It was almost 10 years ago that a group of former Rare developers got together and established Playtonic Games. This was a team consisting of many of the minds behind Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong Country, and other such classics, so when their first title, Yooka-Laylee was released in 2017, we were relieved to see that level of creativity still very much alive and kicking (even more so with the improved Switch version later that year).
Playtonic would go on to release the side-scrolling platformer Yooka-Laylee and the Impossible Lair in 2019, a title that we felt took all of the best bits of its predecessor and improved on them — awarding it a 9/10 in our review, no less. While the studio has since been behind several games on the publishing side of things (Lil Gator Game, Demon Turf, and many more) a good few years have passed since it was last in the development seat. So, just what has been going on at Playtonic?
A small group of the Nintendo Life team was recently lucky enough to visit the studio in its Burton-on-Trent offices, where we were able to sit down with some of the key players and talk about all things to do with Rare, Yooka-Laylee, growing a development studio and more.
Our wonderful video producer, Zion, has put together the above video of our time at the studio, where you can check out everything that we chatted about and get a look at the many, many goodies that can be found throughout the Playtonic workspace.
The conversations ran across a variety of topics and with so many bases to cover, we thought that we would pull out some of the highlights of our chat for you to have a look at before diving into the full video. So, let’s get into things, first with a look at the industry in the ’90s and 2000s from Playtonic founder, Gavin Price:
“It was a whole lot easier to make noise and be heard back then and you could do so by working on something that should have been commercially non-viable”
With so many games being released each week at the moment, the development landscape is certainly a different beast from what it was in previous decades. Price told us that “if a great game was a great game, you could make a success of it”, which is certainly something that we feel with the boatload of quality 2023 releases that have managed to slip under the radar.
“What we want to do is keep those aspects that people love of games of the past that make them appealing”
According to Lead Programmer Chris Sutherland, the team tries to maintain these classic features while tweaking the bits that seem “a bit jaded or not relevant anymore”. The industry sure is a-changing, huh?
“Although we’re very happy with Yook, the game that we made, we realise that it would have been better if we had more people and more time”
Playtonic is still not able to reveal anything about its next title, though as artist Steve Mayles told us in the above quote, the team is of a better size (and has more time) to make this one even better than before — exciting!
“I am working with people who have grown up with some of the games that I worked on, so they have an appreciation for those”
Having a team of Banjo-Kazooie fans doesn’t seem too out there (come on, most of us would fall into that camp) but as Chris Sutherland told us above, some of Playtonic’s newer recruits even manage to know more about the games than he does — and let’s not forget that Sutherland was the voice of the titular characters!
While the team’s lips were sealed on what they are cooking up next, it sounds like exciting times are ahead! Make sure to check out Zion’s video at the top of this article to see our chat in full.
We would like to thank the Playtonic Team for chatting with us. What do you hope is next in the Playtonic pipeline? Let us know in the comments.