by Matthew Thompson
Young Mario and Luigi don’t seem to have the greatest of luck. It turns out after being rescued and delivered safely back home at the end of the original Yoshi’s Island, it is discovered that they were dropped off with the wrong parents. When the stork tries to right this wrong in swoops Kamek to steal away baby Luigi. It is once again up to a group of Yoshis to save the day. With baby Mario in tow, the Yoshi clan work to reclaim his brother from the clutches of the evil wizard. And that kicks off another adventure in the Yoshi’s Island series, this time on the Nintendo 3DS.
The gameplay is similar to its predecessors. It is a slow-paced, puzzle-y platformer which sets itself apart from other genre entries through its unique mechanics. Most notable of these is Yoshi’s egg-tossing ability which allows him to swallow enemies, turn them into eggs, and then launch them in various directions to solve puzzles, best enemies, uncover secrets, and collect various goodies strewn throughout each level. His flutter jump also helps to give the game a different feel than other 2D platformers. Yoshi’s New Island shines brightest when it leverages these abilities through clever level designs and its super-sized boss fights.
This game does try to inject the series with some new ideas, but does so to mixed results. While the Mega Eggdozers, humongous eggs that Yoshi can create by eating equally huge enemies, aren’t exactly gamechangers, I enjoyed them. It can be fun to create a path of destruction with one and I liked how the metal variant was utilized for underwater puzzles. Yoshi can also transform into different vehicles like in the rest of the series. These are now controlled with the system’s gyroscope which makes for controls that range from fine (the mine cart) to terrible (the submarine). Overall I can’t help but look at these motion controls as being a net negative.
It takes a while for the game’s difficulty to ramp up, but there is a nice level of challenge in the final two worlds. In earlier areas, the difficulty comes from trying to get 100% completion. Admittedly this is no easy task, but I still prefer games that add challenge through more traditional jumping obstacles and hazards and then use 100%ing as an extra challenge on top of that. It does make for some quality exploration elements here, but I guess I just wish the overall difficulty would have ramped up a little sooner than it did.
I was surprised how good the graphics looked when I finally sat down to play Yoshi’s New Island. Screenshots and videos don’t really do them justice. They have done a fine job of maintaining the original’s pastel-inspired art direction in the new 2.5D rendering style. But at the same time, it still can’t stack up with the original’s standout visuals. Music is okay, if not exactly as memorable as the first Yoshi’s Island.
And that is kind of par for the course for the entire game. It’s a fun little platformer, but it doesn’t quite compare to the SNES classic. The unique mechanics help deliver an experience that feels original next to much of its current-day platforming competition. And I still love the series’ approach to boss fights in this latest outing. So if you are looking for some more egg-tossing, dinosaur riding goodness, Yoshi’s New Island will deliver. Just don’t expect anything like the revelation that was the original Yoshi’s Island. This is merely a solid sequel in comparison.