Baby got back. Double up.
Though Mario and Yoshi have teamed up countless times and defeated koopas, goombas, Bowsas, and more, this is the first opportunity for 3DS owners to take control of Yoshi in the starring role with heaps of nostalgia and a few new twists to the egg-tossing, baby-carrying players first encountered on Super NES. I missed Yoshi's Island back in the day and I know I’ll get hate for admitting I was a big fan of Yoshi's Story, but Yoshi’s New Island brings new levels of questionable child care to the forefront.
In a world with new eggs, enemies, and plenty of hidden secrets and bonuses, obsessive gamers have a Swanson-sized feast in front of them. Consider coloring book graphics at new depths, add sticky controls, a great sense of platforming speed, bundled with a pair of crying babies and developer Arzest has crafted another highly playable first-party 3DS title.
Yoshi, of the babysitting-dinos club, won't ask players to choose a favorite as the pack has agreed to work together in ferrying both baby Mario and baby Luigi to their rightful place. Baby Bowser and koopa-witch Baba send the delivery stork well off-course, but omnivorous reptiles to the rescue! While Yoshi carries one of the babies through a level, enemies will try to knock him loose leaving the rugrats to whine and cry as a timer ticks down. Players can extend that timer by collecting stars through each level, but if time runs out while Mario and Luigi are loose, Baba's minions will fly off with the babe and Yoshi'll lose a life.
Star pieces are only the first counted collectible in each level. Yoshi can nab 30 stars, 20 red coins, and five flowers in each stage, while those flowers can be turned into golden egg medals if the bonus wheel stops in Yoshi's favor at the end. Who knew dinosaurs were concerned for their stamp collections when the asteroid hit? The sheer volume of collecting felt very overwhelming and a little mind-numbing when I drove for 100%, but Yoshis of all skill levels will discover plenty of secret areas and floating Question Mark clouds through natural play. The map displays which items you still need to hunt for in each level so replaying for completion is a cinch too.
At some points, Yoshi's New Island allows the player to slip into a platforming Zen where speed and accuracy collide in exuberance. Flutter-jumping through a level, flinging eggs, and leaping further and faster than the 3DS screen will allow feels as good as New Super Mario Bros. 2. Tossing eggs with the right shoulder button can leave bigger hands feeling cramped and smaller 3DS screens might make the reticle hard to spot, but overall the core gameplay feels very satisfying, both for novices and old quick-draws.
Levels play out as expected, with each world adding a new visual layer and a new platform trick, with some even featuring transformations for Yoshi. Special areas give our pal a new form, from helicopter to hot-air balloon to snow-sled and more. These sequences use tilt controls, meaning you have to turn off the nice 3D to make sense as you twist the handheld from side-to-side. I could have played the entire game with 3D on, but these bonus areas offer a welcome break from the jumping, enemy eating, and egg-throwing.
Yoshi can encounter maze-like doors that open into puzzle rooms or enemy arenas. Most of these present extra coins and the like, but occasionally I ran into an enemy that required an exact number of egg hits to kill. This puff-ball jumps at Yoshi constantly, disrupting aim and forcing the player to retreat back one room to a floating egg box to refill ammunition. I had to travel back and forth three or four times before getting it right, creating a dull and frustrating loop toward the end of the game that ground progression to a halt faster than a dead battery in a Jurassic Park station wagon.
Still, Yoshi's New Island colors inside and outside the lines with deft artistry, even if some frames feel mysteriously absent of imagination. Either popped out platforms, pint-sized enemies, and collectibles dot the screen and twirl attractively... or Yoshi and Baby Mario stand silently in front of a matte background. The whole game looks pretty, but occasionally it seems like a level was rushed through production.
Some levels auto-scroll and one tried to trap me underneath falling platforms, but the sense of speed and fluidity in Yoshi's New Island goes a long way in keeping the player engaged. By the time you hit Bowser's castle, it's clear you're doing the dirty deed and it feels oh-so good. I just feel like only Nintendo's constant stream of platforming titles can match the level of genre-flogging seen throughout the industry shooter space.
Dinosaurs and babies might not mix in history, but on 3DS they do just fine together. There’s a wealth of rewarding gameplay for anyone with fossil fuel left in the tank for yet another coin-collecting, Shy Guy-stomping, Yoshi spotlight. One of my favorite Nintendo characters continues to impress with heaps of charm and an oh-so-sweet soundtrack, meaning anyone looking for a spring break distraction will find a cold-blooded welcome on Yoshi’s New Island.
Copy provided by publisher. 3DS exclusive.