WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the following:
A Hat in Time
2017 saw the releases of A Hat in Time and Yooka-Laylee – two titles that aimed to help revive the 3D platformer/collectathon genre, much like classic titles such as Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie. While 2017 was jam-packed with much bigger and popular releases, these two in particular stood out to me personally. Why? Well, the first reason is because of how similar they were.
Whilst A Hat in Time was the first game made by the folks at Gears for Breakfast (a relatively new group that initially consisted of one developer – Jonas Kaerlev – before more members joined voluntarily), Yooka-Laylee had a bigger name attached; specifically Playtonic Games, formed by ex-Rare members who had worked on beloved 90s platformers like Donkey Kong Country and the aforementioned Banjo-Kazooie and its sequel.
However, despite these differing backgrounds, both games came about thanks to incredibly successful crowdfunding campaigns. Whether it be because of promising early footage or their years of experience, Gears for Breakfast and Playtonic inspired confidence within their backers; the future seemed bright for those dying for a return to this long-forgotten genre.
Now, let’s jump to Yooka-Laylee‘s release on April 11th 2017. At last, people were finally able to get their hands on what was expected to be the true “Banjo-Threeie.” But the responses were… mixed. While some critics praised the title and considered it a success, others were not as kind; Jim Sterling in particular considered it to be one of the worst games of the year. The negative press seemed to far outweigh the positive and one of the most anticipated Kickstarter projects ever made quickly became an Internet punchline.
Fast forward to October 5th – the release of A Hat in Time. Circumstances could not have been more different. The title received almost global praise from critics and gamers alike. Many began citing it as a contender for Game of the Year; even Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw of Zero Punctuation fame loved it, deeming it his second favourite game of 2017.
This is the second reason these two caught my eye. As an outsider who had yet to play either game, I was curious as to how these two games which both followed the same path reached two different goals. And that’s what this article’s all about – comparing A Hat in Time and Yooka-Laylee to see where and how the former succeeded whereas the latter failed. Maybe the answer is obvious to you but I feel it’s something worth exploring regardless.
Before we begin, some quick disclosure first.
- I played A Hat in Time on the PS4 and Yooka-Laylee on the Switch
- I contributed to Yooka-Laylee‘s Kickstarter campaign and thus received a code for the Switch version as part of my pledge
Now, onto the actual article.
Controls, Combat & Camera
Arguably the most important part of any game is how it controls. You can pump all the money you want into how a game looks and sounds but if players can’t stand how the main character moves and jumps, they’re gonna go play something else. Fortunately, both titles control particularly well… for the most part, at least.
I remember really struggling with A Hat in Time (you know what, I’m just gonna abbreviate it to AHiT for now) for a short while when I started playing. Main character Hat Kid felt a bit too loose for my liking and her jump was almost floaty. It was like she had no weight to her. As a result, pinpoint platforming became rather frustrating and hard to pull off, with her double-jump usually overshooting my target. Jumping between tightropes was always a particular nightmare.
However, this was something that I became accustomed to over the course of playing through the first world. Once I became more confident in Hat Kid’s base jump, practiced both her dive and wall jump moves (though the latter could still be a bit finicky), platforming challenges became quite the breeze. And even when they did become more difficult, clearing them required a complete understanding of how Hat Kid controlled so managing to reach the end was always satisfying.
Combat was a bit rough at first too since, to begin with, Hat Kid had a very short range punch attack, but this is upgraded very quickly once you get her umbrella. Though you could arguably forgo her basic attack entirely since enemies can be defeated just by jumping on them or by using Hat Kid’s homing attack; the latter is especially reliable when dealing with multiple enemies.
As for the camera, while it was usually fine and didn’t result in any unfair deaths (as far as I can remember, anyway), there were a few moments where it would awkwardly clip through a wall or get stuck against something, pushing upwards so all I could see was the damn sky. But these moments were few and far between.
Does this mean Yooka-Laylee controls terribly? No, not really. The key difference is that, unlike Hat Kid who moves rather speedily, Yooka is a tad slower. While this isn’t necessarily bad, it’s very noticeable when you go back and forth between the two games. It makes Yooka feel sluggish in comparison.
In an attempt to be fair towards Yooka-Laylee, I think Gears for Breakfast and Playtonic had very different mindsets as to how to appeal to their audiences. AHiT‘s control scheme makes me feel that it had been designed with a speed-runner mentality. While you can play the game at your own pace, I got the sense that Hat Kid’s control scheme lent itself well to speed-running. I can totally see players coming up with strategies to get through the game as quickly as possible. Not so much Yooka-Laylee, where you have to take things slowly most of the time.
I think the only times I found the controls bad are in regards to certain abilities (which I’ll get into later) and when you have to slide down chutes and the like; the way Yooka slides doesn’t feel natural. Moving side to side feels stiff and it makes avoiding obstacles that much trickier.
In terms of combat, Yooka-Laylee handles it in a similar manner. You rarely have to fight enemies and, when you do, it’s not complex since most enemies can be dealt with with Yooka’s basic spin attack. However, there are enough niggles here to make combat that tad more frustrating. For starters, you don’t get as much as positive feedback from attacking enemies as you do in AHiT. What I mean by this is that enemies just get knocked back with only the most minute of sound effects to accompany it. You could easily mistakenly believe your attack didn’t do anything judging by how little enemies react, as opposed to AHiT where enemies clearly glow red, accompanied by a loud “smack” sound to confirm damage. It’s a minor thing but it helps make combat that less enjoyable.
On top of that, some enemies are just a pain to deal with. First, there’re the Googly Eyes, which attach themselves to nearby objects and attack by ramming into you. Why are they annoying? Because they glow red before they attack and are invulnerable as a result, even though they’re wide open and could easily be defeated. And then when they attack, they don’t charge in a straight line – they home in on you. And they can cover some crazy distance and move fast too so, nine times out of ten, you are getting hit by these things.
Secondly, there are flying enemies that usually attack in groups and have to be hit with Yooka’s air attack. The issues with this one are that the enemy can’t be hurt until after they’ve fired their weapon and they move fast, meaning it’s very easy for your slow-ass air attack to miss and leave Yooka just spinning in the air like an idiot. There’s no point in even trying to fight these things until you get Laylee’s Sonar ‘Splosion move, which has a large radius, and you’re not going to be able to get this move until the third world at least.
I’d complain about the larger enemies you encounter, which you can only defeat with several Ground Pounds, but they appear so rarely that it’s not really worth it (I only counted three times they appeared and two of them were in the main hub world). Basically, the difference is that AHiT‘s combat is unnecessary but fun regardless. Yooka-Laylee‘s is borderline annoying and not even worth attempting most of the time.
In regards to Yooka-Laylee‘s camera, while it wasn’t a constant source of grief, I did find myself having issues with it more times than AHiT, and usually for the same reasons (i.e. getting stuck on walls). It’s the kind of camera that we had to deal with in a lot of old games from the 90s, so I guess Playtonic were trying to be 100% faithful (?) to that era. It’s certainly not the only thing they did.
But, like I said, Yooka-Laylee doesn’t control poorly; certainly not to a point where it feels unplayable. You could make the argument that both games, despite their similar intentions, were aiming for slightly different audiences (though I’d personally argue that AHiT controls better). But we’ve only scratched the surface so far; let’s dig a little bit deeper.
As you progress through both games, you eventually obtain new abilities to help overcome different kinds of obstacles. While the methods of getting them are slightly different, they ultimately share a similar purpose. So what’s there to compare? Quite a bit actually, at least for me personally.
AHiT features two different types of abilities. The first are the new Hats you can create with balls of yarn you find scattered across the worlds. There aren’t that many (in fact, there’s only six) but each one feels worth getting. There was rarely a moment where I felt like I barely used one of them. Granted, some of them are a tad situational but there were enough instances where they needed to be used so it didn’t feel like they were extraneous. Not to mention they were fun and simple to use and could be switched on the fly. No need to pause the game and traipse through menus just to find that one hat you barely use.
Plus, each Hat (with one exception) had different versions that you can equip. For example, the Sprint Hat that lets you run faster has a variant where, instead of the cap with wings, it’s a dinosaur hoodie. It’s an admittedly unfair advantage over Yooka-Laylee but it’s nice to have some cosmetic customisation.
The second type are the Badges that can grant extra abilities like a projectile attack or something that prevents fall damage. You can only equip one at a time (though this can be upgraded to three) and, again, there aren’t many of them but there’s some neat variety to them. The downside for me, though, is that some are much more useful than others (why would you ever take off the Hookshot?) and some seem almost pointless, like the Camera. Shouldn’t that have been a seperate feature instead of something I have to waste a Badge slot to use? It’s not a game-breaker; just something that mildly bothers me.
Yooka-Laylee doesn’t have this issue; every ability you acquire is permanent and all have their uses. But they do have a different set of problems. For starters, there are so damn many you unlock that I would sometimes forget about some of them. Though, to be fair, there is an ability list in the menu to remind you. The main problem, however, is that a couple of them are annoying to use.
First, the Lizard Lash, where Yooka grapples up to high platforms and such by latching his tongue onto specific grapple points. Sounds pretty cool in theory but sometimes it will like to not work because you’re not positioned exactly where the game wants you to be. And unlike AHiT‘s Hookshot, there’s no targeting reticle to let you know that you can use it. It’s meant to work automatically – you press the button near the grapple point and Yooka targets it. And sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It makes certain challenges where you need to use the ability in quick succession extra frustrating because if the game decides you’re not in the right spot to use it, you’re buggered.
But the worst offender is the Flight ability. When I found out I could have Yooka & Laylee free-fly throughout the game so long as I had enough energy in the Power Meter, I was beyond excited. But the moment I first took off, I recoiled in horror from how badly it controlled. Seriously, turning in midair is horrendously stiff and the camera acts like a bratty child, refusing to cooperate with you. Actually trying to go anywhere is a nightmare and I always wanted to just stop flying the moment I started. The only blessing it has is that it can completely bypass certain puzzles but that doesn’t mitigate how much of a pain in the ass it is. Those few sections where I had no choice but to use it always filled me with dread.
And unlike AHiT, I feel like you could cut some of Yooka’s skills from the game because you use them so little, like his camouflage and temporary invincibility. You only ever need them to clear very specific types of challenges and while you could use them to make enemy encounters “easier,” you may as well just run past the enemies instead without wasting the energy (the enemy AI is very dumb).
Each world also has a unique transformation for Yooka & Laylee that can be acquired by giving the character Dr. Puzz a Mollycool – one of the many different types of collectibles. But it feels like these were only included because Banjo-Kazooie had them. They’re arguably even more superfluous since most of them are only there to get you one Pagie (the main collectible) each. On top of that, most of them don’t control particularly great either. The Flower, for example, felt like it moved even slower than Yooka and the Helicopter just didn’t control very well at all.
There are also Play Tonics (get it?) that, like AHiT‘s Badges, grant passive abilities when equipped. Of the ones I unlocked, they were very helpful and made some of the game’s more frustrating elements that little bit more bearable (like preventing fall damage or decreasing how long it takes for the Power Meter to recharge) but you can only equip one at a time and you have to find and speak to a specific character if you want to switch to a different Tonic, as opposed to just swapping via a menu or something. It’s an unnecessary extra step, essentially.
It’s like Yooka-Laylee thinks having a tonne of different abilities, transformations and such makes Yooka a more robust character, but when several of them feel pointless or aren’t fun to use, it doesn’t really matter, does it? Hat Kid may only have a small handful of extra skills at her disposal, but at least they’re all reliable and make the game more enjoyable.
Visuals & Music
While I’ve always been an advocate of “good graphics don’t make a good game,” I can’t deny that visuals do make an impact and can influence someone’s decision to invest in a game. So, if we judged AHiT and Yooka-Laylee on their visuals alone, would we be impressed?
Obviously, it’s a tad unfair to do so since both games lacked the same kind of budget as most triple-A titles like Call of Duty. As a result, they had to make the game visually appealing with this restriction in mind. And while neither game looks bad per se, I do have some minor criticisms.
AHiT, for starters, looks very basic for a modern-day game. If I was feeling particularly harsh, I’d say it looked like it belonged on the PS2 or even the original PlayStation. I remember feeling very unimpressed when I first booted up the game, raising an eyebrow at the very simple uses of shapes and colours and how limited the NPCs were in terms of movements and expressions. At times, it was almost like I was looking at the game’s beta rather than the final product
Now before you grab your pitchforks and torches, I should again stress that these were probably intentional design choices. The focus was clearly on the actual gameplay rather than the looks. And while the graphics are very standard, it’s still very appealing to look at because of how bright and colourful it all is. One exception, of course, being the third world, Subcon Forest, but that’s because it’s meant to be dark and foreboding, so they amp up the use of blacks and purples. And it works; it’s arguably the most atmospheric area of the game.
Combined with the overall design of the worlds themselves (which I’ll cover in the next section), AHiT compensates for its somewhat low-grade graphics with a sense of vibrancy. It’s a bit like what you’d see in an old children’s storybook or something. It’s all very lively.
As for Yooka-Laylee, it’s visuals are of a higher quality than AHiT‘s; there’s more detail in the character and environmental designs. I suppose, from a technical stand-point, Yooka-Laylee can be considered the better looking game. Despite that, I actually think AHiT has superior visuals. Why? Well, it goes back to the use of colours.
Unlike AHiT, Yooka-Laylee‘s colour palette feels very muted. Nothing really pops out and, as a result, it makes everything feel a bit dull and not as appealing to look at. It was as if the brightness on the TV had been dimmed. Again, I’ll talk about this a bit more in the next section but the more I played Yooka-Laylee, the more bored I got just looking at the environments. They didn’t feel as… alive as AHiT‘s, if that makes sense.
What about music, though? Music can also play a big part in determining how much enjoyment you have playing a game. Well, sorry Yooka-Laylee but AHiT has you beat there as well. The latter is filled to the brim with a great variety of tracks that all manage to accentuate the mood of the area and be catchy as hell to listen to. Peppy and upbeat, slow and ominous, fast-paced and full of electric guitars – whatever your preference, the composers have got you covered.
And while I wouldn’t call Yooka-Laylee‘s soundtrack bad, I can’t exactly call it good either. Despite having legendary composers David Wise, Steve Burke and Grant Kirkhope (who also made one track for AHiT funnily enough) work on the music, I can’t for the life of me remember any of it. Clearly they were going for a more atmospheric kind of soundtrack but you’d think there would be at least one piece of music I could hum a bit of.
I think the most damning indictment I can give it is that, at one point, I muted the game and put some YouTube videos on in the background. Not because I hated listening to it, but it clearly left no impact on me, and I saw it as an opportunity to catch up on Lets Plays or something.
One of my favourite aspects of the collectathon genre is exploring the worlds you visit. I’d even say they’re one of the most important aspects of said genre; they need to make the player want to scour every inch of them and even enjoy getting lost in them. And this is one aspect that AHiT and Yooka-Laylee handle very differently.
Let’s start with the former. AHiT does things very similarly to Super Mario Sunshine, where rather than giving you one large area to explore at your leisure, each world is broken up into different missions which, upon completion, rewards you with a Time Piece – the main McGuffins of the game. This doesn’t make the game feel overly linear, though, since it’s still possible to deviate from the main path and explore other areas of the world for extra collectibles and such. In fact, I spent most of my time in the first mission of Mafia Town just wandering about, getting a feel for the controls and seeing what Hat Kid was capable of (I wonder if that was the developers’ intent?).
Though how much you’re able to explore does vary from world to world. Most of Mafia Town’s missions, like I said, give you plenty of wiggle room (with maybe a couple of exceptions) but the missions in the second world, Battle of the Birds, limit you to smaller, specific areas. The only exception to this overall set-up is the fourth world, Alpine Skyline, which is one massive sandbox that allows you to gather the Time Pieces in any order you want. There’s not much consistency in this regard but it helps keep the game fresh; you never really know what to expect when you gain access to the next world.
In fact, I think most of AHiT‘s popularity comes from how novel it is in regards to the designs of its worlds. While Mafia Town is rather traditional as a first world, it makes up for it by populating it with a very cartoony depiction of the Mafia, with all of them speaking in the third-person with thick, Russian (?) accents. Also, they’re all chefs for some reason.
Battle of the Birds ramps it up by having you get caught up in a rivalry between two film makers – one of them being a disco-loving penguin, the other an angry Scottish owl that sounds like Scrooge McDuck – and helping them with said films, which include solving a murder mystery on a train and leading a parade. This was the world that made me fall in love with the game because I’d never seen anything like this before and the overall presentation was super charming to boot. I kind of don’t want to go into any more detail since it’s one of those games that you get the most out of going in blind.
Yooka-Laylee, on the other hand, follows Banjo-Kazooie‘s set-up by dropping you into an open world and allowing you to essentially do whatever you want in any order. It’s well-known that a lot of players hate hand-holding and being told what to do so Yooka-Laylee earns points for leaving the player to their own devices to figure things out at their own pace. The worlds also start off relatively compact but can then be expanded with the Pagies you find to become bigger and unlock new challenges to earn more Pagies.
It’s not a bad design choice and something I’ve wanted in games again for a while but in case you hadn’t noticed yet, Yooka-Laylee has a nasty problem where it attempts to recreate 90s-era platformers in all the wrong ways. For starters, there’s no way to keep track of which Pagies you’ve already got so you run the risk of trying to complete challenges you’ve already done and just forgot about. It’s such a common feature nowadays for games to have checklists or something that I can’t think of any reason why Playtonic would omit it outside of “Well, we didn’t have those back in the old days.”
Not to mention that, if I’m going to be honest, the worlds in Yooka-Laylee are rather dull. Aside from the issues I mentioned earlier, there’s nothing about them that makes them stand out visually compared to other games. You’ve got a generic jungle/temple area, a generic ice area, a generic spooky swamp, a generic casino (easily the worst area, IMO); the only one that stands out is Galleon Galaxy, which is like a mishmash between a pirate-themed area and outer space. The NPCs you find don’t exactly liven the place up and even when you expand the worlds, what they add isn’t that much different to what was there earlier.
But the biggest issue I have is actually exploring these worlds and I kind of have only myself to blame. I’ve always loved having massive worlds with all manner of nooks and crannies to discover and Yooka-Laylee definitely gives me that but this is one of those “wish on a monkey’s paw” scenarios where the worlds feel too big for their own good. Combined with how visually uninteresting they are, Yooka’s low speed, occasional control issues and a complete lack of a quick-travel feature, I found myself getting lost quite a number of times and growing bored with every passing second. AHiT‘s worlds, in comparison, are much more compact and easy to navigate, even without the ability to instantly warp to another location.
Even AHiT‘s hub world, Hat Kid’s spaceship, is better than Yooka-Laylee‘s Hivory Towers. While Hivory Towers is a lot more expansive and filled with collectibles too (an aspect I actually enjoy in hub worlds – plus I love the pun-tastic name), it becomes such a slog to walk around it when you’re trying to backtrack to other worlds. The further I got into it, the more it felt like a poorly-designed playground. At least Hat Kid’s spaceship is much smaller; it may be lacking and only features a small handful of extra stuff to do but it’s not a chore to move from one side of it to the other.
If this section has proved anything, it’s that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better.
Writing & Characters
Sometimes what makes a game stand out isn’t necessarily its gameplay, but its characters. Many of my favourite videogames became so because of their casts and how they were written. And while it’s arguably a rather minor point to discuss, I do have some things to say in regards to the characters you encounter in both AHiT and Yooka-Laylee, partly because, again, there are a couple of similarities; the main one being how eclectic they are.
AHiT features four very distinct worlds and each one is populated with its own unique inhabitants. However, there still manages to be some weird level of cohesion to it all. Whether it be down to the art-style or the overall writing, it still feels like all these characters, despite being so vastly different to one another, live in the same world. Even when I encountered a talking cat chef in the otherwise human-populated Mafia Town, it still made sense to me.
Yooka-Laylee, on the other hand, felt too random with its character designs. At first, it was fine since most of the characters were anthropomorphic and seemed distinct enough, like Dr. Quack – a duck’s head floating in a gumball machine. But as you progress, a good chunk of the characters are just a random object with googly eyes attached. I get that that’s what Banjo-Kazooie did but you can’t just copy what a previous game did and expect it to have the same pay-off. Hell, some of the characters don’t seem like they even belong to their respective worlds. You wanna know who are the main residents of the swamp level? Shopping carts… I don’t get it. It all feels very random and while random humour can be funny, it needs to be done correctly, which I don’t think Yooka-Laylee achieves.
Maybe they could’ve been saved with some entertaining dialogue and voice-acting but Yooka-Laylee relies a lot on meta-humour which is already a divisive brand of comedy. Normally, I love this kind of stuff but it’s overused to the point where it just becomes sad, like a grandparent that keeps repeating memes in an attempt to connect with their younger relatives. Yes, Yooka-Laylee, keep making fun of micro-transactions; nobody else has ever done that (oh wait, everyone has). Oh, and don’t have the characters make fun of how boring it is collecting so much stuff when it actually is boring. That’s not self-aware humour; that’s admittance.
AHiT does indulge in a bit of that same brand of humour but not to the point where characters are acknowledging they’re in a videogame all the time. Instead it relies on simple, silly humour designed to tickle the funny-bone, with some visual comedy and the occasional brand of surprisingly dark humour to spice things up a little.
As for voice-acting, it’s more-or-less nonexistent in Yooka-Laylee‘s case. Characters repeat the same growls and mumbles over and over (again, exactly like Banjo-Kazooie) and it gets very annoying very quickly. I was skipping through dialogue just so I wouldn’t have to listen to it. I know some people criticised the performances in AHiT (which can be a bit over-the-top, I’ll admit), but at least it gave the characters some life to them. The likes of Moustache Girl, the Conductor and the Snatcher are a billion times more interesting than any of Yooka-Laylee‘s characters because their voice actors breathe some personality into them.
Even Hat Kid, who is mostly a silent protagonist, is much more charming and endearing than either Yooka or Laylee due to how she reacts to the world around her. She blows raspberries as she runs past Mafia goons, bangs her head to the funky music in certain areas in Battle of the Birds and her diary entries suggest a much cheekier and possibly deranged side to her. She’s a mischievous, playful child but is also responsible in her quest to retrieve the Time Pieces. As for Yooka and Laylee, the former’s a generic nice guy, the latter’s a generic mean girl and neither of them have anything interesting to say throughout their adventure. I wasn’t expecting particularly deep characterisation but I was expecting more than diet versions of Banjo and Kazooie.
The Collectibles & Challenges
And now we get to the main meat of both games – the collectibles. Or, more specifically, the methods of obtaining said collectibles since there really isn’t any difference between the Time Pieces and the Pagies. I’ve technically already covered how you acquire said collectibles earlier on but I wanted to go into a little more depth regarding these methods.
In AHiT, the majority of Time Pieces are collected in missions. You select the mission, are briefly shown where you need to go and then dropped in to find it, usually interacting with other characters and essentially taking part in a mini-story. Whether it be chasing after a Mafia goon, escaping a train that’s about to explode or sneaking into a haunted mansion, there’s always context for what you’re doing and it helps keep you invested. Between this, the controls, the environments – pretty much everything I’ve mentioned in this article – AHiT pulls off the most important thing every game needs to be, and that’s to be fun.
To get personal for a moment, I initially wasn’t impressed with AHiT, as I briefly mentioned earlier. I found the visuals amateurish, the first world pretty basic and even the first boss fight left me cold due to it lasting way longer than it should have (a problem I think most of the boss fights do suffer from a bit). It wasn’t until I got to the second world where I really started to fall in love with it. Once I looked past the minor issues I had with the graphics, I finally began to understand why people were praising AHiT. It was just really fun to play, with a charming art-style, likable characters and relatively tight controls. With every Time Piece I found, I wanted to immediately play the next mission so I could see what weird nonsense I’d deal with next.
Now let’s compare that to Yooka-Laylee. While it may have offered a lot more freedom to explore, getting the Pagies themselves ranged from being relatively simple to absolutely infuriating. There were so many Pagies that I gave up trying to get because the means to do so were annoying.
One mission involved pushing seeds into holes within a time limit. Aside from giving no context as to why there was a time limit, pushing said seeds was a nightmare due to the slightly wonky physics and occasional gusts of wind that would push them away and waste time. The mine-cart challenges are a personal low-point since they control exactly like how a rusty, old mine-cart probably would in real-life. Like, words can’t describe how bad they are; you really need to experience them yourself to understand. And some I outright skipped with the Flight ability because I couldn’t be asked to attempt them legitimately.
Not to mention that Yooka-Laylee has so much more stuff to collect than AHiT, like the Ghost Writers and Mollycools, which may improve longevity but when the core game isn’t fun on its own, why would you bother trying to get everything else, especially when the reward is just a single Pagie? AHiT may not offer much in the way of extra collectibles but I still went out of my way to get them because I was enjoying myself and wanted the game to last longer. With Yooka-Laylee, my initial excitement slowly turned into apathy, which soon turned into frustration. I was begging for the game to end and eventually turned to a guide just so I could find Pagies quicker. The only reason I even bothered with defeating the final boss (which I could probably dedicate a whole article to to describe how much of a dull, agonising mess that was) was so I could reach the credits and see my name in there.
I love games with tonnes of content as much as the next guy, but AHiT is proof that even shorter adventures can leave a big impact. Yooka-Laylee may offer more but if collecting the bare minimum becomes a chore, all that extra content only makes your game feel bloated.
Yeah, I think it’s safe to say what my final thoughts on this matter are (assuming you’ve read everything so far and haven’t skipped to the end). While I still think it was worth exploring this subject, I think you can easily sum up why people preferred AHiT over Yooka-Laylee in a few words – it was just more fun to play.
A Hat in Time is a game I was more than happy to get 100% completion in; a game that I’d like to revisit someday. Yooka-Laylee, however, is something I never want to touch again. Both games may have had the same goal, but Gears for Breakfast knew that audiences have changed and made sure to have their game appeal to modern sensibilities. Playtonic didn’t. They wanted to make a game that would’ve belonged in the 90s and they succeeded in all the wrong ways. Yooka-Laylee feels like a relic; a poor man’s Banjo-Kazooie that tries too hard to appeal to our nostalgia and lacks any real identity.
If you can only afford to get one of these games, it’s pretty clear which one you should put your money towards. And if Playtonic do make that Yooka-Laylee sequel they teased at the end, maybe they should take a few pointers from Gears for Breakfast and hopefully make something that can be nostalgic yet still enjoyable years later.