The Platformer was once the fundamental genre of game, from Super Mario bros to Sonic the Hedgehog (to Bubsy), there was once a time when a person couldn’t even hear the word video game without immediately imagining a 2D Platformer. Following the release of the fifth generation of consoles, in a way very reminiscent of its 2-Dimensional brethren, the 3D Platformer burst onto the scene and within a few short months, would quickly become a staple of its own.
A Platformer is a game that involves the player controlling a character traversing a series of platforms, ledges, staircases (or any object that can be climbed/ jumped on really) to reach a destination or goal. So as I’m sure you can gather from the name, a 3D Platformer is the same basic concept, but in 3 dimensions. Often dubbed Collectathons due to the central mechanic of exploring levels and collecting whatever item the game revolved around. From 1996 to 2005 literally hundreds of 3D platformers were produced, licensed games (Codename: Kids next door), franchise players (Super Mario 64) and original titles (Banjo Kazooie) it seemed like every company, and indeed every character, was getting in on the craze.
With this huge influx of games, came a huge amount of innovation, and many would argue leading the charge in this regard were Rare Ware. Themselves a developer who had themselves breathed new life into the 2D platform game genre with their Donkey Kong Country series.
No good thing lasts forever though, after nearly 10 years of near constant releases, the thrill of the genre was all but gone by 2005 and releases began to fade from the public eye. On the 19th April 2005, the fate of the 3D Plat former was finally sealed. Psychonauts was released. Despite its enormous critical acclaim (many heralding it as the absolute pinnacle of the 3D platforming experience) it was an utter commercial bomb. As is the case with most things, one huge disaster was enough to derail the genre and the failure of Psychonauts saw “The Golden age of 3D Platform games” come to a quick end.
By this time even the gold-standard, Rare Ware, famous for developing many beloved titles for Nintendo, had been bought by Microsoft. Despite a brief return to their signature franchise (Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts) in 2008, fans of Rare and indeed the genre could tell that it just wasn’t the same. All viewpoints led to the obvious conclusion that 3D platformers were gone forever, since not even a new wave of Indie developed 2D platformers had heralded the faintest whisper of a return to 3D.
It’s therefore easy to understand the shock to fans when in May 2015, 15 years after their last true foray into the genre, the original Rare Ware team (having formed Playtonic games) announced their plans for a new game. A Kick-starter was set up for an original 3D Platformer, Yooka-Laylee, in the vein of those of yester year. What followed was an even greater shock of its own, with fans of the genre expressing their enormous thirst for new content by pledging over £2,000,000 (massively surpassing the games £175,000 goal).
It appears as though this Kick-starter has (quite aptly) kick-started a new age of 3D platformers. New titles are being announced all the time, from “A Hat in Time” to even a sequel to the (now) Cult Classic Psychonauts, 3D platformers are back in a big way, and it’s all thanks to Yooka-Laylee.