When was the last time you played a collectathon? It’s a specific sort of platformer geared toward finding items hidden throughout worlds. Some are major items you need to actually progress through the game, but others are more minor, nonessential objects that are there for the sake of encouraging people to go through every nook and cranny. Yooka-Laylee takes clear inspiration from such 90’s games. Right from the outset, it’s getting players used to accruing items.
The most important Yooka-Laylee collectibles are the Quills and Pagies. This is because both items are ones you need to actually advance through the game. The Quills need to be turned into Trowzer, the snake, so Yooka and Laylee can learn more skills. These practical abilities are not only important for making people’s gaming life easier and more interesting, they’re going to help you reach new places and collect more Pagies. The Pagies, of course, are necessary to unlock more worlds. If you don’t find or free these guys, you can’t head off to new areas. These are the most obvious to find items. Pagies especially can be rather obvious.
Butterflies are also practically everywhere. It makes me feel like Yooka-Laylee really is a game designed for players of all ages and skill levels whenever I see one. These all-purpose critters can heal Yooka and Laylee when eaten or restore power. If you come across a particularly precarious area in, say, Tribalstack Tropics, there are sure to be a cluster of them that are easily accessible. Even if its implausible, such as in a place like Glitterglaze Glacier, they’re around and ready to become a snack. It’s nice to see, especially since they’re a collectable you don’t have to collect. They’re just around to help you out.
Of course, there are the more obscure items in Yooka-Laylee too. The Arcade Tokens can be one of them. They aren’t all hidden away in terribly hard to find spaces, but tend to be hidden better than the average Quill or Pagie. Ghost Writers are another. You have to find five of them in a world to collect an additional Pagie. But, I’m most tempted to call the Play Tonics the more obscure items, even though you get them from Vendi. These require you to find certain numbers of items or defeat a set amount of enemies to earn a Tonic that can influence the game. Since these are kind of collectibles that require you to collect other items or meet other objectives, it feels like they’re the greatest challenge of all.
This means you get to see every aspect of a Yooka-Laylee level. Even when you start in the initial hub and go through the tutorial, the game is preparing you for this eventuality. Treasure chests are littered about with Quills hidden within. Butterflies are everywhere, ready to refill your hearts and stamina. The first Pagie here is in a very obvious location, but right away the game is teasing you with a future Pagie to collect once you’ve collected the appropriate ability from Trowzer. Of course, the second you head into places like Tribalstack Tropics and Glitterglaze Glacier you begin getting more items to collect and places to see.
But all of this means that these collectibles don’t come across as some sort of chore. With every moment I spent going through Yooka-Laylee’s first two worlds, even in unexpanded states, I didn’t feel forced to go after every little thing. Instead, it seemed like these objects were perfectly placed in areas I was going to go anyway. Of course, there’d be an occasional Quill or item that did seem like it was just out of sight, but the majority of items I did collect in Tribalstack Tropics were ones that would lead me to places I’d want to go and see.
Just as it does with characters, Yooka-Laylee is trying to capture a feeling with its gameplay. It feels like, in its first two worlds, it is putting forth a collectathon that is trying its best not to overwhelm or overtask people with finding items. At the same time, it offers an ample amount of things to find and, as people will see when going through the first few sections, puts them in places where they feel natural. Of course you’d come across them when going to certain places. It’s a very normal and natural thing.
Yooka-Laylee will come to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on April 11, 2017. It will come to the Nintendo Switch in 2017.