Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair sounds, well... impossible to beat, but in reality, it can just be extremely difficult and frustrating at times. However, that's what makes the new spinoff title of Yooka-Laylee from developer Playtonic all the more special. Interestingly, rather than make another 3D platformer like the first game, the developers decided to take a trip down memory lane and create a 2.5D side-scroller (with obvious platformer elements still involved). It may seem like a downgrade on the surface, but it actually seems to work in their favor.
A 3D overworld still exists, which is where players can freely move from level to level and even trigger level changes. In one instance, an entire mission will be flooded, which will offer a drastically different experience for players, thus ensuring a certain amount of replayability on a macro scale. (These modifications are made by completing puzzles/objectives in the overworld, such as redirecting water from a particular cavern.) One of the biggest gripes about the original Yooka-Laylee game was its repetitive missions, and while the fundamental level designs of Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair aren't too dissimilar from the 2017 installment, this new function is a welcome supplement.
Right from the start, players can dive into any level they want, including the Impossible Lair itself, but as Playtonic told us in our hands-on demo at E3 2019, going straight into the Impossible Lair isn't a logical choice. Only the best players, who've perhaps mastered the first Yooka-Laylee game or played side-scrollers enough to know what they're doing, can get through the Impossible Lair without having any bees on hand to help out. Yooka loses Laylee whenever he's hit and has to, therefore, contend in a handicapped state. So, accumulating helper bees (up to 48) by playing through all the optional stages allows Yooka to take hits without losing Laylee, at least not right away.
When playing Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair, it's best to think of the actual Impossible Lair as the final objective and all the other stages as a means to an end. Sure, it's fun to play through additional levels in side-scrollers and platformers, in general, but Playtonic's approach to replayability is having players go through those "optional" missions to obtain more bees (as well as other collectibles). If you don't have enough on hand, then you'll simply replay a mission and, hopefully, get better at the game in doing so.
Even though it takes time to get into the rhythm of the game, all the various gameplay mechanics in Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair work remarkably well (including the puzzles that trigger alternate stages). Overall, it's great to see the developers offer a classic gaming experience but in a modern way. We only got a brief glimpse into the upcoming spinoff title, but if the final version of the game can deliver on what Playtonic showed press at E3, then Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair should satisfy both Yooka-Laylee and platformer fans.