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A portion of a USGamer interview with character art director Steve Mayles and music composer Grant Kirkhope…

USG: Yooka-Laylee seems to be almost like a metroidvania. There are sections of the game that you can go back to and unlock. How does that aspect of the game work?

Steve Mayles: We’ve tried to make Yooka-Laylee a little less linear than these games have been in the past. We’ve tried to add things around player choice like the way you can expand worlds, or not expand them – the choice is yours. If you want to progress quickly and see every new level, you can do that, and there are gameplay choices around the tonics where you can tailor the game to suit your playstyle. So if you’re having a problem with a particular challenge, you can power-up one particular element with a tonic. Players will be able to take different paths through the game that way.

You can start in the first world and it’s not expanded, and you could collect enough paiges to move onto the second world, or you could choose to stay where you are and expand the first world. If you go to the second world, you can go back and expand that first world anytime you wish. It’ll probably be possible to go through the game without expanding any of it – although I don’t know why you would, because you’d be missing out on huge chunks of gameplay.

USG: How did you come up with the characters? A bat and a chameleon seem so random.

SM: There’s some method behind the madness here. I started out with a tiger, but that never got past a 2D sketch. Then I was thinking that these characters in the past have been more underdogs. So I went back to the drawing board, and because we’ve done these sorts of games before, I started to think about abilities. What could they do that would make them interesting to play in terms of all the moves they could do? For example, the chameleon has obviously got his tongue and his tail, and has camouflage. So we can take those things and gamify them, so instead of camouflage just blending in with the background, now it takes on physical properties like metal, or fire, or electricity. It’s the same with the bat – it had to fly because we needed to have those moves in the game. It couldn’t be a bird because of that other game we made, so a bat was a good option. Again, probably under-represented in games, and there are abilities around the bat’s sonar moves we could bring into the game. Combining those moves together, especially with the physical properties aspects, and the way you can fire different projectiles, you end up with a lot of different combinations of moves.

Laylee’s projectiles are completely different to the physical properties of Yooka. They’re on a timer, so it’s not like Banjo-Kazooie where you could pick up an egg and have it for the whole game if you didn’t fire it. Because it’s a time-specific thing, it lets us set up certain types of puzzles, because you only have a certain amount of time to do something. This is where things like the tonics come into play – because you might want to get a tonic that extends the amount of time that you can breathe fire.