There’s a whole lot happening in the Mushroom Kingdom yet at the same time… nothing at all. One would think that after 30 years of seeing the same characters in similar settings, Nintendo’s popular platforming titles would come to an end. Yet with each new game that gets released, there seem to be new tweaks and small ideas that make the latest in the series unmissable, no matter the platform.
2013 was the year of Luigi, Mario’s plumber brother. And so far, 2014 seems to be all about Kirby. (Be sure to look out for our upcoming review of Kirby Triple Deluxe.) In-between it all, Yoshi, the dragon-slash-dinosaur, is now draining handheld batteries around the world in his much-anticipated 3DS title: Yoshi’s New Island.
Once a sidekick to the moustachioed Italians, Yoshi is now a Nintendo-worthy protagonist, thanks to his super-long tongue and ability to gobble up enemies, turning them into egg missiles that he can strategically chuck at anything and everything with Angry Bird accuracy.
Yoshi’s New Island is a tribute to the 1995 SNES classic, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, and takes place in the time of baby Mario and Luigi. (Probably my least favourite iteration of Mario.)
Yoshi’s New Island is essentially a schmaltzy storybook world filled with rainbows and smiling suns and adorable characters… that want to kill you. Throughout the game, you play various types of transformative coloured Yoshis – more on that later – with a baby plumber in tow. The chalkboard graphics are cutesy and the soundtrack could be a part of any Fisher Price toy, making Yoshi’s New Island seem very much like a kiddies’ game. As you might imagine, the music effects can be genuinely annoying at times, but there’s still enough here to engage both adults and kids alike.
Eggs are to Yoshi what coins are to Mario. The location? Egg Island. The goal? Explore levels, eat enemies, find secrets and collect things. Characters (most commonly the red-hooded Shy Gus, see image below) can be eaten up and with the press of a button, turned into an egg that can be chucked at other enemies and/or obstacles. And the biggest new gameplay feature? Ginormous eggs, AKA Mega Eggdozers, that can be aimed in any direction and help you get extra lives – the more the Mega Eggdozer destroys, the better chances you have at accumulating coins.
Another sweet addition is Yoshi’s transformer abilities. These are seen in Temple Run-esque mini-game sequences that rely on the 3DS accelerometer to control. Once you hit a travel portal, Yoshi changes into different forms of transport and for a small amount of time, you’ll be waving the 3DS in the air to steer a mine cart, bob sled, submarine, hot air balloon and more to the level’s exit. While the mini-games are fun, they’re also way too short to really add any substance to the overall game.
Luckily for Yoshi’s New Island, smart level design means levels that are littered with collectibles, flowers, secret passages, coins and challenging boss fights that will keep you occupied. Without going looking for those extras, though, levels seem to end before you’ve even gotten your hands dirty.
And like the last few 3DS Mario titles, if you just can’t complete a section, some flutter wings will magically float down from the sky to help you.
Overall, Yoshi’s New Island is really about escorting baby Mario to safety. He is not in another castle, he is on your back and you’d better not get the little guy killed. With a total of six worlds, each containing nine levels, there really is a lot to do. It’s an easy 3DS game but has enough content to keep you eating/dropping/chucking eggs till the very end.
Yoshi’s New Island is an exclusive Nintendo 3DS game and retails for R549.00