Yoshi’s New Island Review (Nintendo 3DS)
Gaming's favorite green dinosaur has returned in Yoshi's New Island, which is the newest entry in the Yoshi franchise since Yoshi's Island DS for the Nintendo DS. Given the difference in capabilities between the Nintendo DS and the 3DS, we had rather high expectations for Yoshi's side-scrolling return. And with a title of "New Island," we were hoping that that this side-scrolling platformer headlined by Mario's sidekick would try to bring something new to the table. So let us see if Yoshi's still has what it takes to egg-cel in the modern era.
Yoshi's New Island marks the first time we have seen the green gobbler headline a Nintendo title in nearly eight years. You would think that one of Nintendo's private studios would have helped in developing Yoshi's New Island. Instead, Arzest, which is comprised of a few key members from both Sega and Artoon (which helped Nintendo make the original), was exclusively given the task of creating Yoshi's New Island. With only a couple of lackluster titles done by Arzest in its four year history, Yoshi's New Island is proof that Arzest was not ready to handle this project on its own.
The most noticeable thing about Yoshi's New Island is its graphical style. New Island's visuals range from watercolors, oil painting, colored chalk to crayon-styles of graphics. As much as this would sound like a collaboration of wonderful forms of art, New Island's graphics simply do not mesh together effectively. Much of this can be attributed to poorly done backgrounds and simply bad color choices. With the 3D effects slider on, Yoshi, Baby Mario and all the obstacles on the foreground do appear to stand out from the landscape slightly but there aren't enough layers in this game to make its graphics properly 'pop' like how most other 3DS titles try to do. We understand New Island was meant to look like a children's book, but it seems like it went too far without anyone on the development team ever stopping to question whether or not the game actually looked good. Many of these discrepancies can be chalked up to Arzest simply not having a united or solid art direction. If it simply focused on single art style(such as watercolor), New Island's delivery could have been much more effective.
The audio effects of Yoshi's New Island try to experiment with Mario's baby motif but fall very short in terms of quality. The music itself is rather cute, and it's interesting that many of Yoshi's core songs are redone so many times throughout New Island but with different instruments each time you hear it again. Many of the sound effects are made from items you would expect to find in a daycare, such as kazoos, xylophones, whistles and other simple instruments a toddler could use. Unfortunately, when you slap these noises together, it all becomes quite irritating. The audio effects of New Island are reminiscent of a nightmare sequence from the ‘90s cartoon series 'Rugrats' that never ends. Again, this reiterates the idea that the developers tried to experiment too much with New Island's presentation without taking the time to think on whether or not these effects were actually enjoyable.
The gameplay on Yoshi's New Island features the tried-and-true, solid controls we have come to know and love from a Yoshi game. The second you try to do the extended jump where Yoshi flails his limbs to float a little longer while trying to perfectly align an egg-launch in midair, you know that Arzest effectively captured the best gameplay mechanics of previous Yoshi-centric games in New Island's main design. The pacing of Yoshi's Island was done effectively well, where the first few levels are simplistic to the point where you can try to speed-run through them, but the stages get harder and harder towards the end, which adheres to the pacing of most Mario titles.
New Island's premise, controls and even most of its levels appear to have been directly taken out of the original Yoshi's Island. You must guide Baby Mario to the end of your stage and pass him off to the next Yoshi. Taking damage doesn't hurt Yoshi, but instead knocks Mario off of your back and lets him float around in a bubble, which you must break with your tongue, an egg or your body in order to retrieve him. You have a set number of seconds to retrieve Mario until Bowser's minions catch the floating baby and fly off with him, resulting in a game over. Does all of this sound familiar? Because New Island certainly feels like it is from beginning to end. Nearly every good aspect of New Island evokes deja vu, while all of the concepts unique to New Island prove to be detrimental.
Sadly, Yoshi's New Island acts more like a remake of the original Super Nintendo title than trying to establish itself as anything original. Nearly every enemy, level and boss feel like we experienced it all 19 years ago on the original title. Even the same exact vehicle transformations are used from the original (with a few other ones added in). Unfortunately, Arzest tries to revamp the vehicle sequences by forcing you to adhere to the 3DS' gyroscopic controls, which never seem to work right in New Island. This becomes extremely annoying and frustrating after encountering more and more vehicle sequences, which greatly changes our minds about two of New Island's largest redeeming qualities, its pacing and controls.
For a new island, there isn't much that was added to this title that was added to make this title feel that way. As expected, there were minigames added to New Island that focus on some of the 3DS' capabilities, such as the touchscreen and its WiFi. These minigames are just things that most players would try once, get annoyed with and never play again.
A major new addition to Yoshi's core gameplay would be the inclusion of giant eggs, which you rarely get by eating a giant enemy. While this looks exciting in New Island's trailers, its execution is greatly uninspired. You simply reach a brick wall with a large enemy in front of it, eat the enemy and shoot the giant egg through the wall and proceed -- everything new that Arzest tried to introduce into New Island is simply uninspired and does not try to refine or expand upon the overall experience.
The name "Yoshi's New Island" is false advertising. The things that are "new" about this remake of Yoshi's Island do nothing but prove to be hindrances on the spectacular gameplay and level design of the original title. Next to Yoshi's Story, New Island proves to be the weakest entry in the series and reminds us that both the original title and Yoshi's Island DS are both light years beyond this. While the levels of New Island are absolutely enjoyable, this title appears to be nothing but a soulless remake of a game we fell in love with 19 years ago with an ugly coat of paint smeared across it -- fingerpaint to be precise.
This review was completed using a purchased retail copy of Yoshi's New Island for Nintendo 3DS.