Thicker than Water is a thrilling penultimate episode that spins its own gripping yarn, while escalating the stakes to lead us into the season’s fifth, and final, outing with baited breath.
Thicker than Water escalates the stakes to lead us into the season’s fifth and final outing with baited breath.
Returning with firearms aplenty in hand, Javi and the group hatch a desperate plan to go on the offensive. Not happy with his assigned role, however, Gabe - Javi’s nephew - blurts out a revelation that divides the unit. We aren’t quite ready to offer the bugger up as zombie bait, à la Ben, but he’s edging ever closer every time he ignores us and does something stupid. Why can’t all kids be like Clem?
Now executing the plan with a dwindling group and Gabe sulking over our refusal to revise his role (deal with it), those guns come in handy. Telltale chose to forego the forgiving aiming mechanics they’ve used in the past, keeping shootouts frenetic with QTE button prompts instead; while less personal than engaging in fisticuffs, encounters are well-choreographed and still somewhat engaging.
With their world falling down around them, and things becoming truly desperate, the key cast members - along with the player - gain some much-needed respite in a fleeting moment of normality. It’s touchingly human and reminds you that this fight is one worth seeing through.
That tactical break from the action makes the closing chapter all the more impactful, as it quickfires the season’s first two properly difficult choices at you back to back. The community stats seem to reveal that most players were similarly torn, with (at the time) the decisions weighted a close 53.6/46.4% and an exact 50/50% split respectively.
With the ending leaving us in limbo and teasing elements, both exciting and unnerving, to come, we’re eagerly anticipating not only the finale, but also where Telltale’s take on The Walking Dead might go beyond A New Frontier. With just a month between the release of this episode and the last, we can only hope Telltale don’t keep us waiting much longer than that for our next fix.
Check out our reviews for the season’s two-part opener and third episode, if you haven’t already.
To see Thicker than Water in action, check out Gabriella's full playthrough below.
In This is the Police, players step into the role of Jack Boyd; a grizzled Police Chief who’s looking for one last big payday before he’s forced out of office. Whether you earn the $500,000 Jack needs from mostly legitimately means, or through more nefarious ways, is up to you - but with only 180 days in which to make your cool half million, you might find that the old adage isn’t actually true: crime does pay after all.
As well as keeping Jack’s superiors happy, players must also take into consideration the wellbeing of their employees, many of whom will come up with any excuse to get out of a day’s work. Say no too often, and you may find disgruntled officers go over your head and spark an investigation into your performance, which could lead to a severe pay cut. You can fire troublesome officers, but doing so without reason can lead to messy legal challenges.
Each officer has a numerical score and a coloured meter ranking their ability and mental state, which need to be taken into consideration when deciding who to send out on a call. Choose a weak or tired team and they may botch the response, leading to the perp escaping, or worse, civilians and other officers being killed. While a tragedy, a dead officer can also be an opportunity to earn some extra cash; by not declaring them officially deceased, Jack can keep on collecting their paycheck for himself, but at the cost of hiring a replacement officer
Occasionally, a crime will pop up that requires a detective’s skills to investigate. Answering these calls works in much the same way as a regular crime, in that you pick which detectives respond, but the results are less immediate.
Detectives provide witness statements and theoretical snapshots (some accurate, some less so) of crimes to give a summary of what went down, but it’s you who must piece it all together in the correct order. Do this, and it could lead to the chance to take down a much larger criminal organisation and earn a hefty cash reward.
While breaking up crime syndicates can be satisfying, investigations sometimes end up stagnating if you can’t quite pin down the correct sequence of events with all the evidence your detectives have provided. There is an option to call on a retired veteran who can bring new insight to investigations, but at $50,000 a pop, it’s a steep investment.
The way all these incidents spontaneously appear on the map might lead you to believe they are randomly generated encounters, but after a mishandled mafia war meant we had to restart the game from the beginning, it became apparent they are entirely scripted. Discovering this was slightly disappointing, rather than game breaking, but worse was learning that the earliest (and arguably biggest) of the narrative impacting decisions that the game occasionally presents the player with was not actually that much of a choice.
The decision in question is whether to help out a friend who’s in trouble with the mafia by taking his place as the mob’s inside man. After deciding to be a good pal the first time around and agreeing to help, this time we had Jack refuse, thus sealing our buddy’s fate. As it turns out though, the outcome of this decision is the same either way, with the only real difference being that Jack is effectively forced into helping the mafia rather than reluctantly volunteering, and your friend and his family meet a gruesome end instead of getting out.
Freeburg is overflowing with mobsters, petty criminals and caustic city officials, all of which can be used to your advantage.
Knowing this took some impact away from the rest of the decisions we encountered, and had us questioning whether our actions were having any meaningful influence on the story. Despite this, some solid writing, morally ambiguous characters and a narrative that frequently blurs the lines between good and bad, wrong and right mean it’s still an engrossing story, even if the ending doesn’t quite deliver. In fact, it’s in the latter stages of the campaign that This is the Police really starts to struggle.
After an initial flurry of cut scenes sets up an intriguing contest between Freeburg’s elite, the pace at which the story segments are delivered drops off massively, and the game’s second and third acts become increasingly drawn out. At around 20 hours of playtime needed to reach the finale, it’s not exactly the longest game out there, but with nothing to break up the core gameplay, This is the Police quickly becomes a repetitive slog, and not even the excellent soundtrack can rescue it.
Towards the tail end of the campaign we found it increasingly difficult to care about the welfare of our officers or the people of Freeburg; a stark contrast to the pang of guilt we felt the first time we turned a blind eye to a crime to make a quick buck and it led to a civilian’s death.
It’s hard to say whether this is intentional from the developers, and that your discomfort as the player is supposed to reflect the increasing level of detachment Jack begins to display. There’s a line towards the end of the game where Jack says he simply doesn’t care anymore, and it’s a decidedly profound moment, as chances are, at that point, you won’t either.
● Juggling the responsibilities of a Police Chief is surprisingly fun, if a little stressful
● Well-written dialogue with excellent voice acting
● Captivating power struggle between the city’s elite
● Busting your first crime syndicate is a rush
● Building up an effective crime fighting force is satisfying...
● … Losing it all to budget cuts or bad decisions is not
● Outcome of the opening choice is the same either way
● Gameplay becomes repetitive towards the second half of the game
● Disappointing ending
● Outstays its welcome
Puyo Puyo Tetris released to a Japanese audience back in 2014, at the time forgoing a western launch due to licensing issues. With those now resolved, the puzzle game mashup arrives on our shores this week, having lost none of its charm in translation.
With licensing issues now resolved, the puzzle game mashup arrives on our shores this week, having lost none of its charm in translation.
There’s an absolute wealth of modes to choose from, each boasting their own further customisation options, all of which are playable solo, but Puyo Puyo Tetris has quite a heavy multiplayer weighting. For the most part, this isn’t your standard high score-chasing fare: though the classic modes are tucked away in the menus, the focus is very much placed squarely upon versus variants, in which you battle up to three opponents. Completing lines in Tetris and grouping Puyos in Puyo Puyo litters an opponent's board with garbage pieces, making it harder for them to stay afloat and bringing you closer to victory. This goes both ways, naturally, but as these pieces are annoying to deal with by design, some will inevitably lament the change in direction.
For those that take to it, however, there’s a lot on the multiplayer front to keep you busy. We can easily imagine the game securing a dedicated player base between its ranked and casual match offerings, largely because it doesn’t place restrictions on Tetris or Puyo Puyo purists competing against one another. That inevitably raises questions with regards to balance, as players are engaging in two fundamentally different games, but, in our experience, SEGA managed to pull it off.
If online leagues seem a little intimidating, you can also play locally, whilst finding a mode to suit any player’s skill set. Party adds power-ups that hinder opponents in a variety of ways, but to counteract any frustration that might cause everyone has infinite lives. Big Bang offers up frantic fun as you slot missing pieces into a range of preset boards as quickly and accurately as possible. Meanwhile, Swap sees each player juggle simultaneous games of Puyo Puyo and Tetris, switching between boards at frequent set intervals.
There’s an absolute wealth of modes to choose from, each boasting their own further customisation options.
While these modes are undoubtedly a good time, they don’t quite match the staying power of the game’s Challenge mode, which offers a more traditional take on its resident duo by (for the most part) tasking you with securing high scores in time-sensitive tasks.
Then there’s our personal favourite - Fusion. Fusion places Puyos and Tetriminos on the same board, each sticking to their established rule set, while also interacting with one another to afford the player new and exciting opportunities. Namely, this involves heavy Tetris blocks smashing through stacks of jelly-like Puyo, which then re-emerge from the top of the board and land atop the piece that ousted them, allowing you to setup and execute some impressive combos with a bit of lateral thinking. Throw in new piece configurations, and you have one harmonious take on two old school properties.
Puyo Puyo Tetris could easily have been a Frankenstein’s monster of a game, though it’s anything but. It’s a fresh-faced and modern reimagining of a couple of all time greats, offering a huge amount of choice and longevity to players at a budget price, making it the best puzzler we’ve played in a good long while.
The second helping of season three content, following a two-part opener, plays to Telltale’s strengths and consciously avoids their weaknesses, offering up a pivotal and well-paced season midpoint in which characters and the broader narrative really begin to take shape.
A pivotal and well-paced season midpoint, in which characters and broader narrative really begin to take shape.
As things become personal, the season’s otherwise mediocre fight sequences become brilliantly grotesque, involving and cathartic as you play judge, jury and executioner. You can choose not to partake if you’re strictly the humanitarian type, but where’s the fun in that? Not only does the QTE combat come into its own, but there’s a complete lack of archaic point-and-click sections, which puts the episode at the top of the pile in terms of interactive gameplay segments, while also helping keep an engaging and consistent pace.
Just as things escalate to a fevered pitch, those scamps at Telltale cut to black to leave us in suspense until next time (which isn’t far off now, as revealed earlier this week). Still notably absent was a sneak peek at what’s to come, so it’s safe to assume they’re out, unfortunately.
Its mostly stable technical performance, focused through line, equal opportunity character development, and gameplay that complements the experience, rather than holding it back, make Above the Law a great episode. It got us properly invested in the season, to the point we’re excited to see where the penultimate episode takes us next.
For a closer look at the episode, check out Gabriella’s let’s play below. Expect spoilers, mind.
With the first season of Telltale’s The Walking Dead having been free for Xbox Live Gold members back in late 2015, and the second season currently gratis for subscribers until 15 May, there's arguably never been a more accommodating time for players on the platform to jump into the latest season.
You’ll encounter the game’s first interactive adventure elements when the group stops to gather supplies, and you already know what to expect here if you’ve played a Telltale game before. Somewhat clunky animations, finicky cursor control, overly-simple puzzles, even lengthy stretches that are largely uneventful - it’s all present and accounted for. The returning QTE combat fares slightly better, but while engagingly violent, it lacks the stylish verve seen in the Michonne mini-series. While passable, as a means to an end, we’ve said it before and will say it again: Telltale need to update their engine and tweak (that’s all it’d take, no need for a complete overhaul) their formula.
We’ve said it before and will say it again: Telltale need to update their engine and tweak their formula.
While searching for fuel and food, bashing zombies along the way, Javi and co. find more than they bargained for when they cross paths with another group of survivors that don’t take kindly to their intrusion. In typical Walking Dead fashion, people tend to pose the greatest threat, so things quickly go bad. With Javi finding himself separated from his family and in dire straights, a stranger extends a helping hand.
This shotgun-toting badass in none other than Clementine. While it’s great to see the girl you helped bring up again, the reunion is tinged with sadness, as she's well and truly lost her innocence. A tepid mood between Clem and Javi begins to lift as you inevitably endeavour to have them bond, though Clem’s occasional instability is cause for concern, leading us to wonder whether – despite our best intentions – we might have been creating a monster all these years.
A pitstop at the town of Prescott introduces some peripheral characters to the mix, who join Javi and Clem as they endeavour to return for Kate and her stepchildren. Conflict ensues when they arrive back at the scavenging site, and it’s here that the episode ends on a cliffhanger, though, mercifully, thanks to it being a double-whammy the suspense didn’t last long.
Ties That Bind: Part One makes a strong case for the new, expertly-voiced cast whilst welcoming you back to the brutal, grim and grounded world of The Walking Dead. It relies on some character archetypes and narrative beats that are already well-trodden within the series however, making it less impactful than it otherwise would be. Familiarity isn’t all bad, like the soundtrack reusing motifs to tug at your heartstrings, but the continued Telltale jank – antiquated gameplay and missing voice over in this instance – isn’t something we're as happy to see make a return.
Ties That Bind: Part Two
The second part starts with a look back at life before the constant horror of the apocalypse, instead focusing on the madness of regular family life, much like the first episode. Javi and Kate’s complex relationship is fleshed out here, and it feels right (despite being morally wrong), before we again rejoin the cast in the present day. It’s slightly disappointing to find the aforementioned cliffhanger moment skipped over as you begin amidst the aftermath, though the decision does serve to better set a sombre tone for the scenes that follow.
Unfortunately, another issue not uncommon in Telltale’s body of work (though, to be fair, others are just as guilty) creeps in during these opening segments. Responses sometimes don’t match the tone you assumed when making your choice of dialogue, which irritatingly lead us to reload and retry one section three times before being satisfied.
While the group don’t escape the previous episode’s explosive ending unscathed, they gain a moment's earned respite by returning to Prescott, though having made an enemy of the titular New Frontier – a no-nonsense group branded to show their allegiance – that, naturally, doesn’t last.
With pressure and tragedy mounting, Javi’s nephew, Gabe, looks all but set to slip into the unreliable role of this season’s Ben. Now, speaking personally (and perhaps controversially), I hated Ben and took no issue in dropping him to his death over and over and over again. Luckily, Gabe hasn’t quite graduated to that category yet, though his younger age and situation do make it much easier to empathise with him.
After being displaced once again, the expanding central group decide to head for the nearby settlement of Richmond, not realising they’re jumping from the frying pan into the fire until it’s too late. Along the way, they meet and befriend a character familiar to fans of the comics and/or TV show. It's a nice bit of fanservice that makes sense, while avoiding alienating those not in the know.
Another of Clementine’s flashbacks follows shortly thereafter, continuing the fanservice by fleshing out the illusive period between seasons two and three. From here the plot just keeps thickening as Telltale introduce a number of their signature twists and turns, producing a relentless final act that leads to a conclusion even more tantalising than the last. Both a saving grace and a spanner in the works, it continues TWD’s penchant for shades of grey and ensures you’ll be back for more. That said, a sneak peek at what’s to come would’ve made it all the more exciting - we hope this isn’t a feature Telltale are ditching.
Telltale introduce a number of their signature twists and turns, producing a relentless final act that leads to a tantalising conclusion.
Despite more technical issues rearing their ugly head in frame drops and stutters, a narrative that, thus far, hasn’t really made strides into any uncharted territory, and few truly testing decisions – most of the time we come to snap conclusions, rather than mulling things over for minutes as we have in the past – more of a good thing is still a good thing. If you’re in any way invested in Telltale’s The Walking Dead series, it’s a no brainer, but for those that have been frustrated by bugs and limited gameplay in previous episodics, you’ll find no improvements here.
If you’d like a spoiler-y look at the episodes in full, check out Gabriella’s playthroughs below.
Story-driven, cinematic games are something we’re quite fond of here at PTC, and with that in mind we approached Paper Seven’s Blackwood Crossing with some degree of excitement. Despite technical niggles and a you-didn’t-need-binoculars-to-see-that-coming ending, the game still managed to meet expectations by enchanting and yanking at our rusty old heart strings.
We can’t mention the characters and game world without also dissecting the holy trinity: art style, music and voice acting. The former paints Blackwood Crossing’s world in Pixar-esque hues - if they let David Lynch direct their next blockbuster! From the deep colour palette, to the fabulously designed paper masks that the supporting cast wear, to Finn’s red cape, freckles and mop o’ hair platter, it’s a true feast for the eyes.
The music backs up the art style beautifully, with subtle keys hiding underneath softly picked acoustic guitars - the added slide of a dobro here and there adds extra emotive power to a cracking soundtrack; it’s just a shame it doesn’t bridge over the overlong, bare loading screens. Play through to the end of the game to be rewarded with an original song from former Gomez man Ben Ottewell, too.
Blackwood Crossing will make even the most stoic tin-man have feelings again...
The voice acting is unfortunately a little bit hit-and-miss, mind. For the most part the performances are good, but in certain scenes (no spoilers, promise) the acting doesn’t quite match up with the beauty or emotion on screen. It doesn’t help that in an industry dominated with American accents, the cast’s crumpets-and-tea-old-chap accents take a bit of time to adjust to (not your fault Paper Seven, blame society!).
Blackwood Crossing is effectively an interactive movie, and though it excels in its storytelling, the gameplay will often leave you frustrated. As with any story-driven adventure you’ll find yourself interacting with a lot of things in the game: doors, windows, characters and paper butterflies (another truly spellbinding scene that made this cynical bugger’s eyes moist). The problem therein is Scarlett’s constant bobbing, often resulting in having to reposition yourself three or four times before being able to interact with objects as desired. The dropped frames that happen here and there certainly don’t help proceedings, either.
If Scarlett’s bobbing doesn’t get to you, then her lead-boots-at-the-bottom-of-Lake-Treacle movement surely will. Many of the puzzles require you to listen to each member of the supporting cast, matching their lines of dialogue with another cast member to create a conversation. Honestly, we loved this approach to puzzle solving, but often the characters are quite spread out (especially in the last Island scene) only highlighting how irritatingly slow Scarlett moves. All extremities crossed for a patch to sort these issues out ASAP.
Yet in spite of its limitations, Blackwood Crossing kept us glued to the screen. Even the predictable ending still left us deeply moved, and for that reason alone we thoroughly recommend you pick it up. The game can be finished in 2-3 hours, which at its current price of £12.79 may raise an eyebrow or two, especially given the lack of replay value. Don’t let that dissuade you though, penny-pinchers, as Blackwood Crossing will make even the most stoic tin-man have feelings again.
A Norse-themed narrative experience, FATED: The Silent Oath sees players assume the role of a mute, Viking protagonist, having traded their voice for their life to a mythical Valkyrie. When your clan find their homes ransacked and razed, you begin a journey through Ragnarök - the cataclysmic end times - in a story packed with familiar lore and eager to draw emotional response from the player.
Once you’ve surmounted the mostly laborious opening chapters, FATED blossoms into an honest to goodness adventure.
Not only does FATED improve from a gameplay perspective at the tail end, but by tightening its cast it allows them the space and time to develop, and, as a direct result, the character-driven story begins to take shape. It’s at this point the journey concludes, however, with an ending that succeeds in tugging at your heartstrings, if only because it’s inherently tragic. While many will find it unsatisfactory, we’d rather be left wanting more than wishing a flagging game was over, and we definitely wanted more.
In the end, FATED: The Silent Oath is a little too ambitious for its own good; developer Frima had good intentions, though ultimately crippled themselves by sticking to a feature length presentation. If roles were reversed - adventure had been the forethought with narrative occupying a background role - the game would have made a better impression, but as it is, it’s a story-driven game that falls just short of spinning an inspiring yarn. Considering its reasonable price (£7.99), occasional moments of excellence and will to experiment in a new medium, it gets a cautious recommendation in spite of its flaws.
Here we are again. Only a couple of weeks since LEGO Worlds graced our gaming screens, we have LEGO City Undercover. “How many LEGO games do we need?!” I hear you cry - don’t dismiss this due to the crammed spring release schedule, as in the absence of any licensed LEGO releases coming up, this could be the perfect plug to fill the brick-shaped hole in your life.
Series regulars will be familiar with the overall goal of collecting gold bricks, which serve as rewards for missions and challenges, and collecting studs by smashing everything in sight. Here though, there’s another type of pseudo-currency - blocks. These allow you to complete super-builds, which allow you to create huge, complex structures to help you complete missions or unlock new ones. In hindsight, ‘Master Builds’ may have been a more fitting title, thanks to the hugely successful LEGO Movie, but the remaster changes here appear to be purely cosmetic.
Technically the game handles itself well on Xbox One, though - in a phrase which I fear is destined to become overused around here - it will be interesting to see how it translates on the Nintendo Switch. Being an open-world game, there’s still the tendency to fall off things and end up in the middle of nowhere, or get stuck between rocks on a beach as Chase can’t find his footing.
The rest of the gameplay is largely familiar, though there is an emphasis on Free Running which is largely absent from other LEGO games, and is fun, albeit fiddly and frustrating at times. Progressing through story missions gives you access to specific disguises, each of which have abilities. Switching between these is a simple shoulder button press, though there are far more cosmetic disguises (read: characters) available, which are purely superficial - don’t go hunting around for Batman, this is an entirely LEGO affair.
crashing your vehicle will cause it to steadily fall to bits in stages, often exposing the inner workings of the engine beneath - all in accurate, one-for-one LEGO construction.
Driving around the city there’s a definite Grand Theft Auto vibe too, as pedestrians dive out of the way and crack out cheesy, often pun-tastic, one-liners. A particularly nice touch is that crashing your vehicle will cause it to steadily fall to bits in stages, often exposing the inner workings of the engine beneath - all in accurate, one-for-one LEGO construction.
Much of the game boils down to smashing things, building things and finding things, but by now, if you’ve played any of the previous titles you’ll be expecting that. The developers have got the balance just right here, giving you a rich open world which isn’t too vast or complex, to make it accessible and fun for big kids and youngsters alike.
While it may not truly break the mould, it’s a strong example of what a good LEGO game should be, and that’s something to be excited about.
It’s impossible to talk about Yooka-Laylee without mentioning notalgia. The recent yearning for glory days gone by is a major reason the game’s Kickstarter campaign proved so successful, breaking records two years ago when it became the fastest game to reach $1million. Players longing for more of the charming 3D platformers that became instant classics on the Nintendo 64 hoped the project would finally recapture that elusive magic, but have the folks at Playtonic delivered the goods?
The characterisation is good, with Dr. Quack fulfilling the henchman role with distinct henchmanliness, but given the richness of some of the villains we see nowadays, it can feel (again, surely quite knowingly) one-note. Some of the other supporting characters tend to be a lot more fun, thanks in no small part to their exposure, and the personification of animate and inanimate objects alike takes place left and right as no one bats an eyelid (no pun intended...).
The core gameplay will have anyone who has played any platformer, not just ones released 20 years ago, feeling immediately at home. Aside from an occasionally awkward camera - an all too common gripe for the genre - the simple combat and traversal mechanics are smooth and easy to get to grips with. One crucial challenge you’ll need to master early on is managing what’s essentially the animal duo’s sprint ability, which sees Yooka roll forward in a ball as Laylee stands atop him and paces him forwards (this bat doesn’t do as much flying as you might assume), which is key to climbing steep inclines, as well as besting some enemies and challenges.
The core gameplay will have anyone who has played any platformer, not just ones released 20 years ago, feeling immediately at home.
Learning moves has often felt like an arbitrary way to gate sections of a game off, but the fact you can unlock them in the order of your choosing in Yooka-Laylee - provided you’ve collected enough items, of course - can lead to some further head-scratching as you try to work out whether you have the right move to do something or are just too stupid to work it out, particularly in the earlier stages of the game.
Making progress involves collecting ‘Pagies’, torn out pages of the magical book central to the story, all of which are locked behind some sort of challenge - generally combat, traversal or puzzle-related - meaning you’ll need to do a few things in each book world before you can move on to the next. A nice touch is the choice to expand a world you’ve already explored rather than jumping into a brand new one, giving you more choice about which way your journey goes.
Working out where to go next can be difficult though as, if you feel like you’ve done all you can in the current locale, the hub world, Hivory Towers, can be a bit of a maze to navigate. There are no objective indicators or all-seeing arrows to give you literal pointers on the best place to go next, so you’ll just have to potter until you figure it out.
You can reclaim some control by utilising Play Tonics (see what they did there?!), which give specific buffs or activate special world modifiers, but you can only choose one at a time. Unlocking them means sampling everything the game has to offer, and, thankfully, the exact requirements are readily viewable. This gives you a range of smaller challenges to shoot for, the rewards for which you can use to make objectives a little easier to complete. Need to race a cloud around a track? (Trust us, it happens) No problem! Get a boost to how long you can move quickly before you need some health/energy-replenishing butterflies.
Some challenges feel more reasonable than others, with it up to the player to decide whether defeating a giant boss is more attractive than just moving through an area within a time limit. It ultimately depends on your play style, but if you don’t like the feel of one of the recurring challenges you can always ignore them, though it will mean missing out on the bragging rights that go with 100% completion.
Although many platformers punish players with incredibly hard ordeals which force countless retries and perfect timing, there’s not too much of that here. Most challenges will become clear without too much thought (providing you have the right moves unlocked), though actually doing what they ask of you can be more taxing.
Functionally, the game performs well on Xbox - whether the experience holds together on Nintendo Switch, where, arguably, the style seems a more natural fit, remains to be seen. It’s easy to overlook the fact that Playtonic are a relatively small outfit, with the game being published by Grand Masters of the Worms franchise Team 17, so to see something so polished and consistent in its art style and technical performance is impressive.
There are definitely the beginnings of something special here, and embracing the tone of the game is the biggest factor in enjoying it. If you play it without quite getting its sense of humour then it will feel like a struggle, just as those expecting logic and reason at every turn will be disappointed by the slight vein of mayhem that runs throughout.
When approached in the right mindset, Yooka-Laylee can be a Force Awakens, introducing a whole new generation of fans to a franchise by showing off exactly why their parents fell in love with it in the first place. The issue is that this is a new IP, there’s no Banjo here (he’s a bear, not a musical instrument, if you’re wondering) and no thread to pick up from what has come before - it’s absolutely a brand new game.
Going back to Banjo-Kazooie now, even comparing it to its own sequel you do see things which were improved and moved forward, but with Yooka-Laylee you’re not sure whether it should feel like Banjo-Threeie, Thirty-Threeie, or something completely different, and that lack of clarity might be too much for some people.
Having poured in a number of hours, it a brought a smile to our faces whenever we met a character with a pun-tastic name, or came across some contrived reason for our heroes to complete a task just to retrieve a torn scrap of paper. There’s love poured into every area of the game, from the upbeat score that’s packed with nostalgic motifs and takes on a different feel depending on where you might be, to the bizarre and unusual things you can turn into after giving one recurring NPC a ‘Mollycool’.
In the end, there’s a lot of skill and creativity on display, but there will undoubtedly be many who went in imagining their own version of what the game should be depending on their own exposure to 3D platformers. The important thing is that you can actually play this game, enjoy it and want more - which is what, we hope, Playtonic were going for.