Yooka-Laylee

From: Team 17

Rated: E 10+

Who it's for: Anyone who misses 3D platform games without Mario in the title

Console: PS4, Xbox One, PC (Switch coming)

Grade: B

Thimbleweed Park

From: Terrible Toybox

Rated: T

Who it's for: Fans of point-and-click adventure games and humor

Console: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Grade: B+

Once upon a time, the world of video games was so obsessed with Nintendo's "Super Mario" series that other companies made platforming games, too. Chief among them was Rare, the company behind classics like "Banjo Kazooie."

The main screen from the Terrible Toybox game "Thimbleweed Park."
The main screen from the Terrible Toybox game "Thimbleweed Park." (Courtesy photo)

Some of the talented designers behind that storied series missed making quality platform games and decided to strike out on their own with a crowd-funded Kickstarter game, "Yooka-Laylee." Like the "Banjo Kazooie" games, "Yooka-Laylee" features two characters that players control simultaneously, Yooka the chameleon and Laylee the bat. Together they explore huge worlds, collect hundreds of items and do their best to revitalize a genre that has declined since the days of the Nintendo 64.

The good news is that the game mostly succeeds. With several expansive levels branching off from around a hub world, "Yooka-Laylee" adopts seemingly all the tropes of these past games, for better or worse.


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The worlds — bright, colorful and universally well-designed — occasionally become frustrating when the camera fails to properly focus on the delirious duo as they bound ever forward toward this goal or that. The characters gain an impressive number of abilities, some of which are underused. It's a blast when Yooka can lick certain surfaces to take on their property (who knew a sticky beehive could help you navigate slick surfaces?).

The game never really fails, but it isn't as tight or polished as it could be. That's a pity, given the pedigree of the developers. There aren't enough issues to handicap the game, but someone coming in new to this type of game will not be seeing it at its absolute best.

Additionally, it is a smaller game than many of the overstuffed platformers of days gone by. It's also less expensive (just $40) than most new games by a third, so don't let the smaller size dissuade you at all.

"Yooka-Laylee" harkens back to a type of game we don't see enough of any more. Count on 15 to 18 hours of good old hop-and-bop fun.

Designed by Ron Gilbert

A scene from "Thimbleweed Park."
A scene from "Thimbleweed Park." (Courtesy photo)

Kickstarter has been a gift to gamers looking for something different than the run-of- the-mill games churned out by major studios these days. "Thimbleweed Park" stands as a perfect example of a genre that evolved, but in doing so lost much of what made it special.

Telltale Games, for example, makes great adventure games like "The Walking Dead" and "Batman: A Telltale Series." They are not point-and-click adventure games, though. Sure, they share some of the same DNA, but if you take a close look, you'll see they aren't any closer than humans are to bonobo chimps.

"Thimbleweed Park" gets its design from Ron Gilbert, the maniacal mind behind "Maniac Mansion," the first two "Monkey Island" games and more. Gilbert is to point-and-click adventures what Shigeru Miyamoto ("Super Mario Bros.") is to platform games.

Weird, wild and funny, Gilbert's games feature tricky puzzles, strong narratives, bizarre characters and enough laughs to brighten your bleakest day. His newest creation looks and plays like '80s and '90s hits, with just enough modern sensibility to make it relevant in 2017.

The plot is impossible to briefly describe. There's a murder, five playable characters, and dozens upon dozens of puzzles to figure out before the whole thing comes together. Virtually no fourth wall separates the player from the characters, making your immersion into the game much easier while never crossing into the realm of reality.

You will switch back and forth between characters as you work through each of their stories. To help keep objectives straight, each character has a to-do list so you never feel lost. Also, the puzzles feel more organic than many of those from early genre examples. Too many times, you'd have to click every square millimeter to find a clue you accidentally looked over.

Everything makes sense though, resulting in many "why didn't I think of that earlier?" moments.

The game isn't perfect, but it's a loving tribute to past adventure games and a return that will certainly be welcomed by fans.