Tag Archives: TPReview

Yooka-Laylee Review (PC)

Originally we expected Yooka-Laylee to be the next best thing to Banjo Kazooie Threeie. Turns out it’s defiantly a game of it’s own, and stands up against Banjo-Tooie without relying on it for the sake of Nostalgia.

Taking heavy cues from the N64-era of games where genre conventions were basically set in stone, Yooka-Laylee will be immediately familiar to anyone who played games like Banjo, Super Mario 64, or Donkey Kong 64. You have a central hub world, and from this you can travel to other worlds via books assuming you have enough pages (think stars or jiggies). In each world (and the hub) you can complete a range of challenges to get more pages, or you can gather the hundreds of feathers. You can also upgrade your abilities as the game goes on, gaining access to new areas.

The core gameplay is very reminiscent of the old games, but the level of polish demonstrates how Playtonic have made a modern entry into an old genre, rather than just making an old game in the modern era (like so many 8bit indie games are doing lately). You can jump, glide, roll, and spin attack and it all feels just right, with just enough extra movement to give the illusion of weight and just the right height to the jump to makes distant jumps feel impossible even when they aren’t. The abilities you can upgrade get a little confusing, but all of them make previously difficult challenges much easier, allowing you to go back and get even more out of previously-completed levels.

Speaking of this, once of the new features in the game is that you can expand each world. When you first enter a new zone it will seem huge, and have a full compliment of challenges, pages and feathers. Go back outside and spend a few pages and you can expand the zone, often to double the size. It’s an impressive mechanic and sometimes a little dismaying when you think you’ve nearly completed an area only for it to grow immensely (and often vertically).

The music is another accomplishment for Playtonic. It’s all original, but has the same uplifting jauntiness that we came to love from the music by Rare (I still have the Diddy Kong Racing theme stuck in my head nearly two decades later). The graphics too are extremely polished with particularly good character models and draw distances. Of course on PC everything is as customisable and you’d expect – this definitely isn’t a shoddy console port.

The only real issue we have with the game is the camera. During some of the games more challenging sections (usually involving a boss or big fight of some kind) the camera has a tendency to flip around, ruining the way you move. This was an issue for Super Mario 64 and I’d like to think that we’ve progressed since then, but the exact same problems are rearing their ugly head. I’m not sure if this could be fixed with a patch, but for now it’s a mild annoyance that only crops up during a handful of sections.

Overall, Yooka-Laylee is everything I wanted from this game. It’s good enough to deserve its own franchise and in many ways replace Banjo Kazooie rather than simply exist as a homage to it. Looks like Playtonic really are Rare reincarnated, and that can only be a good thing.

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Stationeers Preview

Yesterday, at EGX Rezzed, we go to go hands on with Stationeers and speak to the man behind it all, Dean Hall. For those who haven’t been following RocketWerkz, Dean Hall is the man behind the DayZ mod for Arma II that eventually became the DayZ game on Early Access. Unfortunately remembered for broken promises, an incredibly long development cycle, and Hall leaving the project unifinished, it’s easy to forget just how amazing DayZ is. A huge open map, realistic combat, the constant risk of losing everything not just from a stray sniper, but from hunger, cold, or thirst. We put over 500 hours into the DayZ mod and another 100 into the full game, mostly because the player interactions were unlike anything else. In the early days of the mod, people didn’t just kill on sight, people would trade, gang up, help each other, and even travel across maps to fix someone’s broken leg. Some of our favourite gaming moments came from the emergent gameplay afforded to us by Dean Hall trying something different, and it looks like he’s going to try again.

His new company RocketWerks have taken the approach of not wanting to show anything until they have something to show, and it’s worked. In a small room in the basement of Tobacco Dock, London, Hall and two other developers from the six-man development team stood near four computers running their latest game, Stationeers.

In Stationeers you are in charge of building and maintaining a Space Station. The graphics are simple and blocky, but that’s purposeful, it takes attention away from what looks realistic and focuses on what matters, the systems. In Stationeers as much as possible is properly simulated. The space station itself doesn’t move through space, it’s on a fixed plane and everything else moves around it, and as this is a very early version of the game, plenty of systems are quite there yet, but as a proof of concept it’s enthralling.

As I sat down to have a go I found I was in some kind of engineering room surrounded by pipes and what looked like large pumps or boilers. On every machine and on plenty of the pipes there were readings, describing the exact pressure inside them. There were loads of numbers that I didn’t know how to interpret alongside complex interactions of conveyer belts, machinery, and supporting structures. Hall explained that the idea behind the game is to not take the player out of game too much by giving them information directly. Instead things must be read from displays. If you can’t work out why not enough Hydrogen is being provided to your water creation, you need to find where the pressure is dropping. Perhaps a valve has been left open, perhaps it’s being re-routed somewhere else, perhaps you have an unfinished pipe leaking into space.

Currently the game is strictly creative mode, there’s no way to get new raw resources, but you can refine them using the machines. Different elements react and combine in the way you’d expect so you need to be careful about the oxygen mix in the air, or hydrogen leaks leading to catastrophic fires.

The game we were playing had four people all in one server, but I was assured they’ve got it working with up to 16 players so far and are still finalising how big they want these servers to be. As I pottered about exploring the station I regularly game across the other players doing their own thing and editing the station as they saw fit.

I opened up an airlock and went for a float outside. Seeing a long tunnel of girders I ventured inside the end and travelled up to what looked like an airlock that was holding back a great deal of fire. “You probably don’t want to go in there” a dev explained, ” that guy’s trying to build a railgun.” Another guest at the show had apparently spent most of the day before and all of that day stuck to the game, seeing how far he could push the simulation. He had built up a huge amount of energy and pressure within one compartment then used an airlock system to load some shot (in this case some loose canisters) into the ‘barrel’ and a final airlock to hold it all in while he built up the required power. I rush out of the barrel and took a vantage point a little way away. Quickly a mass of blue fire enveloped the space station, what he was doing was incredibly destructive, but impressive. The fire raged through the compartment, built up to the airlock, then when it was remotely opened, canisters fire at speed out of the barrel. A success! As I was marvelling, the shockwave hit me and sent me tumbling a little bit backwards.

It’s not all 100% scientifically accurate (yet), and many are going to be wary of any promises that Hall makes, but I’m already eager to put my money in for Early Access. It’s a fantastic project and what little there already is would be more than enough to provide hours of entertainment to anyone with a mind towards experiments. Here’s hoping the world of internet negativity doesn’t stifle this kind of creativity in games development. Yes Rocketwerkz might be taking a lot of risk, but I’m glad they are.

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