Yooka-Laylee is a platform game played from a third-person perspective. The gameplay is similar to that of games in the Banjo-Kazooie series. The player controls two characters that work together to explore their environment, collect items, solve puzzles and defeat enemies. The playable characters are Yooka, a male chameleon, and Laylee, a female bat. During their adventures, Yooka and Laylee explore open worlds contained within magical books and complete challenges to collect “Pagies”: golden book pages that act as the main currency in the game. Players can use their Pagies to either unlock new worlds or expand those which have already been unlocked.
The characters’ abilities include “sonar blasting”, “tongue whipping”, “sky soaring”, eating berries for temporary powers such as fire breath, and a “fart bubble” for breathing underwater. Most of these abilities use a power meter that is filled by collecting butterflies (which can be eaten instead to restore health). Each new ability is earned by collecting enough quills to purchase them from Trowzer, a snake salesman who wears pants. Collectibles by the name of Mollycools are used in order to give Yooka and Laylee various transformations that grant them exclusive abilities. Play Tonics are RPG-style ability modifiers that are purchased from Vendi, a living vending machine, and equipped to modify or enhance players’ ability stats. Also found in the levels are Ghost Writers, collectible characters who provide various challenges like catching or fighting them for more activities, and Play Tokens, which are used to play the secret arcade games that are found once per level, hosted by a low polygon T. rex named Rextro Sixtyfourus, a homage to the Nintendo 64. There are several “quiz show challenges”, similar to the Banjo-Kazooie games. Furthermore, 2D and 3D “mine cart” sequences are also included, similar to those of Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong 64.
The game features a local cooperative multiplayer mode for two players. There is also a 2–4 player adversarial local multiplayer mode, with eight different minigames. The game will also feature an upcoming, optional “N64 shader” mode, which imitates the graphical appearance of Nintendo 64 games.