For a rather long period of time, 3D platformers were not a particularly popular genre. Okay, they were big in the days of the N64 and Playstation 1, but with Rare’s decline and the FPS genre taking off, the days of 3D mascot platformers seemingly came to an end.
But as with everything else, Kickstarter came to the rescue. Inspired by classic collectathon platformers like Super Mario 64, Banjo Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64 (among others), three different teams have funded new projects in the style of the N64 games we all know and love. Those being? A Hat in Time, Lobodestroyo and Yooka Laylee. What’s more, all three have at least some involvement from ex Rare staff (often Grant Kirkhope). Here are the Kickstarter trailers for the three:
But which one is best? Which of the three big 3D platformers of the 2010s is going to be the true spiritual successor to Banjo Kazooie? Let’s find out, in the 3D platformer comparison!
The Story and Characters
Time is falling apart, and the brave interstellar travelling Hat Kid has to collect the pieces and put them back together away. All while racing against the evil Moustache Girl and her wishes of using time for evil purposes.
Above: The basic trailer for A Hat in Time, showing some of the story and levels.
Lobodestroyo’s plot on the other hand, is a tad more complicated. Probably better to let them explain it to be honest:
The legendary Lobodestroyo is the sentinel of Costa Lucha. His wolf pack protects its citizens by locking away villains who threaten the peace, and maintain order from high atop Mt. Justice! At least he did…
Mutt, the runt of the wolf pack litter, wakes up to find Mt. Justice in ruins; His wolf pack brothers missing; and the Lobodestroyo’s championship belt strewn across his destroyed temple. To top it off the maximum security lockup has been breached and the 10 members of La Liga de Los Villanos have escaped. Determined to avenge his brethren and prove his worth, Mutt dons the championship belt and takes up the mantle of his fallen hero.
Tag-teaming with the luchador spirit Dorado, who dwells in the mystical belt, Mutt explores the hub city of Costa Lucha and unlocks new areas, while he attempts to track down and unmask the evil villains who have overrun each game world.
And what’s the plot for Yooka-Laylee? That’s actually a good question, since the Kickstarter page and official website don’t really give away the plot. All we know is that Yooka and Laylee (the chameleon guy with no pants and the bat with the big nose respectively) are trying to collect Pagies in a bunch of worlds loosely based around books.
Above: Pretty much what we currently know about the plot of Yooka-Laylee, in one picture.
So what’s the best plot here? Depends on whether you want a simpler excuse to go jumping on heads or a complex excuse to save the world. Lobodestroyo has the more thought out storyline, A Hat in Time has the easier to explain one. We’d probably go with Lobodestroyo ourselves, though the lack of a complete Yooka-Laylee storyline/plot summary means it’s not a fair comparison at this point.
So now onto the art side of things. To make it a bit fairer, we’ll divide this section into two parts; the concept art and the in game graphics. This is because the quality of in game graphics depends on heavily on far the game is into development, whereas the concept art gives an idea about what the team are going for aesthetically.
On the concept art level then, what game does better? Well, that’s a difficult one given how all three games have a different style going on. A Hat in Time seems to be inspired more by the cel shaded art of The Wind Waker and Jet Set Radio, whereas Lobodestroyo takes influence from comic books and Yooka Laylee flat out goes for an updated Banjo Kazooie vibe for things. They all look fantastic too:
Above: Yooka-Laylee’s concept art looks absolutely gorgeous.
But honestly? On this count, we’d probably go for Lobodestroyo. Why? Because it seems more original in terms of the style it’s going for. Sure, the other two look good, but they also seem a bit… well, safe. Like they’re trying to take as much inspiration from Banjo and co as possible without really building on it in any way.
On the other hand, there’s something about Lobodestroyo’s style that stands out a bit more, at least in terms of the concept art. Look at this stuff:
You’ve got a luchador fighting wacky animal villains from the ‘La Liga de Los Villanos’ in the style of Mega Man. Add a bunch of quirky and surprisingly ‘dark’ settings (like a high security prison and a theme park castle filled with cheering minions of the villain) and stuff like the tank shown above, and you’ve got a game which would have been a highly original title even back in the days when collectathons were two a penny.
In game on the other hand? That’s a hard one. All three have decent enough graphics (even for games that are in alpha or early beta stages). But we’d probably give it to A Hat in Time, simply because of some of the awesome aesthetics in its later levels. I mean, look at this mansion level:
That’s creepy as hell to be honest. And the art style with all the shadows and dynamic lighting is done in such an amazing way that I just have to give this one to the game. Will Yooka-Laylee or Lobodestroyo come up with something equally as great for their future levels? They most probably will, all three games seem like they’ll have all manner of creative looking levels and graphics. But for now, A Hat in Time wins this one.
Music (featuring Grant Kirkhope)
Out of all three projects, all of them feature music by Grant Kirkhope. Given that he composed the soundtrack for the Banjo Kazooie games and Donkey Kong 64, that very likely means they’ll retain the feel of Rare’s classics just fine.
Above: Some songs he previously worked on You should recognise all of them even without the pictures
And while Lobodestroyo will only be getting one song by Grant, that song (the boss one) will be remixed by Gooseworx into a whole bunch of catchy themes. It will also be accompanied by a bunch of (likely equally good) music by Gooseworx.
But we’re probably going to have to give this one to Yooka Laylee. Why? Because not only does Grant Kirkhope compose music for it, but so does David Wise. You know, the guy who brought us such classic Donkey Kong Country songs as Stickerbrush Symphony and Aquatic Ambience. So while all the games have at least classic Rare styled soundtracks and Grant Kirkhope provides songs for multiple projects, we think the game with multiple members of Rare’s music staff composing for it is probably going to do better on the music front.
Gameplay and Level Design
And now, the most important part of these games. Which one is better in terms of gameplay?
Well, we can’t really say much yet, since we haven’t played it. So let’s look at some of the videos showing the game being played by other (slightly luckier) testers:
For A Hat in Time, we have two full levels showed off. The mafia filled beach town, and the creepy haunted mansion shown earlier:
It looks pretty good, though the game feels a bit more like Mario Sunshine than a Nintendo 64 era game. Not bad, just a bit different.
For Lobodestroyo, we don’t have another footage online to show what it really looks like. I mean, I came across this test area tech demo:
But that doesn’t really say much. You get a bit of the walking animation in a test room. Nothing else seems to exist yet, outside of concept art and things.
For Yooka-Laylee, we’ve got a small amount of gameplay footage that was shown off earlier this year:
It looks surprisingly good (for about three months of development), though we can’t really judge much in the way of level or game design from it, since the tech demo type stuff shows no real missions or standard gameplay.
We’re not to going to judge this yet, because we only have full levels for one of the games.
Well, all three came with fake Nintendo 64 cartridges and boxes for the people longingly wishing to be taken back to those days. For instance, here are the retro boxes and cartridges for the games (given out as Kickstarter rewards):
Granted, the Nintendo 64 cartridges provided aren’t functional, since none of the games would ever actually run on a Nintendo 64. But hey, it is a nice retraux touch to have, right?
A Hat in Time raised $296,340 on Kickstarter, Lobodestroyo raised $43,831 on Kickstarter and Yooka-Laylee raised £2,090,104 ($3,265,160.47) on said service. So based on that, Yooka-Laylee is obviously the one out of the three that people showed most interest in financially.
Either way, it’s still good news all around. All three games met their funding goals and are hence currently in development. Regardless of which one you want to play most, it’s been a good result.
Here are the consoles supported by the three titles:
||A Hat in Time
As you can see, Yooka-Laylee and Lobodestroyo are available on pretty much the same console platforms (or in other words, all of them that have any real market share at the moment). The latter is also available (or at least being made for) Ouya, despite said system failing miserably and not really being all that important at this point in time.
Above: The now failed Ouya system whose owners will now also be able to play Lobodestroyo
On the other hand, A Hat in Time is seemingly PC and Wii U specific, with support for other console platforms being currently unplanned. So it loses out a bit on that front, given how its competition will also be available to buy for the Xbox One or PS4 (for those people who aren’t really major Nintendo fans).
So while it’s extremely close, we’d give this one to Lobodestroyo. Yes the Ouya isn’t exactly a relevant system any more, but hey, it is technically going to support one more system than Yooka-Laylee.
Thought the real winners are probably Wii U owners, given that they’re getting three full-fledged 3D platformers around the same time, on a system that’s otherwise mostly of devoid of games and that’s been near completely abandoned by third parties.