2013 may have been marked as The Year of Luigi, but for some time there has been another of Nintendo’s stable of characters that has found himself left out of the spotlight. Yoshi last took a star turn in 2006’s Yoshi’s Island DS, and whilst Wii U’s Yarn Yoshi remains mysteriously absent from the discussion, the dino-inspired species have made their return.
We find ourselves returned to a time long, long ago, before Mario and Luigi had grown to become the moustachioed Goomba-pounding plumbers that we now know them to be. Carried from what is described as a magical, cuddly land way up in the sky where babies come from, we firstly witness the brother’s mistaken delivery to the wrong parents.
Panic-stricken, the stork rapidly flies toward their correct home, only to be attacked by mischievous Magikoopa Kamek, who sought to kidnap the duo. During the kerfuffle, Baby Mario tumbles from the sky to land in the security of the Yoshi clan on their floating paradise, Egg Island. With brotherly telepathy leading him toward wherever Baby Luigi has been captured, the multicoloured Yoshi group decided to take turns in carrying him toward his location.
And that is the scenario in which you find yourself in this, the sequel to 1995’s understated SNES classic Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. With Takashi Tezuka as the producer, Yoshi’s New Island takes the “something old, something new” adage, and runs with it. That sees original elements returning, such as the Yoshis working in tandem between each of the game’s stages as they speed Baby Mario toward rescuing his ill-fated brother. Any damage taken also continues to see Baby Mario propelled into a bubble, wailing until you rescue him as your Star Power spirals downward – reaching zero immediately seeing him captured by Kamek’s goon squad.
Yoshi’s key abilities return, such as his Flutter Jump, Ground Pound, and lengthy tongue that can be flicked out to gobble up unsuspecting enemies and turn them into eggs that can be tossed in any desired direction. Nintendo serves up three control schemes for your egg-throwing – Hasty, Patient and Gyro – so you can choose whichever you feel most comfortable with.
Egg management soon becomes apparent, Winged Clouds scattered throughout your adventure which may contain Red Coins, Stars and Smiley Flowers that act as the game’s collectables, with Medals awarded at end-stage Goal Posts, elongating your time spent procuring them all from each stage. Differing egg colours can also see you reap bonuses, with yellow-spotted eggs rewarding you with three coins, red granting two stars, and pink producing a red coin upon enemy impact.
Mega and Metal Eggdozers are a new addition, gained by gulping a Mega or Metal Guy respectively. Limited to certain instances, these destructive forces replace all of your ordinary eggs once collected. The Mega variant is usually provided to destroy your surrounding environment, crushing pipes and other scenery filling a multi-tiered gauge that will reward you with 1-Ups. Whereas Metal Eggdozers are, as can be expected, far heavier, and weigh Yoshi down, can be rolled along the ground, and required in order for you to walk around underwater. Neither drastically change the gaming landscape, and could perhaps have used more inventive implementation than that seen here.
Additional items serve to aid you in your escapades, with green, red and blue melons letting you spit seeds, breathe fire or ice, whereas Yoshi Stars grant temporary invincibility whilst letting you speed up walls and across ceilings. This is heightened further by Red Yoshi Stars that see you whizz along the screen like a comet, situations that chain the two power-ups together rivalling even Sonic the Hedgehog’s high octane nature. Flutter Wings are the game’s saving grace for those who find themselves repeatedly dying, letting you continuously flutter jump through tricky sections of a level which will most certainly occur as the difficulty gently ramps up.
Yoshi’s many transformations also return, each being controlled by tilting your 3DS from side-to-side to put the handheld’s gyroscope to use. Again, these are used in certain bonus level instances, the player entering Whirly Gates as they see Yoshi turn himself into all manner of shapes, whether that be a mine cart, hot-air balloon, sledge, helicopter, or jackhammer.
Yoshi’s New Island‘s visuals are a far cry from the emboldened, primary colour-infused landscapes of its predecessor, but the somewhat muddy, watercolour pastiche soon finds itself honed when the 3D slider is turned up. With the 3DS now well into its third year on the gaming scene, here we discover another game that is readily accentuated throughout by the handheld’s unique prowess. Intricately layered backgrounds and foregrounds flawlessly merging to bring a new lease of life to an otherwise 2D plane, elevating the experience in entirety.
This is all woven around a heartwarming soundtrack that matches the game’s adorable design, although heavy repetition of reworking the same central melody over and over will soon tire those who keep an ear out for such things.
Meanwhile, two-player minigames serve as a welcome distraction to Yoshi’s New Island‘s story mode, either available through Download Play or Local Multiplayer. Minigames are hilarious if not often short, Flutter Finish, for instance, seeing each player see how far they can flutter jump before tumbling through the clouds, with Eggy Pop tasking you with bursting as many balloons as you can.
It is a lack of surprise that Yoshi’s New Island disappoints, feeling more like a predictable paint by numbers than being full of the daring innovation that we have so readily seen in Nintendo’s recent output. That may stem from wanting to remain true to the original but results in a half-baked experience that unfortunately never flutter-jumps enough to get off the ground for long enough to begin fulfilling its clear potential.