Yoshi's New Island is a great game. That's because it's made by Nintendo, and Nintendo games rarely fall below a certain quality threshold.
Nintendo knows how to put out entertaining titles better than almost anyone else in the industry, and this game is no exception.
But Yoshi's New Island is also one of the most forgettable Mario-related adventures in a while, and its release feels indicative of the state of Nintendo's creative output across the board: it's tight, bright, and enjoyable, yet very much a re-tread of previous outings.
I always preferred the name "Yossy"
Immediately following the events of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, a stork is flying Baby Mario and Baby Luigi to their rightful parents when suddenly Kamek - the evil Magikoopa - snatches away Luigi and sends Mario falling to the ground below.
The baby in red lands safely and is found by the Yoshi Clan, who agree they must help him find his brother and defeat evil along the way.
Sound familiar? It's a re-hash of the original game's story, with a couple of twists that manage to sully the gently impactful fairytale spun by the Super Nintendo release.
But hey, this is a platformer. All that matters is how it plays.
The gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played a Yoshi platformer before. The rideable dino has his usual complement of abilities - flutter jumping, eating enemies with his projectile tongue, lobbing eggs at foes, butt stomping, and so on - but not too many more.
New to the game are the gigantic eggs. Yoshi can only carry one of these at once, but they allow him to destroy impassable objects and dive under water to reach new areas. You use these items infrequently, as you need to find and consume a gigantic Shy Guy to be rewarded with one.
There's so little else that's fresh here. You balance on top of Chomp Rocks, the mischievous Ukiki drop bombs and spit watermelon seeds at you, and you run after Baby Mario when he's knocked off your back.
Stilt-walking Shy Guys, Boos, Koopa Troopers - you've encountered almost every enemy in this game before, and they're just as entertaining to fight as they were in the previous three Yoshi titles.
They're not as challenging, though, and neither is the rest of the game. The Yoshi games of old were rock solid in the later stages - especially if you wanted to grab every collectable -but New Island is, by and large, a breeze.
Even the tense and exciting Chain Chomp chase from the original has been lifted, watered down, and drained of all its drama. I genuinely forgot I was being chased halfway through it.
I was done with the single-player in under five hours, but there were extra trinkets I could have picked up along the way, and two-player mini-games as well, so there's more for players determined to wring every drop of content out of it.
New Island is consistently pleasant, and a big part of that is down to the presentation. Everything sports a craft paper and crayon look which never fails to look beautiful.
Each enemy has bags of character, and each area is highly detailed, the whole game depicting a world fondly remembered by a child, rather than an environment you're currently moving through as a dinosaur.
The all-important award
Though the game is 3D it never does anything of note with its polygons, and indeed even the second screen is confined to conveying information about your progress. It does seem like a step back from the dual-screen craziness of Yoshi's Island DS, but it does allow you to more readily take in the gorgeous art.
The sound is top notch - all laid back tribal rhythms, fairytale jazz, and blissful loungecore - and it worms into your head like all good Nintendo themes should. It even takes a crack at Rayman Legends's claim to the title 'best use of kazoo in a video game', which, for me, is impressive.
Yoshi's New Island is like a re-recording of a legendary album by a world class sound-a-like. It's a fun re-hash of the first game in the series, and mimics what it offered back then very well. And what it offered back then is still super-enjoyable, with the few additions it brings being very novel, very welcome.
But it doesn't manage to bottle the same creative spirit from the SNES game, and it isn't enough of its own experience to put it on the same level as its source material. All this makes for a game that you'll enjoy even as it leaves you wondering whether Nintendo knows where to take the series next.
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