There are a handful of things that people usually associate with a children’s daycare, but the green dinosaur that debuted in the Super Mario franchise, Yoshi, isn’t one of them. This is the connection Nintendo has decided to draw between players and Yoshi’s New Island for the 3DS, and while the adorable charm of the character does shine through, the end result isn’t nearly as effective as the developer, Arzest, had likely hoped.
Those who have played through previous Yoshi’s Island games won’t find much new in the 3DS iteration, but the classic formula hasn’t shown that it needs a complete overhaul. Players are tasked with reuniting Baby Mario with his infant twin brother, Luigi, who’s been kidnapped by the villainous Baby Bowser. A gaggle of Yoshi happen upon a helpless Mario and thus begins a wondrous adventure to save his brother and find the children an adoptive home.
With all of these diaper-clad versions of iconic characters crawling around, it’s easy to see why Nintendo wanted to associate the title with a very child-friendly aesthetic, but the execution of this premise fails to hit the mark throughout Yoshi’s New Island. The majority of levels don’t look anywhere near as refined as some of Nintendo’s other games, and the title falls short of creating a convincing hand-drawn atmosphere that the developers so obviously strived for.
That said, attention to detail has been pumped into the 3D character models themselves, effectively creating a storybook-esque tone for the game. Yoshi, Baby Mario, Shy-Guys, and more all pop out from the lackluster backgrounds in grandiose fashion. Furthermore, enabling 3D on the handheld does make the game standout much more effectively, increasing the visual appeal and depth of the game in the process.
Yoshi’s New Island, while far from a beautiful product, does benefit from classic gameplay design. The franchise as a whole hasn’t changed much since its 1995 Super Nintendo debut, and that holds true in Yoshi’s New Island as well. Egg hurling, baddie eating, baby guarding, and platforming are still very much at the core of the new 3DS game, but Arzest has seen fit to add several features that’ll leave longtime fans with something new to sink their teeth in to.
One of the larger additions in the most literal sense of the word are giant Shy-Guys that can be swallowed and then turned into giant eggs. These immense projectiles can then be hurled through previously unbreakable obstacles that block Yoshi’s path. There are also giant metal eggs that the jolly green dinosaur can summon that allow him to sink down to the depths of several underwater levels, but these too can be tossed to reduce obstacles and baddies to rubble. These destructive elements make for some enjoyable puzzle-solving scenarios, but giant eggs are nothing quite as revolutionary as what’s debuted in previous installments of the franchise (i.e. the ability to swap babies and gain different powers).
Yoshi’s ability to turn into vehicles, a power often overlooked in games outside of the Yoshi’s Island series, returns this time around. The power to transform into a helicopter, jackhammer, a sled, a hot air balloon, and more are all at the reptile’s disposal, but they only take up a few very brief areas in levels throughout the island adventure. Each transformation also solely utilizes the gyroscopic capabilities of the portable, which admittedly does make for a nice change up in the formula, but each segment feel like more of a gimmick as a result.
There are a grand total of six worlds for Yoshi to run, hop, and flutter jump through, and every stage that makes up each of these worlds can be completed with relative ease. While some portions do offer somewhat challenging scenarios, it’s nothing that can’t be overcome after a couple of minutes. Admittedly, the title does pander to a much younger demographic that likely hasn’t experienced the SNES original, thus making the difficulty appropriate, but longtime fans won’t find much noteworthy or redeeming content after the game’s completion. The exception to this being a ‘2-Player Minigame Mode’ that’s included on the cartridge and allows a pair of pals to go head-to-head in a limited number of brief competitions.
Yoshi’s New Island excels in the same way as its predecessors, but fans looking for something new won’t find much in the latest portable iteration. The aesthetic of the game is lacking, the music is painful to listen to, and much of the gameplay has remained exactly the same, but there are some redeeming qualities about Yoshi’s latest romp. The formula still holds strong even after all these years, and the quirkiness of the characters is enough to keep players engaged for the entirety of the campaign. With all of that said, nothing feels all that new in Yoshi’s New Island.
Yoshi’s New Island is available now, exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS.
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