In 1995, Nintendo decided to give Yoshi – the famous green dinosaur we all know and love – a starring role in a game all of his own after the massive popularity he garnered after his debut in Super Mario World. This game was Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. Met with critical acclaim, the success of the game caused Yoshi to be the star of his own series, receiving several other games, like sequel Yoshi’s Island DS and spiritual successor Yoshi’s Story. However, despite this, Yoshi’s starring forays tend to be few and far between. So it was a big surprise when in 2013, Nintendo unveiled two new Yoshi games; Yarn Yoshi for Wii U, and a new sequel to the first Yoshi game: Yoshi’s New Island, developed by Arzest, who developed Yoshi’s Island DS back when they were formerly Artoon.
Starting directly after the ending of the original game, New Island begins with the revelation that the stork had accidentally delivered Baby Mario and Luigi to the wrong house, causing the stork to set off again to deliver the babies to the right house. This twist, while relatively harmless, may be found disrespectful to fans of the original game, for changing what was originally a happy ending to a classic game. And although it didn’t affect me that much due to never getting that far into the original Yoshi’s Island, the game could have easily still easily worked without this plot point, but moving on. As the stork flies towards his destination, he is once again attacked by Baby Bowser’s magical caretaker, Kamek the Magikoopa, who with his minions, kidnaps Baby Luigi, but fails to kidnap baby Mario, who falls from the sky and lands safely on the floating Egg Island, which is a different setting to the original game (hence the “New Island” moniker). Found by a group of Yoshis who have recently been terrorised by Baby Bowser (who wants to turn Egg Island into his own private paradise), the Yoshis and Baby Mario team up to save the island and Baby Luigi.
Like previous Yoshi’s Island games, Yoshi’s New Island is a game that emphasises exploring over getting to the end of the level. If you play it like any regular platformer you will be disappointed, but if you play it to explore, you will like what you find. In every level, there are 20 Red Coins and 5 Flowers to find, and you won’t get them unless you explore every nook and cranny. Despite this emphasis on exploration however, the levels are oddly linear and short. Most tend to be straight paths with the occasional door to other rooms, including the castle levels. It’s a shame too because this linearity betrays the game’s emphasis on exploration.
As is the series’ tradition, instead of having traditional health, Yoshi can only be killed by pitfalls, spikes and lava. The real challenge is avoiding getting hit by enemies, as this causes Baby Mario to be sent into a bubble as Yoshi’s Star Counter goes down, and if Yoshi does not get to Baby Mario before the meter runs out, Baby Mario will be kidnapped by Kamek’s minions. The Star Counter has a count of ten by defeat, and by finding stars throughout the kevel, it can be boosted to a maximum of thirty. If Yoshi can finish a level with 30 Stars, all Flowers and Red Coins, he has fully completed it (and unlike previous titles, you don’t have to collect all the flowers and red coins in one run, which is very useful). If all levels are 100% complete, the world’s secret level will be unlocked. These secret levels are much more challenging then the main levels, which is a good thing, as unlike Yoshi’s Island and Island DS, New Island is much less difficult. Levels aren’t really that difficult. In fact, a good portion of my deaths were from accidentally ground pounding in mid-air over a pit (although this may be a problem of the 3DS control-nub rather than Arzest’s fault.) However, this lower level of difficulty does make it easier for younger gamers and newcomers to play. If you die three times in a level, you will be given the Flutter Wing, which allows you to constantly flutter jump without losing altitude. Because you can’t keep gaining height with this, only distance, you still have to do platforming to get to higher areas, so it makes the game easier for those having trouble without hand-holding them. And if you die while using the Flutter Wing, you’ll be given a stronger variant that makes you invincible to enemies.
The usual egg mechanics are present, yet oddly egg-rebounding puzzles are not that common. Annoyingly, when standing still Yoshi takes a full second to grab and egg to prepare to throw it, which really shows during segments where Yoshi has to rush but nabbing objects requires precision. Speaking of eggs, the biggest new feature of the game are the Eggdozers, of which there are two kinds. If Yoshi eats a giant Shy Guy, he will lay a Mega Eggdozer. These giant eggs will destroy everything in their path when thrown, allowing Yoshi to access blocked paths and gain extra lives. However they really don’t add much besides being visually impressive, and slow down the action each time one is used. Metal Eggdozers on the other hand, add an interesting new dynamic gameplay. Obtained when Yoshi eats a Metal Shy Guy, Metal Eggdozers will also destroy everything they roll into, but they also grant Yoshi the ability to go underwater. Walking underwater allows Yoshi to access new paths and can obtain hidden goodies. The trick is to know when and where to throw the egg, otherwise you’ll rise to the surface too early and miss out on collectables. There is also a really cool segment in one level where a Shy Guy disguises himself as a Yoshi and copies Yoshi’s movements, but is in a maze and must be lured into a spike trap while the real Yoshi has to traverse different terrain while figuring out the right movements. Sadly, this mechanic only appears in one level and is not used again.
A major point of contention when the game was first revealed was the art-style. The levels looked like the traditional crayon-like look of the original game combined with the 3D characters of Yoshi’s Story, with many claiming it looked odd and ugly. I too had reservations about this, but fortunately the art-style works quite well in the game, it just needs to be seen in person. Some of the enemy models are imported from New Super Mario Bros 2, which kinda clashes with the rest of the games style (particularly the Final Boss), but overall, the models are charming and compliment the art. The soundtrack on the other hand, is quite the mixed bag. Most of the songs are pretty harmless, though unmemorable, but the ones that use Kazoos, such as the Title Menu theme and Cruise the Clouds level theme are really harsh on the ears. This is somewhat counterbalanced by some songs that are quite good, such as themes of levels like Hop ‘n’ Pop Till You Drop and Bandit Valley.
The vehicle transformations from previous instalments also return, but work much differently now. Whereas in the original game they compulsory parts of the level, the majority of these in the new game are optional segments with the exception of the first few levels. Instead of having multiple pathways, these segments are now rather linear and somewhat lack the charm of the original transformations. All of these transformations use gyro-controls, which work well for some like the minecart and bobsleigh, but in the case of forms like the helicopter or submarine, the more precise control needed works against the gyro-controls’ favour and these segments tend to be hard due to their imprecise controls.
The boss fights in the game are of the trademark “three hits to defeat” variety and are rather easy. Unlike previous games where each fortress and castle had a different boss, all the fortress levels have Kamek as their boss, while only the castle levels have the series’ traditional souped-up giant version of regular enemies theme. Disappointingly, the final boss is rather easy and doesn’t really differentiate itself from the final boss fights from Yoshi’s Island and Island DS.
Yoshi’s New Island is a game that sticks to the core values of the original Yoshi’s Island and throughs in a few new ideas, but doesn’t really stick with them. Its ease of difficulty and level design will easily leave newcomers and younger gamers with a fun game to enjoy, but it will also leave series veterans wanting.
- No more “Perfects Runs”
- Metal Eggdozers are awesome!
- The Yoshi Clone segment
- Levels are too easy and short
- Soundtrack is a mixed-bag
- Gyro-Controls for Transformations
Overall, Yoshi’s New Island is a solid, fun game. Its design allows a newer generation of gamers to enjoy a game many of us enjoyed many years ago in the past, and it does offer some new and interesting concepts to keep the gameplay from being a retread of its predecessor. Older fans however, will be left wanting and will have to look elsewhere for what they seek.
Score : 7.5/10
Written by Jacob Getley