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Yoshi’s New Island review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £30
inc VAT

A simple platformer whose quirky looks will go down well with kids, but its bland level design and cheap deaths will frustrate older players

The original Yoshi’s Island was one of the most beloved games on the SNES. As a band of colourful Yoshis escorted Baby Mario across a charming, crayon-infused world to find his brother Luigi, it combined the pitch perfect platforming of its parent title, Super Mario World, with a new focus on using Yoshi’s signature ability of turning enemies into eggs to unlock hidden areas and secrets in each level.

Yoshi's New Island

Yoshi’s New Island attempts to recapture that blissful game of yesteryear for the 3DS, but rather than reinvent the game for its new console, developer Arzest has followed its predecessor almost to the letter, lazily lifting almost every idea straight from the original game and pasting them into a much flatter, lifeless world that’s both lacking in challenge and imagination.

Even the story’s the same, leaving very little feeling truly “new” in this world of egg-laying dinosaur relays and screeching children. As with previous Yoshi games, the green stead must once again employ his lizard-like tongue to gobble up enemies and fire them into oblivion as egg-shaped cannon balls as he carries his charge across a pastel-painted island, but one hit and Baby Mario will be sent flying from Yoshi’s back. This triggers a timer that counts down to zero, so if you take too long to rescue him, Kamek’s minions will whisk him away to a swift Game Over.

Yoshi's New Island

Likewise, getting to the end of the level is only half the story. To truly complete each stage, you must also collect a number of items, including twenty red coins that are unhelpfully hidden in with all the normal yellow coins, five flowers and an additional twenty stars to bring your total timer bar up to thirty. There’s no real reward for collecting any of these, though, and they quickly turn into a tedious checklist with no real purpose. The only things worth looking out for are the five flowers, as these give you a chance to win up to five medals at the end of each stage (one for each flower), albeit in an unforgiving game of roulette that’s rarely kind to the player’s timing. Collecting all the medals in each world then unlocks one of the only new parts of Yoshi’s New Island, which are an assortment of vehicle mini-games.

A few of these are scattered in each world to begin with, but collecting the medals gives you one in each level. Here, Yoshi transforms into a variety of different objects, from mine carts and helicopters to submarines and pneumatic drills. For a few brief moments, analogue controls give way to the 3DS’s gyroscope, making you tilt the console in the direction you want Yoshi to move.

They’re a fun diversion from the rest of the game, but they’re so short and simple that they make almost no impact on the game whatsoever, leaving little incentive to unlock the rest of them once the main game is over. They certainly won’t be giving Nintendo Land’s fiendishly difficult Donkey Kong’s Crash Course levels any sleepless nights, and it’s a shame the 3DS’s features aren’t put to better use elsewhere.

Yoshi's New Island

Yoshi also seems to have gained a few pounds in the intervening years, as his once nimble jumps now feel heavy and lethargic. Flutter jumps are quickly followed by a swift plummet back to earth and running takes a few seconds to get going as well, making it difficult to build up any real momentum. We blame the fact that he seems to be make of an ugly kind of plasticine this time round, which does little to emulate the superb visuals of the original Yoshi’s Island.

The real source of this weariness, though, comes from the game’s bland and simplistic level design. While each world has a vague theme, its lack of stand-out levels and ideas means that several end up blurring into one. It doesn’t help that many of them only last a few minutes either, leaving precious little time for each idea to develop and reach full maturity before the goal comes into view. It’s perfectly competent and there are glimmers of potential, such as World 4-1 where the ground is suddenly replaced by nothing but a floating bed of balloons and bubbles that pop on impact, but others only require a handful of jumps to avoid its pitiful number of obstacles before you reach the end.

Yoshi's New Island

In a way, Yoshi’s New Island is almost more suited for kids that aren’t quite up to the rigorous challenge of a Super Mario game. The difficulty level is fairly pedestrian and the game is kind enough to quickly offer a pair of wings (or pair of invincibility wings if you die a lot) if you can’t get past certain parts of the game.

However, even viewing it as a children’s title has its flaws. Not all collectibles are immediately obvious, as many of them only reveal themselves when you happen to run or jump into that particular area of dead space, and even more only offer one chance to get them. If you miss them, you’ve no choice but to start the whole level again and start from scratch.

Yoshi's New Islnd

This seems unnecessarily mean considering how keen it is to help players reach the finish line, but our biggest frustration came from several moments that seemed perfectly orchestrated for cheap and frustrating deaths. While the game’s overall challenge is almost embarrassingly easy, each time we did manage to collide with an enemy, there was always a handy death pit nearby to send us back to the nearest checkpoint.

It’s this strange mixture of bland design and exasperating controls that ultimately makes Yoshi’s New Island feel less like a faithful homage to the original and more like a poor clone that’s adequate but wholly lacking in what made the first game so special and unique. We still think it’s worth a look if you’re buying it for a younger player, but seasoned platformer fans will find little to engage them here.



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