Developer: Azrest | Publisher: Nintendo | Played on: 3DS | Price: $39.99 | ESRB: Everyone [Mild Cartoon Violence]
All things considered, Yoshi is kind of a terrible guardian. He was tasked with safely delivering baby Mario to his parents, but in doing so he led the toddler through dozens of perilous predicaments: lava-filled caverns, haunted houses, and jungles full of thieving monkeys. And that’s not to mention the extended amounts of time the duo swam underwater without breathing. Or forcing the puny plumber-t-be to watch as he swallowed enemies whole and popped them out as enormous eggs. For all intents and purposes Yoshi should have been the last choice for a babysitter for the future hero of the Mushroom Kingdom. Yet here with are again with the release of Yoshi’s New Island on the 3DS, which once again puts the dinosaur in the limelight as baby Mario’s keeper.
As with the previous games in the Yoshi series, the first thing I noticed about the game was the crayon-like art style. The worlds are immensely colorful and feel like something you might see in a child’s coloring book. Stages range from lush jungles to creepy underground caves, and each world features a wonderful amount of detail that brings the world to life. The lighthearted visuals compliment the game’s innocent storyline and are a real highlight.
Also of note is the game’s soundtrack. I had reminders of the first game on the SNES when listening to some of the stage music. Songs fit the theme of each stage. For example, the music is much more intense when engaging in a boss battle than when, say, jumping on the giant leaves of a beanstalk. At the same time though the constant noises Yoshi bellows when he jumps gets old pretty fast. I’m not sure if this was intentional but baby Mario’s crying when he’s separated from Yoshi is ear piercing (like a real baby) and is plenty of incentive to never take any damage.
From a gameplay perspective, Yoshi’s New Island is remarkably similar to the past islands we’ve seen and explored. Yoshi can gobble up enemies with his exceptionally long tongue and turn them into eggs. These eggs are quite useful: they can be used to take out other enemies from a distance, activate switches to progress further in each level, and pick up collectibles like coins that Yoshi could otherwise not reach. A handy guide pops up each time you are about to launch an egg, ensuring your projectile hits its mark (although this takes some getting used too). If you have played a previous Yoshi game then you already know what to expect.
Scattered throughout each level are five hidden flowers which can be collected to unlock bonuses at the end of each stage. Usually these flowers are off the beaten path in the level, requiring you to do some exploring or creative egg throwing in order to uncover their location. Finding the flowers in each stage presents the greatest challenges in Yoshi’s New Island, as the game itself is relatively tame otherwise. Also strewn about each level are 20 hidden red coins, which present a separate albeit less worthwhile challenge. Although hunting down both of these collectibles in each stage is fun, it doesn’t expand upon the gameplay at all. It won’t be long before you get tired of doing the exact same thing time and time again.
Some stages attempt to change up the gameplay by throwing in segments where Yoshi changes into some other object, like a helicopter or a jackhammer. These portions of the game have you tilting your 3DS to move Yoshi through a specially designed course within a time limit. These sections feel arbitrarily placed, sometimes coming up in the middle of a stage for no real reason. Worse yet, even though you transform into different things they all handle the same and don’t given any sense of variety amongst themselves: moving the jackhammer Yoshi is very similar to moving the mine cart Yoshi. I found these to be poorly implemented altogether and a missed opportunity for the game to do something really great.
Being a platformer, precise controls are a necessity. Thankfully, Yoshi has that flutter-kick ability that allows him to float a bit before landing. Though occasionally I did accidentally let my thumb push the control pad slightly downward, causing Yoshi to ground pound directly into a bottomless pit. The sensitivity of the control pad is an issue because I often had to adjust my landing mid-jump, only to plummet to my death shortly thereafter.
Yoshi’s New Island isn’t a bad game; it just doesn’t live up to the legacy set forth by its predecessors. The game’s visuals are top notch and the soundtrack is a great as well. For the most part the gameplay holds up as well, but uninspired special zones and frustrating controls mar the overall experience. If this is your first time playing a Yoshi game then you’ll likely find it a fun departure from the standard Mario formula. For everyone else there are better games in the series to play and enjoy.
+ Beautiful crayon like art style
— Special zones are a missed opportunity to do something special
— Repetitive gameplay doesn’t offer much challenge