Playtonic Games has finally released their first reward for backers of their Yooka-Laylee Kickstarter, and it’s a pretty great one! It’s the Yooka-Laylee Toybox and Toybox+!
What is the Yooka-Laylee Toybox? Basically, it’s something of a demo of the game, but features no direct levels or elements from the final game, other than Yooka, Laylee, and some of the game basics spread throughout a small, sandbox world. In short, it’s a test area for players to get a feel for how the game plays. Hence, it’s a toybox.
The Yooka-Laylee Toybox does not disappoint. Though the visuals don’t look quite as sharp as a number of the more recent screenshots of the game, it still looks pretty darn impressive, considering it uses Yooka-Laylee’s pre-alpha build.
Though the Toybox can be played with a keyboard, the game advises against it. This is a 3D platformer, after all. Using a keyboard to play a platformer just feels like a perversion of nature, really. Thankfully, the Toybox supports both PS4 and Xbox One controllers, so I broke out my PS4 controller and got right to it. And my word, the game feels so great to control!
While the Toybox limits Yooka and Laylee’s moveset from what is to be expected from the final game, their every last movement and ability feels incredibly fluid (even if some moves feature as-yet unfinished animations). Many of the characters’ actions are what you would expect from a game drawing inspiration from the early 3D platformers of the late 90s – high jumps, gliding, and a special method of movement that somehow gets you up steep slopes among them – it all feels fine-tuned and polished to the point of feeling brand new again.
As a means to avoid any potential spoilers, the Toybox takes place in an incredibly simplistic zone comprised of geometric shapes with basic colors, as opposed to any segment from the main game. The goal is to simply find 100 quills and then collect the “Pagie” that appears once every quill has been found. It definitely works as a fun little playground to get a hang of the game’s basic mechanics, though I do have to admit the simplistic shapes and colors of the environment actually made some of the platforming a little difficult in some areas, particularly a spiraling hill in which Laylee needed to roll Yooka up its slopes. The perspective just got a little tricky, but thankfully I can see this problem being relegated to this Toybox, as the main game already looks to have easily discernible areas that should make the platforming a more solid experience.
The simple task of collecting the quills was pretty fun, with the best thing about it being how much exploration it encouraged. There were times when I got stumped as to where I could go to find some of the missing quills, leading me to play with the camera and find more hidden paths and areas that required a little bit of out-of-the-box platforming to reach. On top of that, you can uncover some hidden areas that exist purely to show off some game elements – like a room full of different colors on the ground, each making a different sound when stepped on to reflect different surfaces like snow, water and metal, and a hidden chamber that displays some of the game’s upcoming particle effects (complete with a robot NPC who’s a nut on the subject).
The Toybox also includes some displays of the upcoming game’s sense of humor. The aforementioned robot NPCs are constantly fighting the urge to exterminate organic life, while simultaneously begrudging the developers for trapping them in this limbo-like sandbox. Meanwhile, the Toybox’s single horde of enemies are captained by a goon wearing pants on his head. It’s small touches like this that only begin to show off the personality Yooka-Laylee could display in the final game.
While the Toybox is admittedly an all-too brief experience, it does show a lot of promise for what is to come from Yooka-Laylee. If such a bare-bones display of what Yooka-Laylee has to offer proves this much fun, then my excitement for the final product has just reached new heights.