Yoshi’s New Is­land

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher Nin­tendo De­vel­oper Arzest For­mat 3DS Re­lease March 14


So this is what wiped out the di­nosaurs. Oh, we’re sure Nin­tendo won’t be send­ing Mario’s he­li­umvoiced steeds to the glue fac­tory just yet, but Yoshi’s New Is­land rep­re­sents an extinction-level event for the spirit of a clas­sic. It’s pitched as a se­quel to 1995’s Su­per Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Is­land, a plat­former with the manic cre­ative en­ergy of a sketch, and yet de­vel­oper Arzest’s lethar­gic throw­back con­trives to be as dis­pos­able as a child’s aban­doned nap­kin scrib­ble.

From the off, Arzest shows a will­ing­ness to re­use any­thing from the orig­i­nal with the barest min­i­mum of adap­ta­tion or rein­ven­tion, pack­ing the game with fa­mil­iar en­e­mies, back­drops, ideas, fur­ni­ture and col­lectibles. Mean­while, the story, such as it is, falls closer to ripoff than homage: Kamek tries once again to be­come an adop­tive par­ent mid-stork flight, but only man­ages to make off with Baby Luigi, leav­ing in­fant Mario in the ten­der care of the Yoshi tribe.

In the right hands, these el­e­ments might en­gen­der fond nos­tal­gia. It’s a re­mark­able feat of en­gi­neer­ing to take parts so beloved and con­struct some­thing that feels so wrong, like be­ing asked to strip down and re­assem­ble a Bu­gatti Vey­ron and end­ing up with a tuk-tuk that falls to pieces when you turn the key.

Take the con­trols, once ki­netic and honed. Now Yoshi wal­lows about, tak­ing sev­eral paces to break into a syrupy fac­sim­ile of his dash. His jump is com­par­a­tively spright­lier, but still less bound­ing than we’d ex­pect. Even aim­ing egg throws is slow, the ret­i­cle glid­ing up the screen (two al­ter­na­tive aim­ing modes, Hasty and Gy­ro­scopic, ex­ist, but the for­mer is faster only in that eggs are launched when you let go of X, and the lat­ter is bor­der­line un­us­able). Noth­ing feels re­spon­sive, sti­fling any lo­co­mo­tive joy these rote worlds could pro­vide.

That’s be­trayal enough of its proud an­ces­tor, but it could have been a de­lib­er­ate ef­fort to en­cour­age a more re­laxed, ex­ploratory playstyle. In­ex­pli­ca­bly, how­ever, Arzest keeps show­ing you col­lectibles only to whip them away at speeds its con­trols defy you to match. This seems to be an at­tempt to at­tract re­plays, ask­ing you to mem­o­rise lay­outs to nab those elu­sive flow­ers and red coins, but it would take far more than a chalk tick on the end-of-level score­board and the chance of gold medals to con­vince us to wres­tle our way through these bland, char­ac­ter­less cour­ses more than once.

We’re not just talk­ing art style, ei­ther, al­though this suf­fers from slav­ish ad­her­ence to the specifics of Yoshi’s Is­land – recre­at­ing its dank cas­tles with cor­ru­gat­ed­card back­drops, say – while never quite cap­tur­ing the vivid en­ergy that made its source ma­te­rial so strik­ing. Af­ter Tear­away’s tac­tile hand­i­craft, these an­o­dyne pen­cils and heavy-handed, faux-painterly swirls feel twee. But what irks is a deeper prob­lem: in all but rare in­stances, lev­els sim­ply feel like loose col­lec­tions of plat­forms strung to­gether, with a frus­trat­ing num­ber of

It’s a truly re­mark­able feat of en­gi­neer­ing to take parts so beloved and con­struct some­thing that feels so wrong

lethal drops and in­stakill lava pits fill­ing the gaps. The en­e­mies that pop­u­late the in­ter­sti­tial spa­ces are sel­dom a threat, but when they are it’s be­cause they’re cheaply placed to in­duce a tum­ble and a restart. Anachro­nis­tic check­point­ing only ex­ac­er­bates the dif­fi­culty spikes: we died dur­ing one boss (knocked into lava, of course) only to have to do the en­tire pre­ced­ing sec­tion again.

There are pre­cious few new ideas to spin along whole worlds of this kind of level de­sign, and fewer still not stretched too thin by overuse, but Arzest doesn’t help it­self by tak­ing the ex­ploratory tools that were Yoshi’s ve­hi­cle trans­for­ma­tions and turn­ing them into bor­ing gy­ro­scope-con­trolled minigames. We’re not sure what’s more frus­trat­ing: that re­sources have been fun­nelled away from grace­ful de­sign to fund tacky gim­micks, or the more lit­eral fun­nels in which the vast ma­jor­ity of these sec­tions take place.

Just in case there was still doubt, push­ing up the 3D slider makes it clear that Arzest isn’t at home with the 3DS hard­ware, its stereo­scopic im­ple­men­ta­tion so poor that it ham­pers you. Ob­jects are dis­played on a limited num­ber of quan­tised lay­ers, the choices of ex­actly where made seem­ingly at ran­dom, frag­ment­ing this res­o­lutely 2D world. Some plat­forms are placed on the layer be­hind Yoshi’s feet, leav­ing him float­ing awk­wardly in front of them, while fore­grounded items are dis­tract­ing. One level has a ski lift carousel, which we tried to cross while avoid­ing the plat­forms clearly in the back­ground. But we were be­ing too clever: they were to­tally safe to land on, a clumsy layer shift ex­plain­ing away how you can alight on some­thing sev­eral feet into the screen with a for­ward jump.

As limp as Yoshi’s New Is­land’s uses of 3DS are, they are as noth­ing to when it crashes up against its own her­itage. Pre­ci­sion aim­ing is a core part of this se­ries, with ric­o­chet­ing eggs used to col­lect items that are hard to reach, but it’s ru­ined here by the spotted pro­jec­tiles not be­ing tracked mere mil­lime­tres be­yond the screen’s bound­aries. You can throw an egg at a line of coins, walk for­ward a few steps and see where the game stopped both­er­ing to pick them up – and since the 3DS screen is just a few times Yoshi’s height, you’ll run into this of­ten with ob­jects placed above you. The lazi­ness is only high­lighted by the in­sipid se­quences with hu­mon­gous, scenery-de­stroy­ing eggs (see ‘Bat­tery farm­ing’), which span en­tire seg­ments of level with­out is­sue.

No one part of Yoshi’s New Is­land is ru­inous by it­self, but the sum is so much less than the 20-yearold parts from which it’s cob­bled to­gether. No one de­serves to be duped by the Cray­ola box art into ex­pect­ing a true se­quel to a child­hood-gulp­ing ad­ven­ture, which is still counted among the most in­no­va­tive 16bit games of the mid-’90s. Arzest has laid an egg here, but not of the golden va­ri­ety.

ABOVE The game looks far bet­ter in screen­shots than it does on 3DS’s au­tostereo­scopic screen, be­ing both darker and more washed out in re­al­ity. While the best back­drops do a pass­able im­pres­sion of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, the brush­stroke ef­fect’s overuse blunts the wow fac­tor

LEFT Boss fights once again see Kamek en­larg­ing en­e­mies (and you’ll also bat­tle him di­rectly), but lack the in­ge­nu­ity or hu­mour of the past. None will blow your trousers off, re­ly­ing as they do on the rep­e­ti­tion of sim­ple ac­tions

ABOVE The ve­hi­cle minigames are on time lim­its, de­spite the clunky gyro con­trols. And while the he­li­copter is one of the freer ones, you can see the ceil­ing even in this crop, demon­strat­ing just how lit­tle lee­way you’re given. LEFT Old ideas abound in Yoshi’s New Is­land, these Chomp Rocks first seen in the orig­i­nal’s World 1-1 (Make Eggs, Throw Eggs). The new mu­sic is just hor­rid, though, seem­ingly in­tended to liq­uidise the adult brain via the ears. Like al­most ev­ery­thing else, themes are ex­ces­sively overused

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