Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair Review

Richard Walker

Despite a hugely successful Kickstarter campaign, Yooka-Laylee didn't quite deliver on its Rare revival promise. But Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair brings with it no such weight of expectation, and even if it did it wouldn't change the fact that it's a superior sequel, albeit a very different one.

Rather than being a fully 3D collectathon, Impossible Lair is a game of two halves – there's the puzzles and exploration aspect of the game's overworld hub area and the 2.5D side-scrolling levels proper. Both are fantastic fun, filled with exuberant, colourful characters and challenges – it's hard not to be completely enamoured with the whole thing.

The new Yooka-Laylee isn't more of the same at all, then, but rather a wholly new and more accomplished platformer. Puzzles in the overworld are well thought out and deftly constructed, while each chapter you leap into has its fair share of tricky obstacles to overcome. Yes, it can be a difficult game at times, with a lot of different things to collect, but it's consistently enjoyable.

At the centre of Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is Queen Phoebee, whose loyal Beettalion Guard have been captured by the dastardly Capital B, using a 'hive mind' controlling wand to place the bees under his spell. It falls to the plucky chameleon and his bat buddy to embark upon another adventure, freeing the Beettalion from their glass hive prisons so that they can be united and put to use as a shield of total invincibility.

It's gaining this shield that's the ultimate goal, so that you can eventually take on the eponymous Impossible Lair itself, without dying. Interestingly, you can have as many attempts as you like at tackling the lair, which starts with a boss fight against Capital B himself. In all probability, you won't get very fair until you have a few bees to provide additional hits for Yooka to absorb before carking it.

Gathering all 48 will take you a very long time, and locating hidden coins tucked away in each level is the only way to have the readies to pay off Trowzer Snake so that he'll lower his progress-blocking 'Paywalls' in the overworld. Each chapter has five coins, which is doubled once you find a level's alternate state. This is where another of Impossible Lair's neat twists comes into play, as conditions in the overworld applied to a level – as designated in the region by an open book with a glowing portal – will have a direct impact.

So freezing a level will turn it to slippery ice, managing to fix a fan so that it blows a jet of air onto a level will cause it to be blustery, and causing a river to flow over a chapter will see it flooded once you dive in. Doing this completely changes the state of a level, leaving the layout as it is, but in many cases it grants access to entirely new areas. It's a mechanic that doesn't feel cheap either, like Playtonic is taking shortcuts to recycle every level twice.

Even without changing conditions, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a generous game, boasting a sprawling map peppered with different levels. You'll be solving puzzles and braving challenging stages for hours on end, and fans of the first game will relish seeing some familiar faces like Vendi, Trowzer, and others all over again. And if you didn't enjoy the original Yooka-Laylee, that doesn't necessarily preclude you from enjoying the follow-up.

Playtonic could have quite easily had a second stab at doing what it did with the first Yooka-Laylee, but Impossible Lair emerges as something more inventive, enjoyable, and substantial than the original. The same brand of Rare-era shenanigans remains intact, with garbled gobbledegook dialogue, bold and colourful stages and characters, and a multitude of game-altering Tonics to unearth. These can be purchased using the quills you've collected, and include modifiers like a pixelated 8-bit style filter, a green Gameboy effect, or the ability to turn levels upside-down, if you so wish. Or you could just go for the obligatory big head modifier.

Pagies from the first game also have their own challenges to complete, your reward for doing so being for the sepia sheet of personified paper to then glide across the overworld, changing the environment so that you can access new areas. Different berries plucked from bushes also have various effects, like blowing away rocks to reveal hidden doorways, or burning away prickly bracken.

Granted, Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair can be occasionally frustrating, but that's usually due to impatience or poor timing, rather than anything the game gets wrong. Because, really, Playtonic's second go at making Yooka-Laylee something memorable and beloved, like Rare's Banjo-Kazooie, is very nice indeed. If you have even a passing fancy in colourful, joyful platforming adventures, then picking up Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is almost impossible to resist.

Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair

After the first Yooka-Laylee, you could be forgiven for not being desperate for more, but Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair is a more accomplished and markedly different game to its forebear. And it's all the better for it.

Form widget

The music is comprised almost entirely of annoying earworms that will play over and over on a loop in your brain forever. And the gobbledegook character voices will either annoy or delight, depending on your level of tolerance for it.


Smile-inducing, beautiful levels, albeit ones that do adhere to classic video game tropes. Yes, there's a desert. Yes. There's a forest. And yes, there is an ice level. Still, you'd have to be a withered, empty husk of a person not to love this.


If we're being picky, then Yooka can be a little fiddly at times and certain levels are more frustrating than others. Overall, though, this is a charming 2.5D platformer with a puzzle-filled hub that serves as an elaborate level in itself.


Hours and hours of jumping, rolling and tail-whipping to be had, as you strive to collect all 48 bees in Queen Phoebee's Beettalion. Impossible Lair is a very polished game too, its alternate level states also adding to the game's longevity.


Not exactly the most creative of lists, the majority of tasks involve collecting all of the Beettalion, all of the coins, purchasing all of the Tonics (which will cost you thousands upon thousands of quills), and find every secret. Dig in for the long haul, then.

Game navigation