Last month Playtonic Games, the studio behind the mysterious Project Ukulele, held a presentation at UK gaming event EGX Rezzed. Titled “Playtonic: Rebirth of the 3D Platformer,” the presentation discussed the ways the team of ex-Rare employees will be revitalizing and redefining the platforming genre with their first title. Along with a slew of information and a few screenshots, Playtonic’s managing director and creative lead Gavin Price revealed that the studio had plans to bring the project to Kickstarter sometime this year. Well, fans don’t have to wait because Project Ukulele (now officially titled Yooka-Laylee) has come to Kickstarter and will be running a campaign for the entirety of May.
Price explained during the EGX Rezzed presentation that the Kickstarter will serve as a way for Playtonic to build its relationship with fans. In the time between the presentation and now, fans were encouraged to share any and all ideas with the Playtonic team. Ideas regarding Kickstarter tiers, rewards, soundtracks, limited editions, and much more would be considered and hopefully implemented into the campaign and into final release. Price even mentioned the possibility of Project Ukulele replica Nintendo 64 cartridges, which excites me to no end.
Price also provided fans with a handy FAQ on Playtonic’s website that answered some questions regarding the Kickstarter. He explained that the team wanted to take advantage of Kickstarter “to make this the best game it can possibly be, with the creative freedom to ensure that the final product is something we can all be proud of.” Kickstarter also allows Playtonic “to build community and have fans get their hands on all the cool physical rewards they want (and can sell on eBay in a few years at inflated prices… everyone wins!)” On the possibility of the Kickstarter failing, Price stated that the studio will still “carry on making the game and release it when it’s ready. But the Kickstarter will help [Playtonic] add many features and platform versions – not to mention cool swag – that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.”
— Playtonic (@PlaytonicGames) April 14, 2015
After about a month, Playtonic officially announced that its Project Ukulele Kickstarter would begin on May 1st. In the time between the announcement and the campaign’s start, Playtonic treated fans to a few looks at the game’s development. Fans were given the first in-engine glimpse of Project Ukulele’s Minion character, Playtonic’s Twitter hinted that we’ll hear some of the game’s soundtrack soon, and chief environment designer Steven Hurst shared some insights on the game world.
If these sneak peeks weren’t exciting enough, IGN surprisingly revealed the game’s official title about a day before the Kickstarter went live. Project Ukulele is officially titled Yooka-Laylee, and will star two lead characters: Yooka the chameleon and Laylee the bat. Reminiscent of the two-hero team of Banjo and Kazooie — right down to the musical references — Yooka and Laylee look like the fun and charming characters of Rare’s past. IGN offered a brief clip of gameplay showing these two heroes in motion.
You can get out your wallets now. This big day has come.
After about twelve hours, the Kickstarter has already reached six stretch goals, totaling over one million USD. This translates to: day-one release of the game on PC, Mac, and Linex with consoles to follow; unique boss fights for every level and original boss music by the composers; a pre-final boss quiz challenge level; character transformations and unique abilities; 2.5D and 3D mine cart sections; and local two-player cooperative gameplay. Such a crazy achievement in just half a day.
Playtonic has also been presenting some fun, informal goals via Twitter. After composer Grant Kirkhope offered a video promoting the Kickstarter, Playtonic’s Twitter account stated that if the campaign raised over a million USD, Kirkhope would personally perform with a ukulele at E3 in June. Well, looks like Kirkhope will indeed carry out this performance as the million goal was met in roughly six hours.
After mere 21 hours, faster than I was even expecting, the next five goals were met (with the final goal at 1 million pounds, around 1.5 million USD). Yooka-Laylee is now complete with additional 2-4 player multiplayer modes, multi-language translations, exclusive designs by ex-Rare artists Kev Bayliss and Ed Bryan, and simultaneous day-one release on Wii U, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. Playtonic surprised backers with two additional stretch goals as well. Within a few hours, the campaign raised another 100 thousand pounds, meaning the game will go “old-skool” with N64 shaders and a “GK Rap” song and video written by Grant Kirkhope. Another 100 thousand was raised by early May 3rd, meaning Platonic will produce developer walkthrough and commentary videos.
Given the absolutely unbelievable levels of support so quickly in the campaign, Playtonic added the first in what they consider “dream extras” for Yooka-Laylee. If 1.5 million pounds are raised, the team will produce “an orchestral score and time for our composers to record their music in an ideal environment.” Any money raised thereafter will go toward “improving and polishing the game.” An orchestral score would no doubt be a treat for fans as well as the composers, so watching the Kickstarter funds grow will continue to excite.
As for backer rewards, Playtonic is offering a collection of cool stuff to supporters. Digital rewards include downloadable copies of the game, digital soundtracks, game manuals, and artbooks. Physical rewards include T-shirts, posters, and the highly-coveted “64 Bit Package,” which includes a retro Nintendo 64-style box and replica cartridge. Premium backers may also be rewarded with a visit with the development team, a chance to voice a game character, and a VIP live concert.
At the rate the Kickstarter has been moving, I’d say the new stretch goals and even more will be met in the next week. In the meantime, visit the Kickstarter page to see a ton of information on the game, some exclusive art and early music demos, and back the project if you haven’t already. You can also visit Playtonic’s website and follow them on Twitter for updates on the Kickstarter and the game’s development.
The success of Yooka-Laylee seems to be assured with the overall success of the Kickstarter, and I am exceedingly excited to see what the team does after this outpouring of support. Don’t forget to check back to Nerd Hero for more major updates to Yooka-Laylee.