I try not to be this late with game reviews. With Nintendo titles especially, you’ve seen that reviews tend to be posted the day of release give or take a couple of days. I like to help out and help you make that decision as soon as possible after release, since that’s when most of us like to go out and grab our games.
But I have a valid excuse this time! My wife went into labor the day before the game came out and we welcomed our firstborn on March 13th. She came about 3 weeks early, so it did catch us a bit by surprise, but such a welcome surprise. We were in the hospital for a few days, and now that I’ve been home, it’s been a bit of a challenge to find the time between the excitement of being a first time dad, and obviously making sure my daughter is well fed, changed and taken care of. Fatherhood means that New Yoshi’s Island is the first game review I’ve done over the course of a few days in between naps and during feedings. How have I managed in that regard? Let’s read through my review of New Yoshi’s Island, and I’ll talk about that after the review is done.
Release Date: March 14th 2014
Overall Rating: E for Everyone
NOTE: This title is applicable toward the free Pokemon X and Y promotion available until March 31st.
New Yoshi’s Island is the latest installment of the adorable and different series featuring the hero Yoshis trying to keep Baby Mario safe Kamek is back as the main antagonist, and it’s funny to me how he evolved from a forgettable character in Super Mario World to the big troublemaker in the Yoshi’s Island series. Still, I guess timeline-wise, Bowser wouldn’t be old enough anyway, so his main caretaker is a good conduit I suppose.
You control the Yoshis as they make their way around 50 levels in an attempt to keep Baby Mario from the clutches of Kamek, who has forecasted the trouble they will cause for Baby Bowser in his adulthood. The game has basically no learning curve. In fact, you don’t even need the instruction manual for this one. It should take you about 2 or 3 minutes of rooting around to learn all of the controls, and if that isn’t enough, helpful info boxes appear every time you need to learn a new skill.
The game is a pretty standard left to right Mario adventure title with rhyming or playful titles for each level. You’re tasked with carrying Baby Mario, who (SPOILER ALERT: Surprisingly NOT born with a mustache) sits on your back in a bubble while you traverse the colorful and silly Island paradise. Along the way, you have sub-goals of collecting 30 stars, 20 red coins and 5 sunflower coins and collecting end-of-level medals. Collecting these are easier said than done, but if you manage to meet the goals for each level, you unlock another one at the end of the world you’ve done it for.
Collecting 30 stars are the most interesting, and most important element of collection on Yoshi’s New Island. While you collect red and sunflower coins as you go throughout the levels, you have to earn your way to 30 stars. You start with 10 every level, gain another 10 at the halfway checkpoint, and can collect the other 10 throughout the level. The stars are also the toughest of these to hang onto. Essentially, they double as a timer. If you are hit, Baby Mario starts to cry and his bubble floats off your back. Your star count depletes one per second, and if the timer reaches 0, Mario is whisked away by Kamek and his baddies. They will start to swoop in at around 2 seconds left, but even if they have a hold of him, you CAN grab him at 0 and take him back. If your counter reads less than 10, it will rise back to that much if you’re able to hang onto him for that long again. Should you die at any point, you restart either from the beginning or the checkpoint, and you’ll only have the default 10 stars again, regardless of how many you had when you died. You do, however, retain your red coins and sunflowers.
Mixed into every few levels is an additional Yoshi mini-game. In these, you go through a swirling door, and Yoshi transforms into something else. The very first mini-game is Mine Cart Yoshi. If you read through my Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze review, you know how much I love the mine carts. They rely on the Gyro Sensor for basic controls, so you’ll be twisting and thrashing your 3DS about to get from one side to the other. They’re all pretty cool with the exception of Submarine Yoshi. Submarine Yoshi and I just didn’t get along, and it took me a long time to get through that one. These all last around a minute or so, and then it’s back to the normal game. Level times in general in Yoshi’s New Island are all over the place. Sometimes you find a level takes 15 minutes, and others maybe 3 or 4 tops.
The Yoshis as always are quite gluttonous, and you can use it to your advantage. You can swallow enemies to create eggs which you can then whip at other enemies, or question mark clouds. Eggs are also available from egg-spitting plants, or an egg block. You can carry a mixture of 6 eggs or other things (such as keys to unlock doors) in total. Yoshi also has other skills. You can swallow larger Shy Guys to create massive eggs to do things like bulldoze parts of levels or help you sink underwater (the type of Shy Guy varies with the situation you need him for.) You can also swallow objects that give you special abilities. For example, the Red Watermelons allow you to spit fire, which is helpful to defeat enemies you can’t bounce on.
Finally, each world has a sub-boss castle and then a master level boss castle. The sub-boss is Kamek, and you have to use the surroundings to defeat him. Kamek then re-appears before the final boss of each level to spawn a harmless plant or animal into something that wants to kill you (with a mentality like that, I’d swear Yoshi’s New Island is actually just Australia.) Get through that, and off you go to the next challenge.
The definite gem of Yoshi’s New Island, much like the previous installments is the art style Drawn with the cutesy hand drawn background cels you’ve become used to. They mesh and work so well with the foreground and the type of game you’re playing, and then mesh well with the soundtrack too. I didn’t find there to be much originality in the soundtrack (it sounded like numerous variations of the same theme song) but it doesn’t distract from the game at all. One more thing that I found refreshing about Yoshi’s New Island is that it doesn’t suffer from a poor learning curve. The game doesn’t suddenly go from being way too easy to way too hard. In fact, I don’t remember the last game of this genre I played that was balanced so well. The game ramps up in difficulty as you do, making this all that much more playable. Considering that it definitely caters to the younger audiences, this is a spot on title to set them up with. They’ll get hours of enjoyment out of it, and there’s no need to worry about violent content, or anything worse than any other Mario game.
I think where this game suffers is for those gamers seeking huge challenges, and a massively complicated game. Despite my praise for the learning curve, Yoshi’s New Island isn’t a very difficult game, relying more on timed challenges and reflex actions to thrive (Submarine Yoshi aside – We’ll never be friends Submarine Yoshi.) You might have to play some of the mini-games a couple times over, but veteran gamers with a bit of patience will probably make it through the majority of levels and bosses on the first go. Extra lives are easier to come by than most Mario titles as well. I was surprised to see that despite my impatience (I’m a veteran gamer yes, but I have a history of just jumping blindly onto platforms,) I still had over 30 lives at the end of the first world, and 50 at the end of the 2nd. I don’t even know what happens if you lose all your lives in the game because I was going so far ahead of that curve that I was going to have to try THAT hard to fail out.
That being said, Yoshi’s New Island is a good adventure platformer. A definite for series fans, and of course your kids too. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss this as a straight game for younger gamers, but they’ll probably be the ones that get the most enjoyment out of it. Yoshi’s additional mini forms are cute and hilarious, and you’ll definitely get a laugh out of the first time you get to play as a mine cart, or drill. There’s also a decent amount of replay value as well, as you’ll have to go through the levels over again to beat in the in-level targets for stars, red coins and sunflowers. I’ve done it before with new Super Mario Bros on Nintendo DS, but I honestly don’t think it’s something I’ll be doing with this game now that I’ve played through it. Some of it might be time with a newborn in the house, but some of it is that I just don’t think it wow’ed me enough to want to play this over and over again, like I did with new SMB.
Nintendo has plenty of better games on the 3DS if you’re looking for a first title, or a cornerstone for your collection (some of which have already come out in 2014,) but Yoshi’s Island will provide you with hours of fun in the end. Come based on the series’ track record, stay for the artwork and balanced gameplay.
Gameplay: 4 / 5
Graphics: 5 / 5
Sound: 4 / 5
Controls: 4 / 5
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 4 / 5
Overall: 4.2 / 5 (84%)
Yoshi’s New Island, and the special edition Nintendo 3DS XL are both out now at your local Best Buy and BestBuy.ca. Since the consoles are always so desirable and sell out fast, be sure to check stock locally before you go, or order online while supplies last.
As for my news at the beginning of the article? I’ve just started a Daddy Blog entitled “The Adventures of Dad” on Best Buy VIVA. This weekly blog will take a look at my life as a first-time dad, and offer up my experiences, anecdotes and lessons learned. I hope you’ll join me for those just as you join me for these game reviews.
The first episode of the Adventures of Dad is now available to read at Best Buy VIVA.