The problem with many Nintendo games is that they don’t lend themselves well to trailers. Take last year’s phenomenal Super Mario 3D World for example: screenshots and video footage made it look like a solid and attractive game, but neither successfully communicates the game’s astounding variety, or accurately showcases its masterfully honed gameplay. To the casual onlooker, the new Mario game looks like every other Mario, but there’s often much more innovation and depth in most Nintendo titles than their disarmingly cute aesthetics would suggest.
Sadly, with Yoshi’s New Island, what you see is pretty much what you get. Developed by unproven new studio Arzest under the supervision of series veteran Takashi Tezuka, this 3DS sequel opts for more of the same rather than reinvention, and picks up where the much lauded SNES classic left off – with you jumping and eating things.
After surviving the jarring aural assault of the intro music, and sitting through a slightly cringe-inducing cutscene involving a child-delivering stalk and baby versions of your favourite Italian plumbers, Yoshi is finally thrust into your capable hands. As you may have gathered from the stalk and the inclusion of a baby version of Mario, the overall aesthetic of New Island is aimed pretty squarely at children – and the difficulty level reflects this.
With accessibility being the name of the game (no, not literally), Yoshi’s New Island tasks you simply with making your way through to the end of each colourful level. While merely completing each level can often be a pretty easy and brief affair, it’s discovering each secret area and finding all the hidden collectables that provides the bulk of the challenge.
While jumping and bouncing your way through the levels, you will often encounter winged clouds emblazoned with question marks. As any Yoshi’s Island veteran will know, firing a half digested enemy at them provides you with a reward, ranging from a few dropped coins to a beanstalk leading to a secret area. Taking the time to collect every coin and sunflower, or to discover these secret paths is completely optional, but also one of the most enjoyable parts of Yoshi’s New Island. Aside from these clouds and secret areas, the levels consist of the usual moving platforms and Mario staple enemy (Shy Guys) and while there are a few gems later on, the level design here overall is pretty safe and unremarkable.
In order to keep the game accessible, your ability to withstand enemy damage is pretty generous in Yoshi’s New Island, as when you are hit, instead of dying, baby Mario slowly starts to float away from you. The stars you collect throughout each level equate to how much time you have left to reclaim the floating toddler, and its not until your counter hits zero that he is whisked away and you’ll lose a life. This means that as long as you take the time to track down the stars in each level, it’s pretty rare that you’ll die from contact with enemies.
If you mistime a jump, though, the game isn’t quite so generous. When you plummet to your death and lose a single life it can often be equivalent to an instant game over, as mid-level checkpoints seem to be randomly placed throughout the game – and are even absent entirely in some levels. This can result in massive frustration as you are forced to re-do the whole level after a death near its end. To counter this, after a certain number of deaths you are rewarded with a set of tanooki suit-esque wings, enabling you to fly higher than before – and then if you continue to fail, a set of golden wings. On some of the later levels, if you’re like me, the appearance of these patronizing wings will often make you feel like the game is mocking you, and will spur you on to beat the level with only your basic abilities. Take that, condescendingly helpful developers!
While the sporadic check points can occasionally be frustrating, overall this is still a relatively easy game. The amount of lives you receive is generous, and you’ll get through the majority of levels on your first or second try. During my twelve hour playthrough I didn’t see the game over screen once – which, with my less than pro platforming abilities, is somewhat surprising.
While Yoshi’s New Island doesn’t add a lot to the series, the two new additions it does bring provide most of the highlights. The ability to turn a giant 3D Shy Guy into a ridiculously oversized egg and destroy large parts of the environment is hugely satisfying. Singing Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” while doing so is purely optional, but definitely adds to the experience (you’re fired – Ed).
The other major new feature in Yoshi’s New Island is the inclusion of the gyro-sensor mini games. Every world will provide you with a new vehicle transformation for the little green dinosaur, ranging from planes to carts to bobsleds. These gyro levels are a fun little distraction, and are reminiscent of Donkey Kong’s Crash Course in NintendoLand. Their inclusion is a welcome one and, while simple, these enjoyable little sections help to add a bit of variety between the platforming levels of old.
VERDICT: Nintendo are famous for reinventing the wheel with their games, and throwing new ideas into old series that should have long become tired and repetitive but, sadly, Yoshi’s New Island just isn’t one of these titles. It’s enjoyable enough and has its own sense of atmosphere as well as a few unique ideas, but overall this actually feels like one of the decent but highly-iterative sequels that Nintendo is usually unfairly criticized for making. It is still fun, though, and while it may not innovate or be a classic, its joyous aesthetic and “pick up and play” nature make it at the very least a good choice for getting through the daily commute.
DECENT. A 6/10 indicates that, while this game could be much better, it still has a fair amount to offer the player. It might be an interesting title sabotaged by its own ambition, or a game denied greater praise by some questionable design choices. Don’t avoid it outright, but approach it with caution.
Review code provided by publisher.