The art style for Nintendo’s Yoshi’s New Island, a 3DS-exclusive platforming successor to the multiple Yoshi-centric games that came before it, is best described as influenced by a large box of children’s crayons. In fact, the entire game feels as if it were designed with players ages 6 and under in mind. It is the antithesis of the challenging Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, whose forgiveness allows beginners to reach the end without assistance and advanced players to ponder where the challenge resides.
Adventurous plumbers Mario and Luigi are relegated to supporting roles as Yoshis are the central characters to the “story,” and I use that term loosely. Mario and Luigi have just been born and a stork delivers them to the wrong parents by mistake. On the way to the correct house, Bowser Jr. springs an attack and Luigi is kidnapped. Mario falls onto Yoshi Island during the attack and must team up with the various colored Yoshis to get his brother back and ultimately get them both into the arms of their real parents. It’s not deep in the least, but also a welcome departure from rescueing Princess Peach for the umpteenth time.
Rather than platforming through level-by-level as a single character, baby Mario hops on a Yoshi and rides him to the level’s conclusion. Then, he hops off and rides a different colored Yoshi in the next level until the game is won. Getting Baby Mario from one end of the level to the other is the crux of the game.
When an enemy successfully connects with an attack or is run into, it knocks baby Mario off the Yoshi. Life is lost if Yoshi is not reunited with baby Mario within 10 seconds. That may not seem long in print, but in the game it’s practically an eternity and almost impossible not to reunite the pair in time.
As with previous Yoshi games, he/she can gobble up enemies and turn them into eggs. The eggs in turn can be used to hit switches or break rocks that impede progress, as well as take out other enemies. There are now two giant eggs to create and use that can take out a large swatch of enemies or obstacles at once to provide an incremental feeling of “new” while still retaining the nostalgia of slurping up enemies with Yoshi’s long tongue.
Level design is decidedly simple with familiar green pipes and blocks to crush, as well as a few more cloaked areas where collectibles wait to be discovered. 3D is more than an afterthought as well, as oftentimes the backgrounds are multi-layered to add a little additional pop to Yoshi’s colorful world. Ultimately the worlds of Yoshi’s New Island feel like watered down versions of its Donkey Kong and Mario 3DS brethren, save for one exception.
Scattered throughout the course of the game’s six worlds are special levels that turn Yoshi into something else and make use of the 3DS gyroscope features by controlling Yoshi’s movements with physical tilting of the console. There’s a fresh vibe to controlling Yoshi as a drill or a hot air balloon, and it’s a shame that Swiss Army knife Yoshi wasn’t integrated into the core levels rather than used as a standalone stepping stone between them.
Yoshi’s New Island features six levels designed exclusively for Download Play that do not require a second cartridge or game for two players on two separate 3DS units to enjoy. There is a caveat, though. The levels are locked and unlock one at a time as the campaign worlds are beaten.
The Mario side-scrolling platforming games are known for unveiling bonus levels once Bowser is defeated. This extension of the game is sadly missing from Yoshi’s New Island as the game’s completion only recommends playing again without the use of the helpful Flutter Wings. It’s a small consolation that offers a minimal increase in difficulty where game completion should have unlocked a seventh world.
Yoshi’s New Island is the perfect answer for parents tired of watching their novice kids struggle to play the Donkey Kong and Mario games. It’s the most accessible platformer that Nintendo offers featuring its “A” team of characters.
What Yoshi’s New Island isn’t is a groundbreaking advancement of the previous games, which mature gamers seeking a challenge will frown upon. It works best as an entry for young gamers to get their feet wet before climbing the first rung on the difficulty ladder.
Yoshi’s New Island was reviewed on 3DS using a code provide by publisher Nintendo. It was released exclusively for 3DS on March 14, 2014.
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