yoku’s is­land ex­press

a bug’s life

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - CONTENTS - Kimberley Bal­lard

Some­times it’s the small things that make the big­gest dif­fer­ence. In this charm­ing open-world ad­ven­ture game you play a dung bee­tle called Yoku, who’s just ar­rived on the trop­i­cal is­land of Moku­mana to re­place an ag­ing ptero­dactyl as its post­mas­ter. You’re all ready to take on the Is­land Ex­press and start de­liv­er­ing post, ex­cept you soon dis­cover the is­land and its in­hab­i­tants are in grave dan­ger. An an­cient evil called the God Slayer has wo­ken from its slum­ber, and Yoku must bring to­gether the Old Ones hid­den across the is­land to de­feat it.

This is a beau­ti­fully quirky game full of fun sur­prises. In­stead of rolling dung, Yoku is at­tached to a white pin­ball, which you roll across the is­land to get from place to place. Be­cause this isn’t just an ad­ven­ture game, it’s a pin­ball game too, with end­less rooms and tun­nels for you to ex­plore. Us­ing your con­troller’s trig­gers, you can switch on the pin­ball flip­pers dot­ted across the is­land, left for blue and yel­low for right. It can be tricky at first: Jump on the wrong part of a flip­per and it’ll send you sprawl­ing through the wrong tun­nel, but you can eas­ily fall back and start again. You can also hit bouncy nod­ules to re­lease shiny slabs of fruit, which you’ll need to col­lect, and crack open pur­ple crys­tals and col­lect their shards to open door­ways into new ar­eas.

So far, so sim­ple, es­pe­cially if you’ve played pin­ball ar­cade games be­fore. But what you won’t re­al­ize un­til you play it is just how ad­dic­tively tac­tile Yoku is. You could eas­ily whittle away hours slid­ing into new rooms, ping­ing against crys­tals and nod­ules, col­lect­ing pieces of fruit like they’re beau­ti­ful boun­ties, and slid­ing down shafts. Near the start of the game you can turn your pin­ball into a slug buster, which lets you suck up an­noy­ing slugs and use them as fuel to burst through ob­sta­cles. (Al­though this needs to be per­fectly timed be­fore the slug ex­plodes and sends you fly­ing in the wrong di­rec­tion.) Later on, you can also turn your pin­ball into a grap­pling hook, which al­lows you to jump on a flip­per, grap­ple onto hang­ing flow­ers, and swing like Tarzan to get to hard-to-reach places.

Rolling on

De­spite how cute it looks, the game is chal­leng­ing at times. Puz­zles get harder as you progress, re­quir­ing more at­ten­tion to de­tail and fi­nesse. Some­times it’s hard to see what’s hap­pen­ing on-screen, es­pe­cially when it’s crowded with slugs, fruit, and crys­tals. Ad­di­tional chal­lenges come in the form of thorny drains: If you fall be­tween two pin­ball flip­pers you’ll land on a dan­ger­ously thorny patch, hurt­ing Yoku, and los­ing the fruit you’ve col­lected. This can be ag­gra­vat­ing, es­pe­cially when fall­ing into a drain is the re­sult of an ex­plod­ing slug, and not your own clum­si­ness. What’s worse is get­ting stuck on a puz­zle, where you try your hard­est to jump into a par­tic­u­lar tun­nel just to fall into the wrong one. At times this can be but­ton-mash­ingly an­noy­ing.

The joy of play­ing Yoku, how­ever, is that there are so many dif­fer­ent parts of the is­land to look at. If you want, you can leave a hard puz­zle and head some­where else for a bit be­fore tack­ling it again. And that’s great, be­cause ex­plor­ing Moku­mana is one of the most de­light­ful things about the game. Beau­ti­fully crafted and di­vided into dif­fer­ent ge­o­graph­i­cal ar­eas, you’ll travel from the jun­gle of Go­rilla Woods, with its flam­ing torches, lus­cious flow­ers, and shrines of wise mon­keys, to the snow-capped moun­tains of Ivory Peaks, to the steamy and pu­trid Mel­low Hill. There’s also a creepy nether­world called the Un­der­dark, a dun­geon of shrines and cave paint­ings, where you can un­cover the se­crets of the Old Ones.

Another high­light is the crea­tures you meet along the way. In­spired by the films of Stu­dio Ghi­bli, there are a num­ber of unique in­hab­i­tants for you to in­ter­act with. There are Tweep­ers, white bunny-shaped spir­its in a war against the dusty Sootlings, which look like they’ve been plucked from

Spirit­edAway; the grumpy Skull Gang, who look like squat gnomes wear­ing death masks; and a menagerie of strangely adorable an­i­mals. This evokes the feel­ing of fall­ing into a trea­sure chest of strange toys.

Bug­ging out

While search­ing for the four Old Ones takes up most of your time, there are er­rands and side quests for you to com­plete too. At first, you’ll sigh at the idea of back­track­ing to de­liver a pack­age in the area you first com­pleted. That is, un­til you re­pair the Bee­line, a trans­port sys­tem that whisks you across the is­land at speed in a num­ber of tiny rock­ets. It’s a small ad­di­tion to the game, but a fan­tas­tic one. While you’re de­liv­er­ing post, you can fix bridges and re­move boul­ders, carry around Fun­goids to spread their spores, and even learn to swim with the aid of a fish that you wear as a dress. It’s bizarre, and en­dear­ingly so.

There’s also the mys­te­ri­ous God Egg pro­tected in the Un­der­dark and on the verge of crack­ing. We’ll let you dis­cover what this means, but it’s an el­e­ment that tips the game from friv­o­lous pin­ball fun into the realm of a com­plex fan­tasy nar­ra­tive.

“You can whittle away hours just ping­ing against crys­tals and col­lect­ing fruit”

Far Left One of your tasks is to con­vince a gi­ant eel to let you across his pond.

right Th­ese grumpy juice mak­ers don’t like bee­tles. No mail for you then!

Left Jump across rooms by us­ing the flip­pers at the bot­tom of your screen.

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