While Yoshi has always been Mario’s trusty dinosaur steed, appearing in the majority of the plumber’s titles over the last two decades, the iconic (and infinitely cute) green dino hasn’t always been relegated to just being Mario’s go-to ride. With his own solo adventures over the years like Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island back in 1995, and a follow-up in 2006 with Yoshi’s Island DS, Yoshi returns to his old stomping grounds eight years later with the colorful and charming Yoshi’s New Island.
After eight years away from having his last solo adventure, how does returning to the watercolor world of Yoshi’s tropical paradise hold up after an extended vacation away?
Following his previous outings, Yoshi’s New Island takes the shape of a unique platformer from the typical Mario formula: while the game involves the usual running, jumping, and traversing from level to level, the game also takes advantage of Yoshi’s many abilities and talents to progress through stages. With Mario in diapers and Baby Luigi snatched by the disgruntled wizard Kamek and his minions, Yoshi uses his flutter jumps, ground pounds, and ability to gobble up enemies and make throwable eggs to solve puzzles, make it through the game’s levels, and get Baby Mario and Luigi to their rightful parents.
Yoshi’s New Island brings all the charm of the previous Yoshi’s Island titles while amplifying the cheeriness and good spirit: even from just a quick glance at Yoshi’s newest adventure, it’s incredibly difficult not to crack a smile at the bright pastels and scribbled worlds that Yoshi and Co. inhabit. While Yoshi’s New Island most certainly is geared toward younger players with its art and graphics that come straight out of a child’s coloring book, its bright spirit and energy is definitely infectious and charming. Bringing vivid color and splashes of watercolor-inspired art, Yoshi’s New Island draws well from the art of the previous Yoshi’s Island titles, but adds some fine layers and texture on the 3DS, in particular with 3D enabled to bring out the colors and backgrounds.
As a platformer, Yoshi’s New Island (and the Yoshi series in general) provides a fun diversion from Mario’s many ventures – Yoshi’s abilities provide some great enjoyment and make for a unique experience from the usual Nintendo fare. Yoshi’s adorable squeals and squeaks as he flutter jumps and gobbles up enemies into eggs makes Yoshi’s New Island totally charming and a joy to play through.
Combined with the alluring and colorful storybook-esque artwork, Yoshi’s New Island gives plenty for gamers to admire and ponder at: however, in terms of gameplay and challenge, Yoshi’s New Island may present longtime Nintendo fans with an experience that may be slightly lacking, and more than a bit familiar when compared to the rest of the series.
While recent hits on Nintendo’s consoles like The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds took the legacy of their predecessors while both honoring old-school design mixed with more refined modern gameplay, Yoshi’s New Island takes a more conservative approach by sticking fairly closely to the design of previous Yoshi games.
Taking much of the gameplay from Yoshi’s Island and visual direction from Yoshi’s Story, Yoshi’s New Island is fun, colorful, and vibrant, but doesn’t provide a significant overhaul or sense of “New” that the title tries to imply. Where A Link Between Worlds was able to honor the Zelda series and make itself an esteemed game in its own right, Yoshi’s New Island feels more safe and comfortable, and less of a daring entry for the 3DS’s excellent game library than we’ve seen in the past year for the system.
While New Island may not present any kind of huge change in direction for the series, what’s present in Yoshi’s newest adventure is still incredibly enjoyable, with only slight gameplay hiccups getting in the way. Aside from Yoshi’s arsenal of jumps, ground pounds, and eggs, Yoshi’s New Island also adds mass destruction and obstacle progression through Mega Eggs.
By gobbling up giant Shy Guys throughout levels, Yoshi can obtain Mega Eggs that exist for the sole purpose of smashing and chaos, as the eggs can crash through walls and barriers, or even allow Yoshi to sink underwater with special Metal Mega Eggs. While Mega Eggs are used sparingly and offer not much more other than the enjoyment of seeing them dash around levels destroying walls (and unfortunately-placed enemies) that get in the way, they’re still a fun sight to behold and make for an enjoyable new feature for Yoshi’s romp.
Yoshi’s New Island also presents opportunities for the 3DS’s capabilities as a console to take effect, most of all through various “transformation” sequences where Yoshi takes on the guise of various vehicles and transports to progress through levels. Controlled through the 3DS’s accelerometer, Yoshi can transform in these stages into a Yoshi-ified helicopter, submarine, sled, and even a minecart in a slight nod to the Donkey Kong Country series. Each of the stages presents fun thrills through using the 3DS’s motion controls to steer Yoshi in the right direction, even if sometimes these sequences can leave players turning their 3DS systems in complete circles to make some of the more hairpin turns and jumps.
While Nintendo has taken many of its more recent franchises and make them seem “new” again, from New Super Mario Bros. to The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Yoshi’s New Island is an enjoyable romp that unfortunately doesn’t quite offer as much “New” as the title promises. Yoshi’s latest solo adventure gives an experience that is certainly tailored more to younger gamers, as the title’s 5-6 hour run offers little in the way of any exceedingly difficult challenges, at least in the same way as grown-up Mario’s titles.
Yoshi’s New Island may bring a more relatively easy experience to more hard-pressed Nintendo fans, but its pastel charms and colorful spirit shouldn’t be off-putting to anyone. What it may lack in technical and gameplay innovation, it more than makes up for in creativity and charm – it would be hard for even the most sour-faced Nintendo fan to not crack a smile and want the best for Yoshi and Baby Mario to make it to safety. Yoshi may not be Mario, but he stills gives plenty a reason for gamers to take a trip to his own little paradise in Yoshi’s New Island, even if it’s just for a day-trip.