Yoshi’s Island on the SNES takes credit as being one of the best platformers ever created. The DS has now been graced with a sequel, but how does it fare against the original and as an original DS game?
Artoon, makers of the very underwhelming Yoshi Topsy-Turvy, took the helm in creating this title. Nintendo, like a teacher looking over its shoulder, was not going to let one of their best platformers get tarnished by a bad sequel. However, this DS addition is more like an expansion pack than a whole new game.
The story is very reminiscent of the original title. Kamek, Bowser’s magic using crone, has kidnapped a bunch of babies (including Luigi) and it is up to the Yoshi’s to rescue them. Unlike the original, Mario now has his fellow baby buddies to help rescue the kidnapped Luigi and other babies. This opens the door for new abilities and new level designs.
Using the same coloring book styled elements, much of the game will look familiar to anyone who has played the first title. If Artoon would have gone the way of using 3D models within 2D gameplay (ala New Super Mario Bros), the original flair of the title would have went straight down the pooper. Luckily, the game looks just as cool as it did on the SNES.
The game is based on Yoshi’s bad eating habits and solid level design. Yoshi has one of the most powerful tongues and stomachs in the history of gaming. Once he extends his tongue and captures an enemy, a simple press of Down on the D-pad will convert them into an egg. Eggs can them be shot via an aiming reticule and used as a deadly projectile. This entire egg creating system has been one of the most unique features about the series and allows for simple but captivating gameplay. Because the level design was built around this feature, the Yoshi Island franchise remains one of the most entertaining platformers.
Besides Baby Mario, Yoshi must now also lug around a few new tykes. Princess Peach can reach new heights by catching air drafts with her parasol. Baby DK can climb vines and ropes (Donkey Kong Jr. style) as well as laterally body slam enemies. Baby Bowser can melt ice with his fire breathe (but cannot create eggs). And even as a youngster, Baby Wario is still really greedy by using his magnet to pull in coins and metal blocks. Baby Mario, however, can run faster than the other tykes and can make invisible platforms appear by hitting “M” blocks.
Each level is built around Yoshi’s egg creating habits and the each baby’s specific ability. Spread within most stages are Stork Stops that allow the player to swap out babies. Not only is swapping out babies a must to reach the end of the stage, but also to gather 100% of the items within each level. However, these Stork Stops are used like a forced gimmick by only being provided when it is absolutely necessary to switch babies to advance in the level. You cannot even change babies before or after a level. Another major complaint is the use of Wario’s magnet. Working like a vacuum, this magnet pulls coins and metal blocks toward the player. But it also seems useless when Yoshi, by himself, can push blocks just like the magnet. The magnet also isn’t as strong as one might think and it seems to work almost randomly.
Taking damaging is another unique trait of Yoshi’s Island. When an enemy hits Yoshi, the baby goes flying off into a big floating bubble. Yoshi then has to save the baby my touching it before a count down timer reaches zero. More time can be added by collecting stars, and 30 of them must be in stock when you complete the stage in order achieve 100% of that level’s score.
The game’s biggest form of replay value lies in the challenge that is to collect 100% of the items in each level. In order to fully complete each stage, the player must collect of bunch of Red Coins, a few Flowers, and finish the stage with 30 seconds of baby time. The early stages of the game are a on the easier side but the later stages pose quite a challenge. So much so that even veterans of the first title will have to play through some stages several times to gain the 100% score. It is great to see this extra level of difficulty coming from a platformer, especially a Nintendo game.
Even though collecting everything in each level is quite challenging, the game’s overall difficulty is not. The game is so lenient on handing out extra lives, you would think that this is an abortion protest. By the end of World 1, I had over 70 lives in stock. When I completed the game, I had over 200. Even average players won’t die until they reach the last world of the game, where one hit kill spikes and holes are more commonplace.
Just like in the original game, there are 2 major boss battles in each world. While I found most of them entertaining, they were not as captivating as the original. My biggest disappointment was fighting the final boss. In the original SNES version, the player chucked eggs into the background of the screen, something that was unique and different. Just when the player got used to shooting eggs laterally, the final boss gives the player something new. Now, and sorry if this is a SPOILER ALERT, the player fights the final boss with all babies at the same time. While this is different, it plays out just like the rest of the game. Instead of eggs following Yoshi, other colored Yoshis with different babies on their backs follow the player. When the player shoots an egg, all the other Yoshis will shoot an egg. This allows for all the eggs to equal one super attack. Even though having the Yoshis team up against the final Bowser, it is not as cool as shooting eggs deep into the background of the screen.
Taking advantage of the hardware, Yoshi’s Island DS will take place on both screens. Running, jumping, and shooting between screens will become commonplace throughout the adventure. However, the “dead zone” between screens is so cumbersome, you will want to throw your DS in the garbage. More prominent on vertically scrolling levels, this area of space between the DS’s two screens is a major annoyance. Many times there will be a coin or an enemy lurking between these two screens and the player has no way to see them without stopping and scrolling the screen. But by then, the forced scrolling screen could very well catch up to the player, resulting in a hit or loss of life. Using both screens in conjunction like this is a great idea, but there has to be a better way to make the transition.
My other biggest complaint lies in the audio department. The original game had such a powerful and friendly original score, I can still hum tunes to the day after playing the game years ago. In this DS outing, most of the soundtrack is very boring and borders on annoying. Each stage repeats the same dull musically melodies over and over again. There just isn’t any flavor in the game’s musical tracks. Quite a let down.
If you were a fan of the game on SNES (or the remake on GBA) then you will know exactly what to expect here in this sequel. Collecting 100% score on each level may be challenging, but it is not without its rewards as the player can unlock new stages and mini games by finishing with perfect scores. The game is rather forgiving in the sense that it passes out free lives like tap water, but the dastardly soundtrack is not. The new babies are a cool addition, but some work better than others. It is just too bad that the dead zone between screens could not be transitioned better.
Is this a decent game? Yes. Is this a decent platformer? Yes. Is this better than the original? No. But the overall package will entertain for quite a while.