Yoshi has sort of been like the black sheep-- er, dinosaur-- of Nintendo's 2D platformer line. He started out in his solo career with the marvelous Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island on the Super Nintendo. Since then, he's dabbled in Yoshi's Story, a passable platformer for the Nintendo 64, he's been a part of a failed tilting experiment in Yoshi's Topsy Turvy for the Game Boy Advance, and he's tried to regain his SNES fame with Yoshi's Island DS. All of these titles hold no candle to Yoshi's first solo outing. Arzest is attempting to try again, this time with a game that more closely follows the foundation that the original Yoshi's Island laid, like Yoshi would an egg. The end result is Yoshi's New Island for the Nintendo 3DS. It all sounds eggs-citing, but does Yoshi's New Island live up to its SNES pred-egg-scessor?
In a move that totally retcons the original Yoshi's Island, it seems that the house that the stork dropped Baby Mario and Baby Luigi off at was the wrong one. In a frantic attempt to salvage this disaster, the stork swiftly flies into the sky, furiously searching for the right home. However, Kamek comes into the picture, has a tussle with the stork, and escapes with Baby Luigi in his clutches. Meanwhile, Baby Mario falls into a circle of Yoshis who decide to help the soon-to-be hero search and find his once again missing brother.
The "new" in Yoshi's New Island really doesn't refer to changes in the gameplay or structure of the game. It's more to do with the new locale the game presents players. I mean, you're still one of eight differently colored Yoshis, you're still jumping, flutter-jumping to score extra distance, lashing out Yoshi's tongue to eat and create eggs, tossing said eggs at set angles determined by well executed timing, and running through six worlds of eight levels each.
The only really new elements that Yoshi's New Island brings to the table are two different eggs types. The Eggdozer is a gigantic egg that can crash through usually indestructible objects and walls, while the Metal Eggdozers allow Yoshi to sink down into watery depths, where normal Yoshis only dream about going. (They can only float on the surface of the water usually.) This opens up some neat puzzles and gives Yoshi a unique feel. However, these two new egg offerings seem too safe of additions to the series, and they come across more like something to add bullet points to the game.
If your only goal in Yoshi's New Island is to rush through the levels and reach the ending of the game, you'll burn through this 3DS installment within 3-4 hours. That is, you'll pretty much find the game over-easy (*cough*). You'll also be missing the important factor that makes Yoshi's New Island and the Yoshi's Island series in general challenging. Each level has three collectibles to nab: twenty red coins, five red flowers, and thirty stars.
The stars are the most necessary to collect. Each time Yoshi is damaged, Baby Mario gets separated from him, slowly rising and falling inside a bubble. A counter slowly ticks down, each representing a star you have collected in the level, up to thirty. If the countdown reaches zero, Baby Mario is grabbed by Kamek's henchmen and you lose a life.
What challenge there is in Yoshi's New Island comes from getting 100% completion on each and every level. This means getting all of the red coins, flowers, and stars. The latter essentially requires you to remain untouched in the whole level. No damage and no deaths, as unlike past Yoshi's Island games, when you restart from a checkpoint you do not have the same tally of stars you died with. Instead, you get dropped down to the standard ten stars.
Also unlike past Yoshi's Island games, you get a bit of a reprieve with going for 100% complete in each level. In Super Mario World 2 and Yoshi's Island DS, you had to acquire all of the three collectibles in one run. In Yoshi's New Island, you can collect all of one collectible, and then try the stage again, this time aiming to get all of another type of collectible. While this makes the game sound easy-peasy, it's a welcome feature, especially for the unlockable bonus stages, earned by getting 100% completion in all of a given world's levels. These bonus stages have nothing in the way of checkpoints, and they are some of the most difficult levels seen in a Yoshi-related game.
The new rules of how 100% completion works also helps because there are multiple areas to each level, many of which you are unable to return to once you pass through them. This makes it so if you accidentally or unbeknownst to you forgot to collect a red coin but have all five flowers and all thirty stars, you need not collect the flowers and stars again. Instead, you can just focus on collecting the red coins. With my save file I managed to finally get 100% completion on every level in the game in about twenty hours give or take an hour. Unfortunately, there's no reward for doing so other than personal satisfaction (and to rub it to Like Super Mario World 2, Yoshi's New Island consists of six worlds, each with nine levels apiece-- one of which is unlockable. The level design itself walks a fine line between interesting and pedestrian, sometimes offering clever platform and enemy placement, as well as smart level gimmicks.
One of my biggest issues with the level design, however, is in the way an alarming amount of secrets are hidden. They are oftentimes placed in invisible clouds that only appear if Yoshi or an egg passes through them. When these clouds are burst open by an egg, they can reveal a series of coins, some of which are of the red variety, that a player could easily miss out on. There's also certain platform combinations that secret goodies hide in as well. Leaping from one platform to another reveals a reward. While it doesn't seem random at all, it makes exploring the levels a little arduous and exhausting sometimes as you scour every nook and cranny for invisible bounties.
Yoshi's New Island also contains vehicle segments. However, these are self-contained areas that must be entered through a special door in the levels they appear in. Yoshi can transform into a mine cart, a bobsleigh, a jackhammer, a helicopter, a submarine, and a hot air balloon. Unfortunately, the developers decided to use the gyro sensor of the Nintendo 3DS hardware to shoehorn in very much unneeded tilt controls for all of these transformations. Most work okay, but transformations like the submarine and helicopter are a bit unwieldy. These required me to tilt the 3DS at crazy angles, and I'd still have problems. That said, even if you fail to reach the exit of each vehicle section (you're timed), you get put back at the door that is the entrance to the vehicle segment. You can simply try and try again until you complete it.
Each fourth and eighth level of each world features a boss battle at its conclusion. For the fourth level, Kamek is always Yoshi's opponent, using different means to damage him and Kamek using different means to take out Yoshi. The eighth level bosses have more character, using Kamek's tried and true method of enlarging an ordinary enemy to gigantic proportions. Some of these battles are better than others, and some are just boring and bland.
What certainly isn't boring and bland are the visuals. Screens and videos on YouTube really don't do Yoshi's New Island's look any justice. You truly have to see the game on the 3DS or 3DS XL's screen to fully appreciate it. The most incredible part of the art design is the beautiful animated backgrounds. It feels like you're playing inside a children's picture book. The depth portrayed by the stereoscopic 3D effect makes the game pop out look marvelous. Unfortunately, the sound design doesn't come out as well. I hope you like the main theme of Yoshi's New Island, because you're going to hear about 40 remixes of it. Maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but that's what it felt like. There's a jazz version, there's a jungle version, there's an electronic version, and there's even a kazoo version that the sound team must have been drunk when they said such a version was acceptable. It's sensationally grating to the ears.
It's hard to say that it's bad that Yoshi's New Island doesn't do much that could realistic be called new, because we've only had three games like this since 1995. The formula really hasn't yet overstayed its welcome yet. I'm perfectly okay with this 3DS entry staying relatively true to the Super Nintendo original because of this. However, I'd love to see Nintendo take over the reins of this franchise, as its homegrown developers could give Yoshi an unforgettable Yoshi's Island game that the current developer Arzest cannot. Still, if you're looking for a tried, true, and safe addition to the Yoshi's Island name, Yoshi's New Island might not be eggs-traordinary, but it is rather eggs-cellent.