“Aren’t video games supposed to be fun?”
This isn’t a question one asks while playing a game he enjoys. Instead, it’s a reflection on all the better times he’s had playing games. It’s an expression of ironic concern, as well as something I said quite often while playing Yoshi’s New Island.
Although I never expected much from this sorta-sequel to one of the greatest games
of my youth of all time, I found myself disappointed in amazing new ways.
The long and the short of it? I don’t like this game, I don’t like playing it, and I’m writing this review three hours and three worlds in so I never have to play it again. There are worse games out there, for sure, but there are also many, many games better than Yoshi’s New Island. I’d rather dedicate my time to those instead.
The story picks up right after the events of the SNES original, where it seems the stork has delivered the babes Mario and Luigi to the WRONG parents (whoa, ho!). As he attempts to fix his mistake, the stork is (again) attacked by Kamek and his cronies, who manage to re-capture Luigi as Mario plummets to Egg Island below. Upon re-discovering Baby Mario, the Yoshi clan decides to use his psychic connection with Luigi to find Baby Bowser’s secret lair and bring him to his scaly knees.
As you can see, Yoshi’s New Island falls short from the get-go, relying heavily on devices from the SNES classic – including the premise – while changing too much of what should have gone untouched. The only thing “new” here is the disappointment I felt while playing it.
For instance, the controls in Yoshi’s New Island are about as fun as dragging an an actual dinosaur through your yard. Maybe the egg-chucking lizards have put on a few pounds over the years, or perhaps lead boots are just “in” this season. Regardless, everything about Yoshi’s New Island feels laggy and sluggish – contrary to the responsive, rock-solid controls of the original.
While your ultimate goal is to score 100% in each stage, it’s far more cumbersome this time around. You’re still tasked with collecting five flowers, 20 red coins, and finishing with 30 stars – only now it’s a chore. The challenge doesn’t come from well-placed enemies and creative stage design, but from finding invisible collectibles that are literally hidden from sight.
That’s right. You have to gather every coin, traverse every platform, and rub Yoshi against every corner of every stage to uncover the hidden “?” clouds that may or may not reveal a flower or fistful of red coins you simply can’t find otherwise.
Some terribly bland level design makes this especially frustrating. In fact, I never once felt the desire to replay a single stage in my short time with Yoshi’s New Island, instead groaning at the thought whenever I’d reach the end of a level, realizing I’d missed a flower or some red coins during my travels.
Another feature from the original game is Yoshi’s ability to take the form of various machines, such as a helicopter or submarine. While this was a fantastic way to break up the gameplay in the original, the Yoshi’s New Island approach feels forced, relying on 3DS motion controls instead of the directional pad. The end result is a series of time trials that pressures you to complete an area without making mistakes – or do it all again.
To be fair, I did enjoy the “Copycat Yoshi” puzzles. While nothing too innovative, I liked convincing an enemy that mimics my every move to jump onto spikes. There’s also the addition of giant eggs and giant metal eggs, which felt too gimmicky and short-lived to fully enjoy.
While the original Yoshi’s Island was packed with interesting, original bosses (Prince Froggy, Raphael the Raven, and Baby Bowser immediately come to mind), Yoshi’s New Island is tame in comparison. The creative mid-world bosses have been replaced by anticlimactic encounters with Kamek, while the final bosses are equally shallow. Three hits always win a fight, and their attack patterns are wildly predicable and unimaginative.
If there’s one thing Yoshi’s New Island does well, it’s look pretty. I was caught off-guard by how great the graphics are – especially with the 3D slider turned up. In spite of this, I still prefer the aesthetic of the original, which would likely translate well to a 3D display (especially if they took advantage of its pop-up book art style).
Contrary to the graphics, the music is vulgar. If the original Yoshi’s Island OST is a delectable wine, Yoshi’s New Island is the sugarless Kool-Aid of video game music.
I’m not sure whether I should blame the 3DS XL’s awful speakers or the game itself, but the sound effects too feel like a watered-down callback to the original Yoshi’s Island, now including the “super kawaii” noises Yoshi’s been making since Yoshi’s Story for the N64.
The “New Coke” of Video Games – Skip It!
If you’ve played the original Yoshi’s Island, you likely have fond memories of a game that was ahead of its time, still looking and playing better than a number of the platformers released even today.
Likewise, chances are you won’t like Yoshi’s New Island, a game that feels like a copy of a copy of a copy. Yoshi’s New Island isn’t a remix, remake, or re-imagining – it’s a follow-up that poorly imitates a masterpiece. I like to think of it as a less-funny version of the re-touched Jesus portrait from a few years back.
I’m aware that much of this review rides heavily on the comparisons to the SNES original, but I feel that’s what Nintendo asked for in making this game. If a nearly 20-year-old title can still be amazing today, how can a follow-up released in 2014 cower so timidly in its shadow?
I assume if you’d never known there was far superior Yoshi’s Island from another time, you might be ambivalent toward Yoshi’s New Island. One might even deem it “okay,” but that’s unfortunately not the case.
Skip Yoshi’s New Island and play the original for the SNES or Game Boy Advance instead. In fact, if you have a Wii U, you can download it here.