A Game Review by Greg Dabkey
Game – Yoshi’s New Island
Version – 3DS
ESRB Rating: ‘E’ – Everyone
Release Date: 3/14/2014
Obtained – Courtesy of Nintendo
Yoshi returns to his island to help unite baby Mario and his brother Luigi by saving him from the clutches of baby Bowser and Kamek.
The same great gameplay returns in Yoshi’s New Island. Ground pounding, egg tossing, tongue action and flutter jumping your way through some new levels. The same collectibles return – the red coins, gold coins, flowers and stars. However, the percentage system is now gone, making it easier to complete the levels. The collectibles can be accumulated over multiple play-throughs. While it still challenges the player to find all of at least one element, it makes it significantly easier on other runs not having to go out of the way to acquire the red coins if you found them all on a prior play-through. Yoshi’s New Island now includes a helper item for players that have died at least three times within a normal level (note that this item does not appear in the special levels). It gives Yoshi a pair of wings so he can flutter jump through the entire level if you want to, giving him increased air time and practically infinite flight time. Picking up the item is still completely optional, but I feel that it appears too quickly and really tempts the player to grab it, as it usually found over a pipe which is conveniently near almost every check point or start of the level. The level design is still top notch and encourages players to search high and low for secrets – and the same basic structure returns. Meaning that there are eight levels per world, upon collecting all red coins, flowers and having a maxed out timer on all eight levels will yield a special level of vastly superior difficulty. In the first castle of each world, the player will have a battle with Kamek while the second castle the player will battle with a new boss. New to the series the players can win medals if the flower bonus ring at the end of a level stops on a flower. The player is awarded a medal for each flower collected during that playthrough. After 10 medals the player wins a 1-up, after 20 they win 3-up, and at 30 the player wins a bonus level to win extra lives. It is a special bonus level with the opportunity to win at least 10 lives – and there is nothing special to collect in it outside of extra lives.
Another returning element is the Yoshi transformations. Fans of the series will be happy to see the helicopter and submarine, among others, make a return along with several new ones such as Balloon Yoshi, Jackhammer Yoshi or Mine-Cart Yoshi. Instead of simply just allowing the player to control them easily, it was opted to use the 3DS’s motion controls. All transformations are controlled by tilting the 3DS left or right depending on desired direction of travel. The helicopter and sub will have you turning it much further to navigate moving vertically at some points during those segments. Any button can be pressed to slow down movement or perform a specific action. For Mine-Cart Yoshi it will make him jump, while for the sub he will launch a torpedo at enemies or obstacles blocking Yoshi’s path. The majority of the transformations are hidden areas to be found – typically only if the player is seeking all the flowers or red coins, making them optional to complete. They are also not typically hard to find either, as the player will likely come across the exit door, indicating that the entrance is close by – either it be a few screens back, up, down, or even a little up ahead. The player also has limited time while in transformation mode, but if they happen to fail the player is taken back to the entrance and they can try again an infinite amounts of times until they have grabbed every coin and completely explored the area.
The last major new element are the eggdozers or the mega-sized eggs. When collected, all of the normal-sized eggs are discarded and only one can be held at a time. When thrown, it clears out everything – pipes, blocks, enemies and also will collect coins or flowers for you as well. Typically they are only used in special sections and will not allow you to leave that area with it. There is a metal variation of it as well, which helps Yoshi sink in water. He is only able to roll the metal one due to it being even heavier. It does the same things as the non-metal mega egg. After release, Yoshi will then float to the surface if underwater – which is one of it’s common uses. Overall the mega eggs were really fun to use, but really felt under-utilized as only a handful of levels had them.
Overall the controls were very familiar to fans of the series, but I did have some trouble using the circle pad. At times, Yoshi would ground pound areas that I was not trying to do so – which caused me to lose a number of lives. I was was not a fan of the motion controls, as they added an unnecessary difficulty to the transformation areas. Other than that, the controls felt great. There are also some options to go through if you want to change jump and egg throw buttons along with a hasty option for egg throwing. The hasty option instantly throws the egg when you release the button. If you wish to aim with the hasty option, you must hold the button until the cursor is at the spot you wish to throw.
*Note that I was unable to experience the 2P mini-games – so that was unable to be covered in this review.
The visuals in Yoshi’s New Island are well designed and littered with detail. If you prefer the solid and sharper visuals of the original SNES version (meaning similar to the Mario series), you may displeased as I found that the art style was closer to Yoshi’s Story – meaning more fuzzy and very cartoon styled rather than the detailed cleaner sprites used in the SNES version. All of the familiar enemies return looking fluffy and rounded, but also more detailed. Finally, this game is up there with top notch solid 3D effects as well. Many (if not all) of the levels have what I dubbed a “Mutant Mudds” effect where the player can see some background elements stick on a ‘foreground’ or more background setting. It was a pleasure to play the game with 3D turned on as it really heightened the experience. However, it is never required for any area to turn it on unless the player wants a better visual experience.
In terms of the sound and music, the same fun sound effects return. Music plays a larger role in games today to help build upon the environment and setting, and I found the new tracks used did not fulfill this role. I found most or all of the tracks lacking in the quality department. I found them pretty boring and too laid back (meaning very slow paced) and also found that it didn’t add any flavor to the environment. Those that familiar with the SNES know the catchy cave theme or the main above ground level theme which I found myself wanting to listen to the suburb tracks of the SNES original while playing through this game. Even the transformation music was changed to be higher pitch (though it shared the same melody of the SNES version). I almost wish they remastered some of the original tracks and felt that would have made it more enjoyable to listen to.
Final Score: 8.0 out of 10
While Yoshi’s New Island supports fun and interactive gameplay and some excellent level design and platforming, it still felt like a mostly safe entry into the series. The previous title took a risk having more characters with unique abilities, while this one was a return to form with a few adjustments. I do like that separated out the collections making it easier to achieve a perfect score, but I didn’t care for the assist item appearing after three deaths – as there are times where I’ll purposely die if I want to redo the previous section of the level due to missing a red coin or flower. The new egg abilities were cool but felt underutilized along with the new transformations – as they became more optional. I did have a few control issues, more so with the motion controls as it added an unnecessary challenge to the transformations. The graphics and 3D effects are what you’d mostly expect from the series, while the music is nowhere near the quality of previous games. If you are looking for a solid and fun platformer, then this can be the game for you. I would definitely recommend this game to fans of the series as it is still quite an enjoyable experience, which should be still be enjoyed despite a few issues.
+ megadozer (mega/giant eggs) eggs are fun to use
+ top notch 3D effects
+ very solid and thorough level design
+ many different collectibles – very thoroughly hidden
+ perfect level of difficulty
+ optional local 2P mini-games (did not experience, but is new content)
– Not heavy on ‘new’ content
– Motion controls add to the frustration