Back in 1995, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island stormed on to the SNES and became an instant classic as it sold over 4 million copies worldwide. I loved its unique, hand-drawn art style and its fresh take on the Super Mario Bros formula, so when news broke out that its direct sequel, Yoshi’s New Island, was headed to the 3DS, my expectations were set pretty high. Well here we are in 2014 and if one thing’s for certain it’s that not much has changed since 1995, for better or for worse.
As a direct sequel to the original game, Yoshi’s New Island picks up where Yoshi’s Island left off, with Baby Mario and Baby Luigi having been accidentally delivered to the wrong house by a bumbling stork. As the stork attempts to relocate the whiny brats, Kamek shows up to steal the children but only ends up with Baby Luigi. Baby Mario, however, falls in to the forest of Egg Island; an island inhabited by the Yoshi clan that has been taken over by Bowser Jr.
In Yoshi’s New Island, you’ll play as various members of the Yoshi clan as you strive to reunite the future plumbers, poop eggs to throw and free Egg Island from Bowser Jr.’s clutches. Although it’s similar to Super Mario Bros., Yoshi doesn’t rely on mushrooms or power-ups, but instead focuses on keeping Baby Mario safe at all times. Each time Yoshi takes damage, Baby Mario will float up in the air and cry himself in to a bubble until you burst it to free him, but you only have a set amount of time before he’s captured by Shyguys. This is all familiar territory if you’ve played Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island or Yoshi’s Island DS, and that’s kind of the downfall here — the overall lack of something new.
Yoshi’s New Island consists of 6 worlds, with each world broken down in to 8 separate levels. Every world has its own theme (like a volcano or snowfall) which is reflected in its unique art style that is completely hand-drawn in colored pencils and resembles a pop-up book while playing in 3D. I usually find myself turning off the 3D feature in most games after an hour or so, but it was subtle enough in Yoshi’s New Island and worked so well with the art style that I left it on for the duration of my playthrough, which lasted about 7 hours.
As a platformer, Yoshi’s New Island controls well enough but it’s rather simplistic overall. I never found much of a challenge in any of the levels and ended my playthrough with 87 extra lives, but I still enjoyed playing through the levels for the most part. Every world is broken down exactly the same — 8 levels with one being a mini-boss fight against Kamek and another being a major boss fight against Kamek’s minion of choice — so it did become repetitive at times. The repetition was especially noticeable when I played in longer strides, but I found it easier to swallow in short bursts.
The monotony of certain levels is broken down by small mini-games in which Yoshi morphs in to a specific vehicle that is controlled using the 3DS’s motion sensor. Some of these mini-games were fun, like the Bit.Trip RUNNER feel of the bobsled, but since they’re all timed I never got to really experience them more than 15 or 20 seconds. These portions are also full of coins and collectibles, but the only way to collect them all is by failing the mini-game to repeat them for a second or third try.
Speaking of collectibles, there are tons of red coins, flowers, stars and medals to collect in each level. If that’s your thing, you’ll find a lot of replay value in Yoshi’s New Island and I found the game a lot more fun going after as many of these as possible. If not, you’ll find yourself blowing through levels in a matter of minutes, but I recommend at least working on collecting medals as they open up various game modes in 2-player bro-op.
Overall, Yoshi’s New Island isn’t a bad game, it’s just very repetitive and best played in short bursts. Nintendo is usually pretty good about adding subtle changes to a franchise to make each new iteration feel fresh, but instead they dropped the ball somewhere and just used the same formula from 1995. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island is still a lot of fun today, so that’s not to say sticking with what worked is all that bad, but it’s been 19 years. A little innovation would have gone a long way here.
If you’re itching for a new platformer on the 3DS there are probably worse alternatives out there, but I can only recommend picking this up if you’re buying it for your kids or you’re just looking for something to pick up and play from time to time. I don’t regret my time with Yoshi’s New Island, but I wish I would have waited for a price drop.
Recommended for fans of: Easy platformers with a lack of substance, any of the previous Yoshi’s Island titles.
Bradley Keene is an avid gamer & freelance blogger from Baltimore, MD who typically handles news and reviews here at What’s Your Tag?. If he’s not knee-deep in an RPG or some form of Nintendo game, he’s usually watching terrible horror films or listening to Gwar. Follow him on Twitter @amgfail_WYT, or contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.