(Image and title pun from Yooka-Laylee Kickstarter page)
It’s actually happening! I can hardly believe it, but Yooka-Laylee (formerly ‘Mingy-Jongo’) is actually alive and very, very well! I found out about this on May 1st and I’m still somewhat stunned, we may yet get the chance to enjoy a spiritual successor to the brilliant game that is Banjo-Kazooie, especially now that it’s raised more than 7 times its original goal on Kickstarter! It’s actually happening, something that is absolutely amazing considering that it almost didn’t.
If someone had told me a few months that this would happen, I flat-out would not have believed a single word of it. It’s not that I thought it was impossible, but rather that I had already been told that the project was dead.
Like many Rare fans, I’d heard rumblings of a possible return of classic Rareware platforming starting back in early 2012. At the time, the potential project had been dubbed “Mingy Jongo” and was supposedly going to be more or less what Yooka-Laylee has turned out to be: more of those classic Rareware games that so many of us came to cherish. However, the idea turned out to be fairly short-lived.
First, the project’s official Twitter (then @MingyJongo) went dark. No more updates, no news about a possible Kickstarter for the game, it just went quiet. It was definitely a bad sign to be sure, but there had been no official confirmation that the project was dead, so I probably wasn’t the only one who was still holding out some hope that the project might resurface in time. It did, but not in the way we had been hoping it would.
In April of 2014, the project was confirmed dead by Grant Kirkhope during an AMA on reddit. When asked about the status of the project, he said that it essentially “[…]all fell to bits”. Thy why of it all was chalked up to standard curve-balls of life such as other jobs and such. His full response revealed that they had at least gotten a good start on the project: “The other guys actually had a secret meeting in a pub near Rare” he said, “[…] we even got as far as having a character drawn up and a demo level type thing.” There was no more word about the project after that.
It’s a story that’s not foreign to the game development world. Many a project has simply disappeared after announcement (Beyond Good and Evil 2 anyone?), with countless more seeing the light of day at all. “Mingy Jongo” hadn’t even gotten to the point of delivering a trailer, so it’s apparent demise seemed to be a certainty. It was dead so we moved on.
Only it wasn’t. apparently on Dec. 21, 24, and 31 there was some new activity on the Mingy Jongo twitter account. It was just 3 words: “*Ctrl*” “*Alt*” “*Del*”, followed by a tweet from Grant Kirkhope speculating what the key combination could mean. More cryptic tweets came in February, followed by the announcement of project “Ukelele” at EGX Rezzed 2015, and culminating in the official announcement and Kickstarter kickoff for Yooka-Laylee.
Was the project ever actually dead? Perhaps. There was quite a long break between updates, and me may indeed be seeing something different than what project Mingy Jongo was going to be. Still, it’s incredibly exciting to see this project alive again, and even more developed than its original iteration had been! Of course the game isn’t out of the woods yet. There’s still more than a year to go before the games projected release date, and who knows what could happen between then and now?
It would be easy to be pessimistic about the projects chances at this point, it did already die once after all. However, I think I’d rather be optimistic. All these developers are seasoned industry veterans who not only know what it takes to make a fun game, but who also care for and believe in this project enough to bring it back rather than take the easy way out and walk away when we all believed it to be dead.
Good luck to you Playtonic Games! We can’t wait to enter the world of Yooka-Laylee!
Did you follow this project at all? Did the announcement of “Yooka-Laylee” surprise you? What would you want to see happen in this return to Rare-style platforming?