Yooka-Laylee: Why are critics so wildly divided by 2017's most love-hate game?

Two years after it raised £2 million (about $2.5 million) on Kickstarter, the first crop of reviews are in for Yooka-Laylee. Opinions are wildly mixed, with an almost-unprecedented range of scores, from 20% to 90%. The 3D platformer courts players who are nostalgic for golden hours spent with Banjo-Kazooie and other jumping mascots on Nintendo 64, but does it manage to capture the same appeal without falling into the same old (sometimes literal) pitfalls? Read our Yooka-Laylee review to get our verdict on the game, then scroll on to see what other gaming sites think, with some wild differences of opinion.

Yooka-Laylee's nostalgia value - CGM (9/10)

"Put together with love and care by a 90s gaming dream team, this 3D platformer is a gleeful return to the days of Banjo (of the Kazooie and Tooie variety,) Donkey Kong 64, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and other ambitious 3D platformers of yesteryear. Despite its gorgeous modern skin, this game’s heart is jagged and polygonal—steadfast in its commitment to recreating what people loved and hated about the sorts of title it aspires to sit alongside."

Yooka-Laylee's clinging to the past - Jim Sterling (2/10)

"Yooka-Laylee is a game out of time, clinging so desperately to past glories it doesn’t seem to understand the Earth kept spinning after the N64 was discontinued. It’s everything wrong about the formative years of 3D platforming and it somehow retained none of what made the genre’s highlights endure."

Yooka-Laylee's level design - GameSpot (6/10)

"The other update to the Banjo formula - being able to expand worlds - is less successful. Each of the base worlds is clearly incomplete, but expanding them doesn’t necessarily improve them. Because most of them have additions in multiple areas and directions, their layouts are hard to follow, and just figuring out where you haven’t been yet can be tedious. They’re hard to parse in the same way that N64-era levels were because they’re open-ish but sectioned off in unnatural places with no landmarks or visual aid to guide you. The snow level in particular is broken up into a bunch of areas that connect in bizarre ways, and even after several hours exploring it, I’m not entirely sure which caves connect to which parts."

Yooka-Laylee's controls - Eurogamer (No score)

"The protagonists themselves are pretty responsive for the most part, but there are some notable wobbles. You'll eventually learn to fly, for example, which makes back-tracking across landscapes to scoop up far-flung Pagies a cinch, but saddles you with a large turning circle that often throws the camera into disarray. The game's alternate forms can also be a pain to steer, particularly the ice world's snow plough, though having to compensate for the extra inertia is admittedly the point of the puzzles in question."

Yooka-Laylee's camera - PC Gamer (68/100)

"The hardest enemy I had to fight in Yooka-Laylee was its camera. The hordes of minions sent by evil corporate book-napper Capital B were easily killed and often ignored, but wrestling the third-person camera into submission was like trying to get an actual bat to ride on the head of an actual iguana [...] It wasn't uncommon for the camera to pull in uncomfortably close (and usually aim straight down at the floor) anytime I got just a little too close to a wall or a corridor was a bit too tight, which is the sort of nostalgia I could have done without."

Yooka-Laylee's variety and longevity - Game Informer (8/10)

"Pagies play a larger role in story progression, and thus require you to complete objectives to obtain them. The missions they are tied to vary wildly, from racing a cute cloud character to transforming Yooka and Laylee into objects like an attack helicopter or a school of piranha to complete special tasks. I love the creativity of these challenges, and the thrill that accompanied each clever or difficult objective. With 145 Pagies spread across worlds and hub area, I was never at a loss of things to do – this is a long game."

Yooka-Laylee's minigames - Ars Technica (No score)

"That's not to mention the many minigames that have you answering quiz questions to Capital B's feathered henchman Dr. Quack, or stomping on switches to move a ball bearing through a maze in Capital Cashino. There's also an arcade machine on every level, manned by the forgetful dinosaur Rextro Sixtyfourus. This lets you play fun homages to games like Mario Kart and Gauntlet in exchange for a collectible play coin. The sheer amount of compelling content in a game that costs almost half as much as a typical retail release is hugely impressive - and it makes the rough edges that little bit more forgivable."

Yooka-Laylee's difficulty - Videogamer (4/10)

"Make no mistake, Yooka-Laylee is a hard game. Even though it may look inviting to the younger generation, it’s damn difficult. There are fleeting moments where everything falls into place, especially once you've unlocked all the advanced moves. Yooka can use his tongue to grab elemental fruit, becoming a one-lizard Captain Planet and The Planeteers, and moments of mild entertainment occur when you juggle all the abilities together. But I struggle to comprehend who Yooka-Laylee is for, exactly. Those of us who remember Playtonic Games’ roots have grown up, and expect more from our interactive experiences. Kids will quickly scoff at the annoying trials on offer, or start bawling at the ear-bleeding dialogue."

If you cared enough about reviving the spirit of Rare's 3D platformers to back the Kickstarter, it sounds like you'll be satisfied with your investment. But for anybody else considering Yooka-Laylee, you may want to pop that old Banjo-Tooie cartridge back into your N64 and see how it holds up - your feelings there will probably map over pretty cleanly to this spiritual successor.

Connor Sheridan

I got a BA in journalism from Central Michigan University - though the best education I received there was from CM Life, its student-run newspaper. Long before that, I started pursuing my degree in video games by bugging my older brother to let me play Zelda on the Super Nintendo. I've previously been a news intern for GameSpot, a news writer for CVG, and now I'm a staff writer here at GamesRadar.