Webster’s dictionary (wow, this is cheesy) defines “new” as “being other than the former”. So why is it that Nintendo chooses to apply the “new” moniker to any game that goes back to a series’ roots and essentially retreads the ground crossed by its predecessors? Yoshi’s New Island continues this trend by offering up a gameplay experience that is by and large identical to its prequels, namely Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. But that game garnered critical acclaim over the years, so maybe taking a page from it is a good thing after all.
The story opens with a stork delivering baby Mario and Luigi to their parents’ house in the Mushroom Kingdom. If that sounds even the least bit familiar, it’s because the SNES original had the exact same opening sequence. In fact, the entire game feels more like a remake than a new installment. Even the type of levels are almost synched perfectly with the original games which, and not to be snippy, is kind of the opposite of “new”.
Anyone who’s played a Yoshi game in the past decade and a half will have a pretty good grasp of how Yoshi’s New Island plays. The game is a 2D platformer where players control Yoshi and his various abilities such as turning enemies into eggs and lobbing them at other enemies, ground-pounding, and of course his signature flutter jump. All of these control pretty much the same as previous games in the series, though I strongly suggest using the D-Pad to control Yoshi as the Circle Pad is just not built for precision 2D platforming.
One new element (finally) is the revamped transformations. Now, while Yoshi transforming into various vehicles is nothing new, the way the 3DS version handles it is. The areas where Yoshi can use these transformations are separated from the main level and are almost exclusively controlled using the 3DS’ gyroscopic sensors. While this is definitely a new feature, it gets old pretty fast, especially when you have to shift the way you’re sitting just for one or two minutes of gameplay.
Visually, the game is a clear nod to games like Yoshi’s Island and Yoshi’s Story. It features a hand-drawn aesthetic that helps the game stand out from the rest – at least, it would if we hadn’t seen this trick a half-dozen times from Nintendo before. It’s sad to see that something that was once so original and acclaimed has dissolved into something generic and overdone. Yoshi’s New Island really takes the series’ trademarked “Crayola graphics” to a new low.
And the soundtrack, ugh. If the “cute” babbling of Yoshi and the enemies don’t get you, the out of place, irrelevant music will. Not only does the music not fit the environment, but the tracks are often of pretty sub-standard quality, a shame considering that Nintendo’s 1st party games are often renowned for their musical scores. You know it’s bad when the best thing coming from your 3DS’ speakers are baby Mario’s screams.
All in all, Yoshi’s New Island should last you roughly between four and five hours, an ok length for a portable 2D platformer. Each level has hidden collectibles in the way of 30 stars, 20 red coins, and five flowers. Surprisingly enough, these are actually pretty well-hidden and require a decent amount of exploration to uncover. The game also features a two-player mini-game mode for those into that, but the mini-games are all pretty bland and don’t really warrant much attention.
However, one of the biggest issues plaguing Yoshi’s New Island is the non-existent difficulty. You can literally run through parts of this game with very few obstacles standing in your way. The bosses, which were real highlights in past games are all pushovers this time around and won’t require much thought or strategy to defeat. Oddly enough, there are some random levels (maybe one or two) that are ridiculously long and difficult and will push your platforming skills to the max.
Yoshi’s New Island is not a sequel in the broadest sense of the word – it’s much more of a revamped remake. The problems here are glaring, however: cookie-cutter gameplay, uninspired presentation, and gameplay that would make baby Mario laugh. It’s sad that a series that was once known for innovation and imagination is now seemingly devoid of both. At least we know that when Mario grows up, his games tend to get better.
This review is based on a copy of Yoshi’s New Island for the Nintendo 3DS provided to 3GEM by the publisher.