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Yoshi's Island DS

The first true sequel to one of the greatest platformers ever made

Nintendo make great games. You know it. We know it. Microsoft and Sony know it. Terry Smith, 42, from Huddersfield probably knows it too. And towards the top of their continent-sized Great Games List (note: may not be actual name), is the original SNES Yoshi's Island, a platform game so beautifully structured, so monumentally inventive that even Nintendo themselves have struggled to better it in subsequent 2D offerings.

And they're not about to start now. True, Yoshi's Island DS isn't technically a Nintendo platformer, developed as it is by former Xbox coders Artoon (responsible for the outstandingly average Blinx The Cat on the old-flavour Gates machine), but the fact that this takes, probably, 90% of its blueprint from the original and barely changes a thing, means that it may as well be. Either way, the point is this: while it's not as good as the original, for reasons we'll come on to in a bit, it's still a sprawling, compelling, dewy-eyed reminder of when platformers ruled the world.

Familiar Face
So, good things first. Number one, it looks, feels and plays just like the original. Levels are designed similarly, graphically it's pretty much spot on, and it's got tons of personality. It helps that Yoshi is quite possibly, with the exception of Wario, Nintendo's number one funnyman, meaning that even the sound of him falling to his doom is amusing. Still, both Yoshi and the inhabitants of his island breed so much familiarity that by the end of map one, level one, you'll be right at home.


Number two: the new babies lineup. As well as Mario, the different colour Yoshis can carry around Babies Peach, DK, Wario and Bowser, each of whom offers up different abilities for different situations. So, Peach can ride gusts of wind with her umbrella, DK's got a charge that smashes its way into secret areas, Wario can attract metal with magnets, and Bowser's got a handy fireball. Oh, and Mario can now turn invisible blocks into Mario blocks, adding coins to your collection.

Cover Up
Of course, this is about as innovative as Girls Aloud - different abilities for different situations is the gaming equivalent of the world's worst cover version - and, we reckon, the reason some people are going to loathe Yoshi's Island DS. Unoriginality is, after all, rarely a part of the Nintendo template.

But within the context of a game that's already remarkably familiar, we think it works quite well. In particular, the addition of Peach's umbrella gives the game a new vertical feel (one level on the second map is literally 20 or 30 screens high) that perhaps the strictly left-to-right original didn't offer up. Lastly, in at number three, it's massive. Sure, you could blast through fairly quickly if you were playing solidly and keeping to the central path, but play it as it's intended - discovering unlockables and secret areas as you go - and this will take a good while to polish off. The difficulty curve is set pretty low - it's not Kirby-level easy by any means, but it's certainly not a buttock-puckering Metroid Prime Special - which works in its favour, as it gives you the time, space and inclination to find everything.


Imperfect World
But, as we promised, it's not perfect. One annoying little tweak comes with controlling Yoshi. He's slightly (and it only needs to be slight to make a difference) more slidey, meaning you find yourself over-shooting platforms.

There's some really dumb game design in places as well, which is entirely out of sync with the rest of the adventure. One example sees Lakitu pursuing you so closely that, when you get caught by him and your baby goes walkies, you end up having to leap back into him in order to retrieve your pint-sized passenger... losing the baby again because you've jumped into him. You could also argue that, apart from in encounters with some of the boss characters (particularly the second world's rather ace giant ghost), the added novelty of dual screen technology might as well not have existed.

And yet it doesn't really matter that much. Because, though there are problems, and though it doesn't actually match up to the magic of the original, Yoshi's Island DS is still a great little game, a perfect match for the DS and a sterling homage to its SNES predecessor.

The verdict

Yoshi's Island DS will, we suspect, be deeply unpopular in some quarters, not least for its none-too-innovative additions. But, as a platform game, it ticks all the right boxes and more.