With a gentle tone and a slower paced platforming experience, Yoshi’s New Island might harken back to the original SNES adventure but uninspired level design, a forgettable soundtrack, and tedious motion control shortchange this cult following favorite.
Just like the original SNES game, a bundle of different colored Yoshis are tasked with returning baby Mario to his parents and reuniting with baby Luigi. Unlike other platformers there is more to Yoshi’s New Island than just reaching the end of the stage in a certain amount of time. There is a larger emphasis on searching each nook and cranny in order to collect all hidden red coins and five flowers. Perfect runs are also encouraged and necessary if the player wants to experience everything the game has to offer; each time Yoshi takes damage a countdown timer decreases second by second. The goal is to finish each stage with a stock pile of 30 seconds which requires the player to not only finish without taking damage but to search high and low for collectables. This game mechanic was much more tolerable in the mid-90s when the original was released but today is viewed as a tedious and time consuming chore especially since most stages have several tucked away and hard to find secrets often guarded by a conveniently placed enemy.
Yoshi’s New Island plays more like an expansion pack than a full-fledged sequel. The player will still platform, slurp up enemies to poop out eggs, launch eggs within the moving 90 degree aimer, take on gigantic Kamek bosses, and bounce on arrowed springs and rotating platforms. The new elements, like the transformation motion controls and making huge eggs, don’t add anything entertaining to the experience.
Luckily, the motion control segments only happen once or twice per world but each time is more frustrating than the last. For example, the drill Yoshi is probably the easiest to control but is nothing more than a short Mr. Driller clone and the submarine Yoshi’s terrible play control is only a lesson in frustrating – tilting the system just isn’t fun. These transformation segments also experience an awkward pacing issue as the player must finish each segment within 30 seconds or is forced to restart and watch the entire transforming animation over and over again until it is done right. The rest of the game does not feature a timer so having one in these special segments is a negative design choice as players probably want to casually experience these unique gameplay mechanics to the fullest but instead feel rushed and forced. Like baby Mario’s cry, the time limit is just a reminder of what you are doing wrong. Also, using the analog nub to control movement is also tricky because just the slightest press downward causes an unstoppable butt stomp which will result in several accidental deaths.
Giant eggs, the other new mechanic, is cheaply entertaining but only appear maybe a couple times in each world but can really only be used restrictively – shooting these eggs just goes on auto-pilot, bulldozing everything like when Mario gets a mega mushroom in the New Super Mario Bros games. There is, however, an occasional metal egg that Yoshi can use to sink in water rather than automatically float but these eggs are even harder to come by and made specifically for that particular stage’s design. If anything, the giant eggs are just a forced tool that the player must use to keep moving forward. They cannot be carried onto the next level or used when and where the player wants.
This 3DS sequel is also a more challenging game from a game design point of view instead of a practice-makes-perfect attitude. For example, the game wants the player to collect every red coin, star flower, and finish with a collection of thirty seconds of “save baby Mario time” but demand that all collectables be collected each time a level starts over. Let’s say you collect three out of the five flowers when you finish the stage then decide to come back later to find the remaining two flowers; the game makes you recollect those three you already found on top of finding the two new ones. This repeat affair artificially makes the game longer and way more tedious and time consuming that it should be. The reward in completing the game to perfection just unlocks more tedium and local 2-player mini games that doubtfully will be played.
Besides the lacking level design and gameplay mechanics, the soundtrack is also a disappointment. Not that each musical track is bad, it is just that the original stands head and shoulders above this 3DS sequel. Simple things like the short upbeat jingle that sounded when a perfect score was tallied at the end of a stage in the original game is missing and each tune is nowhere near as catchy. Even the visual style, although similar, doesn’t retain the same charm as the original. It might be a little unfair to compare the two games but the slightly more mature water color paint style loses a little something from the childish crayon theme of the original. It is not the same and not for the better.
Yoshi’s New Island is a misstep and missed opportunity by having more of the same. The stage design and soundtrack is forgettable at best and the tedious collectathon gameplay mechanic does not stand as proudly as it once did. Fans are better off downloading the GBA version of Yoshi’s Island on the Wii U Virtual Console for a fraction of the cost and higher entertainment value.
Not As Good As: The original SNES title
Better Than: Yoshi’s Story (N64)
Also Try: Yoshi Topsy-Turvy
By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief myGamer.com