Yoshi’s New Island (3DS) Review
Yoshi’s Island never seems to be able to catch a break. Nintendo have put out a sequel in the form of Yoshi’s Island DS, and an unorthodox puzzle game in Yoshi’s Touch and Go. Both of these games have failed to capture the charm and the magic of the original and it seemed Nintendo had given up on trying to provide players with a new Yoshi’s Island experience. Unfortunately, the string continues with Yoshi’s New Island – a lacklustre sequel that only serves to be a hollow shell of its former self.
New Island takes place in between the original game and Yoshi’s Island DS. Following the events of the original Yoshi’s Island, the parents of Mario and Luigi decide that Mario and Luigi are in fact not their children. As a result, the stork who delivered them must whisk them away and find their rightful home once more, but of course Kamek swoops in and captures Luigi once more. Baby Mario falls onto Egg Island and meets the Yoshi, who help Mario to defeat Bowser and Kamek as well as save his brother Luigi. The story is an exact re-tread of the original Yoshi’s Island game with a few minor adjustments, though there are some weird narrative elements that appeared in Yoshi’s Island DS that make an appearance in New Island which most players won’t see coming but mainly because they’re so out of left field.
The gameplay itself is largely similar to the original Yoshi’s Island game, eschewing all the changes that DS brought to the table. Yoshi can swallow enemies, turn them into eggs and then use said eggs as weapons. In terms of platforming, the game feels slightly off – Yoshi moves much slower and his animations seem to make most of his actions take longer than they should (like throwing an egg or switching direction while running). These are minor gripes, however, and once most players become acclimated to this new movement system they probably won’t even notice any problems. There are two control schemes – one is made for New Island while another is designed to correctly mimic the same control scheme as the original SNES game.
Yoshi’s New Island’s biggest problem is easily with its tendency to recycle elements from the original, providing a stale experience. There’s multiple moments in the game where players will recognise level designs that have been ripped straight out of the original game – running away from a Chomp on floating platforms and riding Seagull-like enemies up to further level are two examples in New Island where these moments are ripped directly from the original game. It results in a boring product for anyone who played the original game – we’ve seen it before and there’s nothing new or difficult to approach here. Which is ironic considering the title. Don’t get us wrong – these are well designed moments in the game, but that’s because they have been ripped from Yoshi’s Island several years ago. There’s no attempts to innovate or provide a new experience to Yoshi’s Island fans.
Yoshi’s transformations return but many of them are relegated to compartmentalised mini-games that utilise the 3DS gyroscope. Yoshi finds a “portal” to activate one of these transformations and is whisked away to a separate room. Surprisingly, despite the team taking the player out of the action for these mini-games, the gyroscope on these work quite well – and I’m usually a player who hates any kind of gyroscopic functionality. These sections of the game cleverly turn the 3D off and weirdly enough it’s not noticeable and actually quite an intelligent way to deal with the limitation of the 3D technology. But it’s still sad that players can’t really explore the levels with these transformations.
Probably the most prominent addition to the game is the giant eggs that Yoshi can now produce. These allow him to destroy parts of the environment and open up new areas after swallowing a large enemy. Unfortunately these parts are also highly compartmentalised and many of them have one or two obvious ways to complete them, not allowing the player to explore their options with the gameplay mechanic. The developers try to shake things up with metal giant eggs too, which allows Yoshi to sink to the bottom of underwater areas, but like the normal giant eggs, they just come off as lazy gimmicks that ultimately feel criminally underutilised. There was potential here, but none of it has been realised as well as it could be.
Both boss and enemy encounters are similarly quite boring. There’s barely any enemies in the game that are truly brand new – the only ones who do appear have been taken from other Mario games. It’s bizarre that so much on this “New Island” feels old. Boss encounters are pretty disappointing too – many of them involve dodging enemies and then just throwing eggs at them three times. It’s more or less feels like a way to dumb down the boss battles and simplify them akin to games like New Super Mario Bros. There’s no boss battles as ingenious as Raphael The Raven, Sluggy, Prince Froggy, the Naval Piranha or even Roger the Potted Ghost in the original game.
To make matters worse, the penultimate boss battle is ripped exactly from the original game – though simplified to remove any semblance of charm or tension. Kamek serves as the boss battle during the middle of each of the game’s worlds – and these battles feel more like puzzles than proper battles and as such are much more enjoyable. They’re closer to the original game in terms of design than any of the others, though perhaps a lazy way to make a boss battle rather than thinking how to implement the mechanics of the encounter into an original boss character and/or battle.
The game offers the usual collectibles and medals for the player to find. Flowers, red coins and stars all return and most of them are easy to find – though Yoshi’s New Island has an annoying habit of placing many of them behind areas that lock themselves away, so it would be wiser to plan to replay levels multiple times rather than simply backtracking through them. Collectibles unlock challenge levels for players to play through, while completion of the game unlocks mini-games (which can only be played locally and feature no online functionality). Additionally, players who struggle to find everything or complete levels are assisted by a mysterious bipedal warp pipe, who grants Yoshi with flutter wings (offering him unlimited flutter jump) or golden wings which grant him invincibility too.
All in all, people who play the game from beginning to end will probably take roughly eight to ten hours to complete Yoshi’s New Island. To find absolutely everything, however, players will have to spend roughly fifteen hours. It’s quite a meaty experience for a two dimensional platform of this caliber, but many fans of the original game will feel like they’ve seen it before and probably tire of it quite quickly. Those new to the franchise or looking for a much simpler version of Yoshi’s Island will easily enjoy seeing it out to its conclusion. The mini-games are an enjoyable distraction but nothing special, although the game does support download play for those wanting to play with a friend.
Much like Nintendo’s previous major release, A Link Between Worlds, Yoshi’s New Island’s visual presentation has been the subject of much scrutiny amongst fans. In motion, the game looks great. It feels like a compromise between the hand drawn, pencil and crayon lined style of the original Yoshi’s Island game and the almost Claymation look of Yoshi’s Story. It’s not particularly ugly per se, but the drab worlds and lack of variety do bring down the look of the entire game – which feels largely similar from beginning to end. Yoshi is well animated though, looking just as cute as he did in previous games and is full of life. The 3D effect works surprisingly well here too – giving the game a pop-up book appearance, utilising multiple (animated) layers to give the game world depth and feel alive. It’s superficial, admittedly, and doesn’t push any boundaries in terms of 3D, but it does give the game a more living quality than previous games in the franchise.
The soundtrack, on the other hand, is considerably annoying. The game utilises roughly five to seven different tracks across Yoshi’s journey and just uses them interchangeably. This results in a few levels having tracks that don’t feel like they fit with the level. To make matters worse, the song that is used as the “base” for each of the rearrangements throughout the soundtrack is droning, boring and will encourage most players to play the game on mute regardless. It’s hard to talk about the stand out tracks in Yoshi’s New Island because none of them are particularly memorable.
Yoshi’s New Island is an exercise in repetition. It attempts to rehash many of the things that made the original Yoshi’s Island great but seems to miss that one element of cohesion that makes everything feel as great as the original game. Players of the original game will probably enjoy this, but long to return to the original shortly thereafter. Players who are new to New Island will simply not know better and probably enjoy it. But it’s just a soulless game that rehashes so many concepts from the original games that it might as well be called a remake or expansion pack rather than a fully-fledged sequel. It’s not to say that everything about New Island is bad – that’s impossible considering where it’s copying most of its elements from verbatim, but it’s just simply nothing new, as the title denotes. Hard to recommend to anyone but the most die-hard of fans – though if you enjoyed Yoshi’s Island DS there’s probably a good chance you’ll enjoy Yoshi’s New Island. Just don’t expect anything new.
Rating: 3 / 5