Traveller’s Tales’ LEGO video games have been reliably solid experiences for over a decade, with seemingly every major pop culture brand receiving the LEGO treatment at one point or another. However, as good as games like LEGO Star Wars and LEGO Marvel Superheroes have been, there really haven’t been any games that truly capture the limitless creativity offered by real-world LEGO blocks. For that, we have Minecraft, the massively-successful sandbox game that owes a substantial debt to LEGO in the first place. Originally released in beta form in 2015, TT Games finally put out the full version of LEGO Worlds in 2017, which is essentially “Minecraft with LEGO.”
LEGO Worlds should have been the ultimate LEGO experience and a worthy contender to the Minecraft juggernaut — Traveller’s Tales has had years to study that game’s success, after all — but instead, it’s merely an inferior Minecraft clone. While LEGO Worlds’ powerful creation tools and diverse environments are commendable, they’re held back by bad menus, a clunky combat system, and fiddly controls that make the actual process of building things much more frustrating than it should be. To its credit, Traveller’s Tales has continued to improve the game since launch but with Minecraft having already pretty much perfected this type of game design, there’s really no reason to opt for an inferior version unless you just really love LEGO.
If the enormous sales success of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy this year is any indication, there is still an appetite for mascot platformers out there … or more specifically, 90s mascot platformers with a fresh coat of paint. Playtonic evidently saw this void a few years ago when they launched a kickstarter for Yooka-Laylee, a spiritual successor to Rare’s beloved Nintendo 64 platformer Banjo-Kazooie. Indeed, with a studio largely comprised of ex-Rare devs, it was hard to see Yooka-Laylee not becoming one of the best new 3D platformers in years.
The problem is that Playtonic took their throwback design philosophy a bit too literally and released a game that feels like it could have been released in 1998, warts and all (excluding the visuals, of course). The camera is horrendous, for starters, and the actual platforming unsatisfying, which certainly isn’t helped by the floaty, imprecise controls. As with most games released nowadays, Yooka-Laylee has improved since release with patches, but no update is going to fix what is fundamentally an out of step game hoping that your misplaced nostalgia will blind you to its many glaring faults. Banjo-Kazooie fans would be much better served by going back and playing the HD remaster than wasting time on this inferior copycat.