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Yoshi's Island DS Review

Mike_Reilly By:
GENRE Adventure 
E Contains No Descriptors

What do these ratings mean?

Well preserved is another way of saying "fossilized". 

I'm not exactly aging, more like fermenting. To wit: I can now taste the difference between beer and malt liquor, my standards in women are shifting towards increasingly dangerous levels, and I hold onto errant nickels jingling in my pocket tighter than the dimes they once replaced.

It's tough to tell if this slope towards impending antiquity is a favorable one, especially while under the influence, but it's clearly getting old. I'll openly admit that scores of memories have been obliterated by both substances and seconds, but the feel of games played, beaten, and mastered are each forever branded onto this dry brain as if it were racing in NASCAR.
click to enlargeIts chrome still shines, even though its stickers are as old as 1995’s Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island for the SNES. It's been more than eleven years since we first encountered Yoshi as a full-fledged star, and in all that time he has only learned a few new tricks, none of which are sticky enough to make his new Yoshi's Island DS last long on the crowded surface of my jaded gamer brain.
Yoshi can't promise a new story either, mind you. Kamek is still swiping babies for some evil reason, it's still your job to rescue them, and baby Mario is still the monkey on your back. This time, however, he is joined by baby versions of Peach, Donkey Kong, Wario, and Bowser as well. All have their own abilities, ways they interact with levels, and effects upon Yoshi's egg-chucking and movement skills. They are all useful, but some are way more fun than others.
The best is still baby Mario, because with him the game handles just like it used to for extra nostalgia points. Developer Artoon didn't think that was enough, so they added blocks that only Mario can hit for coins or platforms. Artoon must have played their share of Super Mario Bros. 2, for they gave Peach a slower-moving dash, yet a slightly longer hover, which also makes her umbrella open. Jumping into one of the many huge fans scattered around the levels, the wind will carry you and Peach so long as you can ride it. Also, her eggs are among the most fragile, popping upon contact, as opposed to Mario's, which can bounce twice safely. You'll catch some air with Peach and have fun wind-surfing for the first few levels, although the fans she relies on feel overused later in the game.
Also new and different is Baby Donkey Kong who can climb vines to grant you access to optional bonuses – it’s the same general idea as Peach, except this time you're using vines instead of wind fans. DK can also do a shoulder-charge that destroys both enemies and roadblocks alike. But having DK on your back basically eliminates both the dash and Yoshi hover, making him feel like a burden in comparison to both Mario and Peach. So you'll want to keep DK in a cage like the beast he is. Luckily, his eggs detonate on impact clearing anything caught in the blast, so you'll have some fun taking out three enemies in one egg blast for a while. Then you’ll switch to Mario and just jump over them.
click to enlargeBaby Wario, with his magnetic ability to attract nearby coins, and baby Bowser's fire breathing come later in the game, and are useful in traversing the chasms they were obviously designed to let you overcome. It's a letdown, though, to finally have free reign over your gameplay choices and then beat the game. But that's not as irksome as some of the finer points of Yoshi's Island DS which altogether, make this a sequel not worthy to hold its predecessor's eggs.
You can swap between babies by standing on sign posts placed throughout levels, calling the stork who will bring them all to you. If you have Mario as your travel buddy, the stork will have Peach. Then you jump into the stork to get Peach. Now he has DK, jump into him again. Now he has Wario, and so on. This low-level baby toggling could have been done away with in favor of, say, a realtime baby summon, if Artoon wasn't trying to add some strange, half-assed puzzle element to the game.
The puzzles are equally tedious. If you see vines, you need DK, go figure. Ice in your way? Gee… I wonder who breathes fire. Is that a wind fan I spy? Pink parasols anyone? Right. Aside from the boring puzzles, the levels are well designed and quite large, usually spanning both DS screens.
Each of the fifty stages has a few spots where you can shift the playing field to the top or the bottom screen, usually filling the screen you just shifted from with a preview of what goodies you're missing. More often than not, using this feature will just give you an error sound effect – you'll be hard pressed to find the right spots, so you might as well forget it altogether and just keep moving along.
The large gap between the dual screens also takes some getting used to, especially with an older DS. It's not so bad when you're on the bottom screen trying to shoot a red coin off that flying shyguy in the top screen's sky, but sometimes you're yanked right out of the game by the realization that you're staring at a chunk of plastic when every instinct in your gamer brain is saying that a flower should be there, by god.
click to enlargeThere's absolutely no need to run back and snag coins for the sake of more lives either, since Yoshi's Island DS is beyond easy and will strain itself to throw as many of them as it can at you since it's so happy you're simply alive and playing. But you might want to go back and collect all the red coins, flowers, and max out your thirty stars, however, since, like the original Yoshi's Island, there are secret levels to unlock if you log a perfect score in every stage. Then again, only the most OCD among you will have that kind of patience. 
The rest of us might have been more willing to explore Yoshi’s Island if it were open, like Metroid or Castlevania, rather than segmented into stages. We get a glimpse of that with the continuous museum world, where all the enemies you have eaten go to spend their afterlife, punting around for your OCD pleasure. Another major omission is any type of multiplayer. No egg fights, co-op, team battles, nada. Not even Punt-the-Baby. This game doesn’t just star a dinosaur, it is one.
While there are bones to pick, Yoshi’s Island is definitely worth unearthing for the simple fact that it’s cute, controls well, and is fun to play. It’s especially good in small increments, like a pick-me-up between work assignments or on the bus portable. After fifteen minutes of fun, though, your sweet tooth will just start to ache, and you'll get back to the meatier games you're buried in.
The crayon stylized graphics look as though they were ripped straight from the SNES, and that’s a good thing. It's simply a joy to look at and play through, especially during a combo case of dry brain and dilated pupil. The bubblegum music and sound effects have been ported over directly as well and the nostalgia factor is simply seeping from this title’s prehistoric pores.
Then again, once the Wii Virtual Console hits its stride in the coming months, we're virtually guaranteed the original and best SNES Yoshi's Island for about ten dollars, as opposed to spending thirty-five on the chicken it evolved into. The DS version is a fun game, but it doesn’t improve on the original enough to break it out of the museum and into your collection.
C+ Revolution report card
  • Cute, simple, and fun
  • Big stages
  • New baby abilities
  • Boring puzzles
  • No multiplayer
  • Needs three screens

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