first_imgStyleLike Rare’s classic Nintendo 64 3D platformer Banjo-Kazooie, Snake Pass and Yooka-Laylee both star cute, big-eyed buddy animal duos: a protagonist reptile (Noodle the Snake and Yooka the Chameleon) and a small flying sidekick (Doodle the Bird and Laylee the Bat). Behind the scenes, both games were also developed by British developers. Snake Pass is Sumo Digital’s first independent game while Yooka-Laylee is the first game period from Playtonic Games following a successful Kickstarter.However, Playtonic Games’ team consists of industry veterans most of whom formerly worked at Rare. So Yooka-Laylee’s style resembles Banjo-Kazooie-era Rare to a fetishistic degree. Backers were promised cheeky, in-joke-laden humor and mumbled speech and lots of quirky characters and they got it. Do you like googly eyes on everything because Yooka-Laylee has googly eyes on everything. Googly eyes literally flop around searching for objects to attach to like a parody of Rare character design.Snake Pass’s style, while charming and visually pleasing thanks to Unreal Engine 4, is more like a generic jungle animal cartoon adventure. Apparently, the game originally had a more realistic look, but players didn’t enjoy staring at an actual snake for that long.GameplayYooka-Laylee’s Rare reverence extends far beyond its style. The game is a new, traditional, Unity-powered Banjo-Kazooie in all but name only. And the name is pretty close. Players run and jump around sprawling hub worlds and levels bopping enemies and unlocking new moves (like shooting or rolling or gliding) to reach new places. The biggest philosophical shift from those older game is a greater emphasis on player choice. Banjo-Kazooie: Breath of the Wild?The five main worlds are fairly nonlinear. Players can run and explore in any direction, tackling any tangent they want if they have the right abilities. With enough “Pagies” players can unlock a new world or expand an existing one, which is a cool idea. Beyond buying new moves, players can access different transformations and buff themselves RPG-style with different “play tonics.”The game is packed to the gills with almost too many trinkets to collect and side games to play alone or with friends. Granted, some of that side content is pretty bad. Quizzing you with personal details from your adventure sounds novel but is actually tedious. Fortunately, it can mostly be ignored. Anytime I became bored with a certain boss or puzzle, I just did something else, like talking to Shovel Knight or celebrating the fact that famous internet racist JonTron was cut from the game.Calling Snake Pass a 3D platformer is technically accurate, but it’s a much different kind of game in comparison. It’s series of physics traversal puzzles closer to QWOP or Octodad than Super Mario 64. Players control a snake named Noodle and must collect different crystals in jungle obstacles using a snake’s signature style of movement.Controlling Noodle is like controlling a weird rope car. Players accelerate with the trigger and change direction by aiming Noodle’s head with the analog stick. But ascending bamboo columns or slipping through undersea rocks require mastery of more advanced mechanics and concepts. Slithering properly grants a speed boost. Raising Noodle’s head up and down with a button press while tightening and loosening your grip with the other trigger lets you wrap yourself around objects. And having Doodle, the Bird lift your tail up can save your snakeskin in the right situation.Snake Pass’s puzzles, while inventive, are never that complicated. However, the controls are so involved that’s a good thing. Just pulling a lever is a whole multi-step process. But the game is so chill and relaxed this is rarely frustrating. Noodle’s dope expressions let you know he’s not in a rush and neither should you. There are no enemies to threaten you, and time trials are just a side feature. No pressure. Snake Pass is all about the surprising Zen joy of moving around like a snake, like a spiritual successor to Rare’s own Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll. Just don’t tread on him.MusicBoth Snake Pass and Yooka-Laylee feature soundtracks from veteran Rare composer David Wise, who scored the classic Donkey Kong Country games as well as the excellent Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze on Wii U. However, the bulk of Yooka-Laylee’s score was written by Grant Kirkhope, who also has a long history with Rare and Banjo-Kazooie specifically. So no matter which game you pick, you’ll be listening to some pretty Rare tunes.SpiritYooka-Laylee introduces a handful of new ideas into the 3D platformer genre, a genre that’s pretty much dormant except of course for famous New Donk City tourist Mario. However, nostalgia makes up the vast majority of its appeal. It’s Banjo-Kazooie with modern upgrades like HD visuals, bigger vistas, and smoother controls as well as a mix of modern drawbacks like technical issues that are still being patched up and dated design flaws like cheap deaths from bad camera angles. If that’s what you want as a Rare fan that’s what you’re getting.However, Snake Pass is the game I’ve returned to more often, and not just because I’m not a Banjo-Kazooie fan (Donkey Kong 64, while worse, at least was bloated in a kind of epic, Cleopatra-of-mascot-platformers way). Snake Pass offers creative gameplay I had never seen before, a feeling old Rare games used to evoke even if Yooka-Laylee is more of a Rare Game ™. I dug how Snake Pass rewrote my brain into thinking like a snake to skillfully and instinctively loop Noodle around new challenges. It’s a shorter game, but it’s also half the price.Yooka-Laylee is an impressive labor of love and retro respect that will hopefully please fans. But if you want classic Rare injected into your veins, why not just cut out the middleman and pick up the excellent classic compilation Rare Replay. Then play Snake Pass for something new. Or stick with Yooka-Laylee. They are different games, there’s room in the world for both, and for what it’s worse, they are both (or will soon be) Nintendo Switch Games That Aren’t Zelda.Want to learn more? Here’s everything you need to know about the Nintendo Switch.Buy it now!The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the WildNintendo SwitchEssential Nintendo Switch Accessories Controller Patent Teases SNES Games on SwitchPlay These Nintendo Switch Games Before ‘Pokemon Sword and Shield&… Since 1985 British developer Rare has been responsible for some beloved games on the ZX Spectrum, Nintendo systems, and the Xbox after they were purchased by Microsoft. However the Microsoft buyout has slowly eroded the studio into somewhat of a shell of its former self, cranking out generic Kinect games instead of creative wonders like Donkey Kong Country, Viva Piñata and Goldeneye (the game that made first-person shooters work on console). It didn’t help that much of the original talent left the team.The upcoming pirate multiplayer game Sea of Thieves looks like it might be the most interesting actual Rare game in years, but in these last few weeks I’ve played two games that embody much of the Rare Spirit: Snake Pass (out now) and Yooka-Laylee (out soon). Each one stands fine on its own as an original game (well, one more than another) but playing them back-to-back make really reveals their underlying Rare-ness. So which one is the Rarest of them all?center_img Stay on targetlast_img read more