Yoshi's New Island Review / Version tested: 3DS / Release date: March 14 (US and EU), March 15 (AU)
When the original Yoshi's Island was released on the SNES back in 1995, it was considered a rebellious move by Shigeru Miyamoto.
While the entire story behind its development remains somewhat clouded in mystery it's said that Miyamoto, not content with being asked to make a game with Donkey Kong Country style pre-rendered graphics, decided to go in the completely opposite direction.
The result was a gorgeous game that looked as though the entire thing had been drawn onto the screen with pastels, watercolour pencils and marker pens. Yoshi's Island was remarkably beautiful and still retains its charm nearly two decades later.
This is one of the main reasons Yoshi's New Island disappoints. With its pre-rendered characters, it feels like the sort of game that Miyamoto would have produced had his creativity been smothered.
Once again it puts you in the role of a number of coloured Yoshis as they form a relay system to get Baby Mario back home where he belongs. Continuing the narrative from the SNES original, its intro implies that the stork who successfully delivered Baby Mario and Baby Luigi to their parents at the end of the first game had actually gone to the wrong house.
The Stork collects the babies and sets off to deliver them to their proper home, but is ambushed mid journey. Once again, Kamek the Magikoopa kidnaps Baby Luigi and knocks Baby Mario to the ground. The Yoshis, presumably still tired from shouldering all the responsibility in the first game, decide to once again carry Baby Mario and rescue his brother.
This is either the third or fourth game in the Yoshi's Island series, depending on whether you count Yoshi's Story on Nintendo 64. It's probably worth doing so for the sake of this review, because Yoshi's New Island shares more in common visually with the N64 title than the SNES original or its 'true' sequel Yoshi's Island DS.
Gone are the lovely pixel art sprite renditions of Yoshi and Baby Mario, replaced with pre-rendered efforts that, while on-brand and pleasant enough, lack the charm of their predecessors. Nintendo is still going for the hand-painted look, but because the Yoshis are so small (even on a 3DS XL) the effect is difficult to appreciate. Enemy sprites fare slightly better, especially larger ones where the effect is more apparent.
Thankfully the backgrounds, which are given more space to shine, aren't quite as disappointing. They're undoubtedly the game's visual highlight: particularly when the 3D slider's up, resulting in a neat layered effect (albeit one that's by no means essential).
Overall, New Island is not quite the visual spectacle of its 1995 predecessor, but the way Yoshi handles is as perfectly calibrated as ever. Fans of the SNES game will feel right at home controlling Yoshi, with all his previous moves present and accounted for. They feel just as satisfying to pull off too.
There's still nothing quite like firing off a perfectly aimed egg and smacking it off an enemy (there's an optional tilt-based control method, but you should leave well alone from that). Likewise, you'll still breathe an amused sigh of relief when your extended flutter jump lets you only just reach that far-off platform, and - of course - you'll still feel satisfyingly smug when you leap into the air and pluck an enemy out of the sky with your tongue, only to dump them out of your rump in egg form.
The main problem is that while these mechanics and abilities are as timelessly impressive as ever, the overall experience is less entertaining when set in levels that lack the charm and imagination of previous Yoshi's Island games.
Talk to a fan of the SNES original and they'll regale you of tales of their favourite moments, the stages that showed them something they'd never seen before. Many remember the classic levels like 'Touch Fuzzy Get Dizzy', wherein the landscape transforms into a hazy, wobbly trip with Yoshi stumbling around in a seemingly inebriated daze. There's nothing in New Island that leaves the same impression.
"Gone are the lovely pixel art sprite renditions of Yoshi and Baby Mario, replaced with pre-rendered efforts that lack their predecessors' charm."
Instead, most stages are fairly straightforward affairs with the obligatory collectibles - as before, you need to get 30 stars, 20 red coins and 5 flowers to fully clear a stage.
Even the secret areas and items lack imagination, generally appearing in one of three overused tropes - the pipe, the locked door that requires a key, or the invisible block (in this case the trademark Yoshi's Island clouds). There's no excitement or surprise when you know you're almost always going to be on the lookout for one of those three and never anything else.
While the backgrounds and enemy designs change, there's little you'll do in World 6 that hasn't already been done in World 1. This extends to the boss battles, which follow a similarly predictable pattern. The mid-world boss is always Kamek (who, naturally, is defeated with three hits), whereas the end-of-world boss is always a larger version of a standard enemy.
The latter happened in the first Yoshi's Island too, but at least there were some ingenious variations on the theme, like the Prince Froggy battle in which the player was swallowed alive by a giant frog and conducted the entire battle from inside his body. Such creativity is lacking this time.
Also making a return are the vehicle sections, in which Yoshi is temporarily transformed and has to reach an exit (while collecting items) before a timer runs down. While a couple return from the original - the helicopter and submarine transformations are back - the majority are new to this game.
Sadly, all six transformations are handled in a similar way, forcing the player to use tilt controls that at best shoehorn an arbitrary control method when it isn't needed and, at worst, make you look like a knob on the bus.
Such disappointments continually dampen the enjoyment of a game that nevertheless still meets to Nintendo's high standards of production values.
There undoubtedly remains some fun to be had here, thanks to the series' satisfying gameplay, but it's the Nintendo equivalent of a Disney straight-to-video film. The Lion King 2 may be completely derivative, but at least it still has Simba in it.
It's just so disappointing to play a Nintendo game that doesn't have any magic to it. Instead of that fresh, original SNES game with that beautiful hand-drawn look all those years ago, Yoshi's New Island feels more like painting by numbers.
While that classic Yoshi's Island gameplay is retained, this new adventure lacks the imagination and ambition of the 1995 original.
- Gorgeous backgrounds
- Nintendo-grade controls
- Pleasant soundtrack
- Lacking ideas and variation
- Occasional misguided tilt controls
- Disappointingly short