Once in a blue moon, a Nintendo executive decides that the time is right to develop a game centred around Yoshi. Many still regard Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island as one of the best platformers on the Super Nintendo, while the brilliant Yoshi’s Island DS introduced new babies with different abilities. There have been downs as well including the disastrously short Yoshi’s Story on the Nintendo 64; but as the 3DS game goes back to basics, is Yoshi’s New Island a bundle of joy or a bawling wreck?
In a departure from the pastel style of the previous Yoshi’s Island games, Yoshi’s New Island adopts a watercolour effect to show off its egg island resort locale. While this gives the backgrounds an art gallery effect, the same can’t be said for the bland looking character models. They lack the eccentricity that the series has oozed since the Super Nintendo days. On their own, the musical numbers are whimsical and fit the theme, but the reliance on the main theme as basis for the entire soundtrack is grating to the point of muting the 3DS.
As the Yoshi’s are once again attempting to reunite Baby Mario and Baby Luigi, perhaps the first thing that is noticeable beyond the presentation is the overwhelming sense of déjà vu. You can make and throw eggs, ground pound, and all those other moves you were able to learn in the previous titles. Mechanically this isn’t a problem as “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”, but this leads to the sudden realisation that the game is just too easy. It’s not until world six does the level design present any real challenge, which still retains familiar elements from previous titles.
That isn’t to say there isn’t anything new. You can now opt to use Gyro controls for throwing eggs, which take some getting used to, but ends up being invaluable for precision egg throwing. Giant eggs come in both normal and metal varieties. Both are used to break down barriers, but the metal eggs allow for Yoshi to dive underwater, presenting one of the more novel parts of the game. There’s some shenanigans involving leading duplicate Yoshi’s to spikes, but very little else feels fresh. Should you land on a blooming flower in each level’s exit, you’ll get medals which grant you extra lives.
One particularly rotten egg is the change to transformations. All are now segregated into their own mini-levels and rely exclusively on Gyro controls which are either workable or imprecise depending on the vehicles. By far the worst offender is the submarine which has such a terrible turning circle you’ll be bouncing off enemies and obstacles like a ball in a pinball machine!
Another low point is the ridiculously easy boss fights, each obeying the rule of three like a class swot. Kamek encounters usually involve exploiting the environment while giant “monsters” have a predictable pattern. While the final boss marathon of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island was iconic, the final boss marathon here is pathetic in comparison.
Sunny side down
Yoshi’s New Island also suffers from the fact that lives are handed out too freely and there aren’t enough levels. It’s clear from this point that the game was designed for younger children, which is why this game’s version of the Super Guide is particularly patronising. If you die a few times on the same segment, a warp pipe with eyes will throw some wings at you to give you infinite flutter power. A few more and there’s golden wings for added invincibility. It’s just insulting in a game that is too easy to even bother including this feature. There is mild challenge in getting all the collectables per level before finishing with the maximum medal haul, unlocking the hidden levels as a result, but it isn’t worth the effort.
Plain and simple, everything that Yoshi’s New Island has to offer has not only been done before, but better. Artistically it doesn’t convey the same level of charm that previous games did, while the game itself is just too easy and short. Occasional splashes of inspiration give way to poor enforced Gyro control sections, ludicrously easy boss fights, and the most annoying Nintendo soundtrack in years. Nintendo already have another Yoshi game for the Wii U inbound that has taken on a woolly vibe. Hopefully it won’t be just an uninspired palette swap.