped fund the game’s massive Kickstarter campaign. The result was suitably bright and nostalgic, if a little scrappy, with solid enough foundations Playtonic has built on brilliantly for this follow-up. Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair finds the buddy duo in a modern 2D platformer that feels, in comparison, like it was made specifically for today.
Three impressive things each add something fresh to the formula. The first is the Impossible Lair itself, a lengthy and tough-as-nails level available right from the start which also serves as the game’s finale. But while you can jump into it from the off, it’s likely you won’t get very far. It begins with a boss fight against the nefarious Capital B, and it all goes south from there. But it also features a unique mechanic – a shield which grows throughout the game as you save another bee at the end of each level. The more levels you complete, the more hits you can take in the Impossible Lair.
Playtonic has described the Lair as being inspired by Breath of the Wild’s Hyrule Castle – which you can similarly step into as soon as you leave that game’s opening Plateau area, Calamity Ganon in your sights. The Impossible Lair works as a tighter, smaller scale homage, one which keeps track of the number of your attempts and the percentage of the level you’ve been able to clear in a specific run. It also keeps the game focused: here is the thing you must do to complete the game – the sting in its tail – and here is how strong you need to become in order to bee-t it.