Beautiful, hand-drawn art style; Giant eggs are fun to use; Difficulty increases with each world; Some enemies are so cute you don't want to destroy them
Music is severely lacking; Yoshi's flutter jump is heavy; Some of Yoshi's transformations feel underutilized or tacked on; checkpoints aren't placed consistently within levels
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island on SNES is one of my favorite games of all time, particularly because everything from the hand-drawn art style, to the tight controls, to the iconic music and enemies make it an amazing gaming experience. So when I heard that Yoshi’s New Island would be coming to 3DS, I was crossing my fingers for an equally memorable experience. Unfortunately, I ran into a mixed bag of positives and negatives with the latest installment of the franchise.
Yoshi’s New Island takes the basic premise and control scheme of its predecessor and applies it to this new game successfully: explore six worlds while keeping Baby Mario safe on Yoshi’s back, and utilize egg throwing as your main form of offense. Lobbing eggs, ground pounding, and swallowing enemies all felt responsive and smooth, but the very first thing that irked me while playing was Yoshi’s flutter jump; as opposed to feeling light and airy and propelling Yoshi in a nice arc before coming down, the jump felt heavy and slow. It took patience to get used to the timing needed to get the jump to work in your favor as opposed to causing you to miss landing on ledges or not reaching the height needed to clear enemies (which happened to me quite a bit when playing for the first time).
Moving deeper into the game, you encounter some of the new features Yoshi’s New Island brings to the mix, though not all of them make for a greater experience overall. The giant eggs are quite fun, and utilized in two ways: above ground, Yoshi uses them to smash blocks and barricades to earn coins, 1-ups, and flowers, while underwater giant metal eggs cause you to sink so you can destroy deterrents and gather goodies down below. These don’t show up in every level and appear just often enough that they didn’t feel like a gimmick, but weren’t annoyingly required to progress through levels constantly. Yoshi’s transformations in particular stages all take advantage of the 3DS’s gyroscope to move Yoshi through the level while pressing any button to use the functions of his transformation, though some of them felt tacked on and uninspired. While Jackhammer Yoshi made smashing rocks fun and Submarine Yoshi fires missiles at enemies, Minecart, Hot-Air, Bobsled, and Helicopter Yoshi all only required you to tilt the 3DS in the direction you wanted to move. That was it. You only get to use these transformations for a few seconds, once in a random level, which was disappointing and a bit of a letdown.
While on the subject of letdowns, the soundtrack for this game was probably the most upsetting thing I encountered during my playthrough. Yoshi’s New Island has essentially two tracks: the main theme of the game mixed into multiple, varying versions of the main theme (but nonetheless the same song over and over), and the theme played inside of boss castles. It got to the point where I was playing the game with the volume off because hearing one song throughout six worlds was driving me nuts. It wouldn’t have been a problem had it been Koji Kondo’s vastly superior and wonderful soundtrack from Yoshi’s Island, but instead I had to listen to kazoos and music that mistakenly tries to paint this as a kid’s game.
The hand-drawn art style in Yoshi’s New Island is easy on the eyes.
Yoshi’s New Island is certainly not child’s play in terms of difficulty, as it gets tougher as you get through each world. I found myself saying things that would never be written into the script of any Nintendo game as I was killed by tricky puzzles or one nasty enemy just waiting to time their attack with my getting near it. At times I was extremely frustrated when Baby Mario would get stuck either at the top of the screen or off to the left with no way for me to reach him, and I’d watch him get carried away; it’s one thing to simply run out of time because you’re fighting enemies and can’t get back to Baby Mario, it’s another to lose him because of wonky programming that doesn’t give you a chance to save him even when you try. Even more frustrating was the odd placement of checkpoints within levels– sometimes you’d get one right in the middle of the level (where it should be), other times you’d find yourself trucking through, dying, and starting way back at the beginning when you should have encountered a checkpoint long before.
There were two things that made getting through levels particularly enjoyable for me, namely the lovely visuals and some of the most hilarious enemies that were often a combination of adorable and chuckle inducing. In terms of art, worlds were either rendered in watercolor, crayon, or chalk pastel visuals, sometimes invoking Japanese inspired artistic techniques in backgrounds that I really appreciated. My favorite part of Yoshi’s New Island, however, were the Shy Guys. Shy Guys are simultaneously ridiculous and huggable, with Stilt Guys blocking your path on stilts wearing matching shoes, Tribal Guys doing dances that involved wiggling their tushes at you, or Shy Guys carrying doors away from Yoshi and falling into chasms with them still in their hands, to name a few. In World 5 I encountered some sort of little fighter wearing karate robes who seriously used a hadouken and threw a ball of lightning at me. I laughed. Boss battles were fun, albeit a bit short, and mid-world battles with the blundering Kamek made you think and kept you on your toes.
Yoshi’s New Island suffers from a few issues, mainly the lackluster soundtrack and some new features feeling flat and shallow, but at its core this is a fun title that takes the classic platforming formula from the SNES game before it and brings it to 3DS. A pleasing art style, fun enemy encounters, and solid controls make Yoshi’s New Island a good, but not great, experience that’s worth your time overall.