These days, entertainment is heavily colored by nostalgia. Whether it’s literature, music, film, or gaming, almost every creative endeavor is influenced and inspired by fond memories from the past. It’s not just a creative choice; nostalgia can be big business, too. Look at the success of Kickstarter projects like ToeJam and Earl and Broken Age. There’s an audience out there for digital throwbacks that evoke the games many people played as children, and fans are using their wallets to make sure their voices are heard.
There’s nothing wrong with that. Both great artists and great development teams understand that everyone borrows from past projects when creating something new. Repeated themes, stories, and game mechanics don’t only pay homage to bygone eras, they allow creators to iterate on what came before to make something even more ambitious. That’s the tack that Playtonic Studios, a team comprised of former Rare developers, is taking with their colorful, old-school 3D platformer Yooka-Laylee. It’s working, too; Yooka-Laylee just become the fastest game to reach $1 million on Kickstarter, taking the record its from previous holder, Torment: The Tides of Numenera.
Yooka-Laylee is the spiritual successor of Banjo-Kazooie, an extremely popular Nintendo 64 platformer. Excited fans rushed to bankroll the game, and the Playtonic Studios’ release met its funding goal of $270,041 in under an hour. At the time of writing, Yooka-Laylee‘s Kickstarter has 36,616 backers, who pledged a gobsmacking $1,929,316.
Influenced by N64 puzzle-platformers of yore, Yooka-Laylee will reintroduce gamers to worlds full of imagination and childlike wonder. Taking over the role of Yooka (the bright green chameleon) and Laylee (the lavender lady-bat), players will explore levels using special moves like Yooka’s tongue grapple and Laylee’s sonar blast, and will hunt down collectibles hidden in Yooka-Laylee’s colorful landscapes.
Visually, with its lush 3D environments and characters designed by Steven Hurst, the artist behind the Donkey Kong Country cast as well as Banjo and Kazooie, Yooka-Laylee looks stunning. David Wise, the composer of Donkey Kong Country‘s superior soundtrack, and Grant Kirkhope, the masterful melodist of Banjo-Kazooie, will provide the game’s score.
Since Playtonic Studios is made up of former Rare employees, one has to wonder what the studio behind varied and definitive games like Battletoads, GoldenEye 007, and Conker’s Bad Fur Day has in store for the future. Although there’s no clear answer at the moment, rumors suggest that Rare will reveal a new game at E3. Because Yooka-Laylee is already filling the void left by the non-existent Banjo-Kazooie 3, hopefully Rare’s announcement will involve something different, and equally mind-blowing.
Are crowd-funded games like Yooka-Laylee the future of the industry? If so, can well-known developers like Rare give people the games they want without having to rely on the resourceful methods of companies like Kickstarter?