Banjo-Kazooie found lavish success for itself, being beloved enough to inspire tens of thousands of backers to pledge more than $2.5 million USD (by today's exchange rate), and becoming what was at the time the fastest Kickstarted game to reach $1 million. It was a huge accomplishment on the back of a 3D collect-a-thon featuring a honey bear and his bird.
So why didn't Yooka-Laylee resonate in the same way? Don't me wrong, I liked Yooka-Laylee more than a fair bit, while acknowledging its few flaws, such as diminishing returns on collectibles as the game went on. That being said, my take on the game is on the high end of what is a markedly mediocre spectrum of reception. Playtonic's title sits firmly in the "mixed" reception category on Metacritic, ranging from a 68 to a 74 depending on the Platform. It's clear that something about Yooka-Laylee isn't clicking, but it's unclear exactly what, or why.
My guess is that it's all Batman: Arkham's fault. When you think about it, the comparison isn't that far off, and it goes well beyond the protagonist's close relationship with a Bat. In Yooka-Laylee, you go about traversing large worlds for the sole purpose of collecting "Pagies," usually these Pagies are in "cagies," and the only way you can get them out is by solving some sort of environmental puzzle. Sound familiar to any Batman fans out there?
Of course, there are scores of differences between the two games, so much so that it's not even worth going into, but the act of collecting Riddler Trophies in Batman: Arkham City and its kin is unmistakably alike Pagie collection in Yooka-Laylee, and the former might have killed the reception of the ladder.
You might have to hit different buttons with projectiles, or jump on a specific series of floor tiles, or you might just find one laying about in a high or well-hidden place, and all of that applies to both Pagies and Riddler Trophies. Similarly, many Riddler trophies will require an ability or skill you may not have unlocked yet, which, as anyone who has played Yooka-Laylee will tell you, is also the case in Playtonic's newest collect-a-thon. Sometimes, you'll find an underwater button and try everything you can think to press it only to later realize that you need to first unlock an ability that lets you walk under water.
In fact, Yooka-Laylee was criticized by several different outlets for not properly sign-posting when you wouldn't be able to unlock a Pagie. But, not only was this lack of sign-posting and hand-holding also the case with Banjo-Kazooie, it as also the same in the Arkham games. You'd come across a Riddler trophy locked in a cage with six or seven Riddler question marks, and, no matter how fast you mashed your Batarang, you couldn't hit all of them before it reset. Of course, you need the multi-Batarang to get that one. Who knew?
So, if both games heavily feature collecting of scattered objects that require solving environmental puzzles that aren't properly sign-posted, why is one getting more flak than the other? Besides the fact that the Arkham trilogy contains some of the best games of all time, they also have a lot more going for them than just collecting riddler trophies.
Yooka-Laylee is essentially what would happen if someone made a whole game out of just collecting Riddler trophies. Now, I don't think this is necessarily bad, but it's certainly not what gamers have an appetite for, now that so many games treat the act of collecting like a sidequest.
This also makes people notice sign-posting issues a lot more. In the Arkham games, if I see a Riddler trophy I can't unlock, I can simply move on. There's much more to the game than collecting one Trophy. There's a story to unfold, a side-villain to pummel – something. In Yooka-Laylee, the first and last objective is to collect that damn Pagie. If I can't do it, I'm likely to keep trying and trying, and some people are likely to blame the game when they can't figure it out and find out later that they needed a special ability the whole time.
As I said in my review, I think there are several ways in which Yooka-Laylee improved upon the formula of Banjo-Kazooie, but that may not be enough for gamers today, who have been molded to believe, by games like Arkham City, that collecting is a side mission. When it's handled as a full game, it seems, it just doesn't resonate anymore.