Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair: spotless on Switch, superb elsewhere

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Where the original Yooka-Laylee exploited Playtonic’s Rare pedigree with a modern take on Banjo-Kazooie, the sequel is a very different animal. Think of Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair as as a modern day take on Donkey Kong Country. This new game is a bit of treat, standing strong next to both the original DKC games and Retro Studios’ Tropical Freeze – but what makes this project especially interesting from the DF perspective is its performance target across all console platforms. Unlike the original Yooka-Laylee, Playtonic opts to target 60 frames per second – a tall order, especially on Switch. The team has succeeded admirably and the process employed in delivering a fluid, fun experience across all systems is fascinating, and very much a departure from the norm.

With bright colours and richly detailed stages, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a great-looking side scroller. It’s built using 3D graphics but plays out entirely in 2D – much like Retro Studios’ Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Like the original Yooka-Laylee, Impossible Lair is built in Unity and it quickly demonstrates both improvements to the engine and an evolution for the Playtonic team itself. This new game is both more visually striking than the original and much more fluid across every platform. Obviously, part of this stems from the design itself – the game is played from a side-view as opposed to a free-roaming environment and this allows for clever visual tricks such as 2D elements used in the distant background alongside 3D structures. It’s an example of gameplay first with clean, legible level design, smooth performance and great contrast between the background and foreground.

This time around, the game is available across all major platforms on day one including Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and the PC. Unlike the original Yooka-Laylee, however, every single version of The Impossible Lair was developed in-house at Playtonic, whereas Team 17 handled the PS4 and Xbox One conversions of the previous game. The nature of the development process here is fascinating in that the studio built the game from the ground up to run at 60 frames per second on Switch, the idea being to set the standard on the least capable system and then scale upwards.

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