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Pre-order Yooka-Laylee, a Spiritual Successor to Banjo-Kazooie, Starting Today

Yooka-Laylee is an open-world 3D platformer inspired by classic games of the genre that a lot of our team members were lucky enough to work on in the past. There are huge, beautiful worlds to explore, quirky characters to meet, and lots of collectibles to horde on the way! And we’re excited to announce that pre-orders start today and include an instant unlock of the Xbox One “Toybox” demo.

Our heroes Yooka and Laylee tackle a huge variety of puzzles and challenges in search of Pagies, the magical collectible used to unlock and expand new worlds, each crammed with oddball characters, hulking bosses, minecart challenges, arcade games, quiz shows, multiplayer games… and much more!

For the team, it’s been amazing to work on a game like this again (many of us worked on the Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong Country games many years ago). And we hope fans of the genre will be pleased to discover lots of familiar elements from the past, but also the new innovations we’re bringing to the genre like expandable worlds, which allow players to literally make the environments bigger, more complex and full of advanced challenges. Players will have a constant choice to make on their progress through the adventure: do I spend my Pagies to make this world bigger, or go in search of another world?

In any platforming game the player is going to spend most of their time navigating through scenery, so it’s important that the core character movement feels fun just by itself. That fun comes from a combination of things, like how the character handles in different environments (on ground, in the air or while swimming underwater) and then how that movement connects with the animations.

For Yooka-Laylee, I started with a blank cube rather than a character model and then worked on creating mechanics for the cube to navigate a 3D world. Basically, if you can make moving a cube entertaining then you are going to stoke up the fun levels even more after replacing it with a well animated Bat and Chameleon!

However, while it’s important that the characters are fun to look at, we have a rule that gameplay always trumps animation — if the player character is going to be performing a move hundreds of times throughout play, having it feel great is our priority.

To achieve that with Yooka-Laylee, we started with the characters first. We decided to find characters that were interesting and then see what moves fitted them, rather than the other way around which is what we did on Banjo-Kazooie. So, what does a chameleon do and what does a bat do?

This allowed us to come up with a fun list of abilities that were not only entertaining to use, but felt innate to each character. So, for example, Laylee has a whole suite of sonar abilities she can use to smash glass and stun enemies, while Yooka can use his tongue as a grapple hook or to grab objects.

When it came to creating the voices for Yooka and Laylee, the whole team spent a fair amount of time making unusual noises as we posed the question, “What does a Chameleon and Bat sound like?” In hindsight, I doubt our office neighbours were very pleased…

Laylee was the first voice we created, and I think this matched quite quickly what was in our heads. Yooka took a few iterations, as we wanted to keep him sounding distinct from Laylee and at the same time appealing as one of the lead characters in the game. I don’t think he’d have much chance becoming a star if we made him grunt and burp all the time!

We’ll have more details about Yooka-Laylee in the coming months as we get nearer to release on April 11, 2017. For now you can keep track of our progress on our Twitter account @PlaytonicGames and here on Xbox Wire.