Familiarity is not always a good thing… Being stuck at that *familiar* set of traffic lights that just take forever to change. The *familiar* wait in a dentists office, before some seriously heavy drilling. The *familiar* sensation of a numbed leg after sitting on it for too long, followed by the all too *familiar* feeling of tripping over yourself as you first try to stand up. Yep. Familiarity can sometimes be the enemy… and unfortunately with Yoshi’s New Island, it’s very much the case.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There is a good game here. Probably a great game if you’ve never experienced the glory that is Super Mario World 2: Yoshis Island on the SNES. Fans of that Yoshi title, will find much of the same in this -supposedly- new outing. I don’t just mean that the mechanics feel similar, or that the visuals are a throwback to the series past. I literally mean there are levels that seem ripped from the green dinosaurs classic Super Nintendo caper.
First off there’s the story – never a stickler in a Nintendo game to be sure, but a bit too much of a rehash in this game to really get away with sticking “New” into the games title. Stork is bringing Baby Mario and Baby Luigi to their new parents. Kamek kidnaps Baby Luigi and knocks Baby Mario to earth. A group of friendly Yoshis decide to help the baby plumber in his quest to rescue his cowardly brother from the mischievous wizard. Can you guess what happens at the end? I won’t spoil it for you… but it’s exactly what you were thinking!
Each level has a number of collectibles to enhance the replay value of the game. Sadly, where Super Mario 3D Land’s levels felt dynamic, drawing me back in for “just one more go” innumerable times, Yoshi’s New Island’s levels can often feel a bit of a chore for veteran platform players. It’s not that they are badly designed mind you, it’s just that they all “feel” slightly the same, meaning that the idea of going back and replaying a previous level is not much different from just starting the next level.
Visually the game is one of Nintendo’s less polished titles released of late. Developer Artoons, clearly had a love for the characters and world but could not deliver the same fidelity Ninty typically bring to their releases. Most of the music and sound effects in the game are remixes of titles found in the original Yoshi’s Island, which is fine. Zelda and Mario have been doing this for years and it’s never bothered me. There are some fun arrangements and the sound effects are as quirky now as they were in 1995.
Donkey Kong, Link and Mario seem to have gotten the memo that you can make a sequel/throwback to a past offering that doesn’t just feel like a HD remaster and nothing more. Unfortunately, I don’t think Artoons was on that specific mailing list. If the game had been marketed as a HD Remaster and not an entirely new offering, I think I may have been a little more forgiving.
It’s not all bad. The core gameplay is still great and Artoons have put in some new mini-games and mechanics that help to momentarily shake the feeling of Deja Vu. Bosses are cleverly designed and are the highlight of the game, with a giant bat proving to be one of the best. The barrier for entry is lower than some other Nintendo titles released in the last few months, which is a good thing for kiddies but a bit of a disappointment for the older Nintendo vets out there.
As things stand, while Yoshi’s New Island is a fine game for players unfamiliar with the franchise, those of us who’ve visited this Island in the past, won’t find this return trip all that “New”.