Buddy-Duo 3D Platformer Collect-a-Thon for Dummies
Have you heard the news? Yooka-Laylee is funded, and then some! I know, it has been a couple of weeks now, but the excitement hasn’t died down. This is a major step in gaming history, we will finally see the return of the Rare buddy-duo 3D platformer collect-a-thon!
What’s this? I notice a couple of you aren’t excited for that return… I didn’t expect anyone other than Jason Lamb scoffing at this Rare-vival. Well, like the dedicated retrogamer I am, I will assume that your lack of enthusiasm and dissident opinion are a direct consequence of insufficient knowledge on the matter. Let me be the one to enlighten you on that very specific genre of video games, just as I did for Dynasty Warriors.
So what are 3D platformers, you ask? Where did they come from? What was their goal? What is the true essence of these video games? Can this essence be extracted by some kind of device and be used for the sustainment of humanity for the many years to come? Can 3D platformers help my relationship? Hum… Let’s find out!
We could spend all day analyzing the mechanics of buddy-duo 3D platformers collect-a-thon, but that would be besides the point. What good would it be to praise competent graphics, good level-design, adequate difficulty curves, polished overall presentation, original power-ups and moves, etc? Delving into mechanics and controls of minigames and transformations could only achieve trivial meaning. It would be futile to critique the various worlds lazily sequences in cliched environments filmed by a jittery camera only matching the monotonous feeling of your confusion as you go around the same area for the 4th time wondering if that’s the jigsaw piece you’re missing; or if you grabbed this one and that void inside you is just caused by your soul and despair slowly escaping your body leaving you in an ultimate state of apathy.
Instead, we need to find the “rare” ingredient showcased by Banjo-Kazooie/Tooie that managed to satisfy the hunger of gamers everywhere. We need to see what they couldn’t find in other fairly well received 3D platformer collect-a-thon like Assassin’s Creed, Spyro the Dragon, Fez, Sly Cooper, Gex, Chameleon Twist, Pac-Man World,Croc, Rayman, some Crash Bandicoot games and basically any animated movie tie-in video game since the 6th generation. Why didn’t other buddy-duo games like Jak and Daxter, Jak II, Jak III, Jak and Daxter: The Lost Frontier, Ratchet and Clank, Ratchet and Clank: Going Commando, Ratchet and Clank: Up Your Arsenal, Ratchet and Clank: Deadlocked, Ratchet and Clank: Size Matters and, to an extent, Super Mario Sunshine satisfy the urge?
The answer is: Schoolyard Charm (or Kindergarten?).
I honestly can’t find any other way to describe it. When you take a look back at Banjo-Kazooie from an adult eye, there’s something eerie, something threatening, about the mood of the game. Not only does it sound and look like a kids’ game, it’s almost made to be a cartoon. Banjo’s the “Goofy” one, literally; the evil Witch, Gruntilda, basically copies the motivations of the witch in Snow White; even Mumbo Jumbo sounds like your typical recurring character. Every stage has just enough allies and enemies to make up the theme of an episode, with your typical pirate/polar bear/seal/frog/turtle/talking toilet, etc.
Apart from the cartoon parts, the mini-games are basically kindergarten activity book exercises except harder: Find the letters to make the word, association games, counting games, etc. Egg-pooping Kazooie throws schoolyard insults about to pretty much everybody without proper motivation: “’Fraid not, wartface!”, “Better than you can, Goggle Boy!”, “You’re due to be extinct anyway!” Gruntilda’s sister also reveals most of the evil witches’ habits and they also fall in the disgustingly childish category: “I also know that freshly burst boils/sweaty gorilla feet/putrid parrot puke is her favorite smell!”, “The only thing she’s ever won was the biggest butt/dirtiest undies/sweatiest socks competition at witch school!”. The soundtrack could’ve been entirely made up of fart noises in some parts and it still would’ve sounded alright. The sound effects mostly consist of slide whistle noise and kazoo. Honestly, it’s aggressively cheerful.
However, that is the true spirit of the buddy-duo 3D platformer collect-a-thon, the illusion of joy. The fun doesn’t come from collecting crap for hours or seeing the development of a true friendship, the fun comes from all the elements making sure you understand that you forcefully overwhelmed by joy right now. The developers would stop at nothing. Puzzles, musical notes, JINJOS (whatever they are), board games IN a video game, fun had to be symbolically shoved in every imaginable corner. Nothing can escape the wrath of cheerfulness, not even vegetables.
Not even buckets.
Not even honeycombs about to get consumed by a bear. Googly eyes everywhere.
With the schoolyard charm they plastered all over their games, they held an entire generation captive of their happy childhood. What I’m trying to say is: Don’t be harsh to overzealous Banjo-Kazooie fans. You might see them as a group blinded by nostalgia for an overrated game, but it’s much more serious. Banjo-Kazooie… no… the entire kids culture of that era created a generation addicted to joy. A generation that just want to travel the world with their buddy, navigating in the sea full of the blissfulness of ignorance with only cooties and poopy-pants as their enemies. Their biggest fear? Growing up.
One thing’s for sure, considering the obvious amount of money the fans of the genre have and how quick they can rally together, I would not take the chance to become an enemy of these fans. Praise be to Yooka-Laylee, our saviors!
See you in two weeks.