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Nintendo 3DS Review: ‘Yoshi’s New Island’

Yoshi's Island revealed Mario & Luigi's parents. After a plucky strut through a kingdom delivered on the tip of a digitized marker, a team of obstinate Yoshis returned the discarded duo back into the beak of a stork. In the doorway of a middle class Mushroom home stood our only image of the pairing, the guardians who would bring up videogamedom's culturally identifiable protagonists. Until Yoshi's New Island says otherwise. Through an impractical bait-and-switch, an uncaring stork plunked the newborn duo on the steps of the wrong home, so Yoshi's New Island tells us. For 20 years, we believed those…

Review Overview

Reviewer's Rating - 2

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Summary : Yoshi's New Island is amongst the most forgetful in Nintendo's canon

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yoshinewisland

Yoshi’s Island revealed Mario & Luigi’s parents. After a plucky strut through a kingdom delivered on the tip of a digitized marker, a team of obstinate Yoshis returned the discarded duo back into the beak of a stork. In the doorway of a middle class Mushroom home stood our only image of the pairing, the guardians who would bring up videogamedom’s culturally identifiable protagonists.

Until Yoshi’s New Island says otherwise.

Through an impractical bait-and-switch, an uncaring stork plunked the newborn duo on the steps of the wrong home, so Yoshi’s New Island tells us. For 20 years, we believed those were the parents who raised a mythological duo into Mushroom Kingdom saviors, board game duelers, karting enthusiasts, and sporting superstars.

And what is this parental commotion for? Nothing, really. While Mario excursions plundered their damsel-in-distress repeats for the sake of platforming definition, this refreshed Island is exhausted. Even this strain of multi-colored Yoshis seem blankly confused. They should be: Developer Arzest puts them in the kind of design slump often unseen under Nintendo’s first party banner.

These Yoshis remain leisurely, an excitable pocket of pastel dinosaurs who act out a patiently considered attempt to unhook the stork from Baby Bowser’s infantile clutches. Then again, maybe a strategy session is in order to cut out the middleman and drop Mario off themselves. Why trust this GPS-less stork?

Remaining is a sense of adorable awkwardness, expected from images which should appear on nursery walls. Extra oomph on leaps sends Yoshi’s legs into a frantic patter as he (she?) musters an additional inch of vertical screen space. Mario, clad in his headwear, bounces helplessly and elicits a shrill cry when bumped from these apparently baby-friendly reptilian backs. Leave Mario drifting in the safety of a bubble too long and he’s whisked away by cackling Magikoopa Kamek, thus simultaneously eliminating decades of ill-formed fan fiction timelines. Having a princess in another castle is less important if Mario himself was trapped from birth.

Such gameplay ideas were born from Nintendo’s R&D, specifically Shigeru Miyamoto’s affectionate playful touch, utterly abandoned under the guidance of Arzest, whose development has ruptured these concepts, creating less a sequel and more a soulless reboot. Superficially similar, with bouncing eggs, puffy clouds, and chalkboard dialog, New Island is strangled without imaginative direction.

In terms of “new,” Yoshi can ingest hulking Shy Guys, spilling them from his rear as gargantuan eggs. The idea carries some potential until the execution stoically fractures their appeal. The structure leaves limited room for experimentation or failure, leaving these weighted eggs as a desperate sidestep. When bundled with water, these hard-boiled ovals add a pinch of cleverness as their girth sucks Yoshi into the deep. Such moments are few.

Otherwise, it’s a point-and-throw festival where (hopefully) infertile cholesterol bundles are slung toward Kamek’s chipper cronies in an attempt to reach a goal fitted with dancing flowers. Strict two-dimensional spaces maintain their childishness, if lacking the old determined lines, which are replaced by diminished pencil strokes and chalky pastels. Observable energy is lost, and Yoshi, now a clump of indistinct pre-rendered mush, is no longer an artistic darling. Art production combines with staging units to form a gut-punch of ambivalent style.

Whereas Yoshi’s Island was acutely aware of pinching space to best force players into considering their leaping prospects, New Island has no such pressures. Too often landscapes are disastrously flat. Needless collectibles are beckoning for interesting exploration, but those should be secondary. Instead, they’re necessary. Missing them means lurching right, turning this into a design school student’s unfinished midterm fortuitously pressed onto a professional cartridge.

Yoshi’s New Island is amongst the most forgettable in Nintendo’s canon, oblivious to the company’s nuanced perfectionism. Passé motion-driven mini-games are packed into layouts as afterthoughts instead of carrying a tight connection to these 48 levels. They show up as if right-click-pasted during disinterested coding crunches. And music? New Island’s singular theme is flavored with dry piano strokes, screechy guitars, or Yoshi’s discordant hums, all endlessly recycled until bonus stages or castles can issue their deeper reprieve.

Credits roll over a predictable backdrop. When it’s over, nothing changes. Mario’s indecipherable arc remains, dropped on a doorstep after which his story blanks, until he reemerges to slam barrels with a hammer. Bowser continues building his egotistical shrines on top of searing lava, his traditional weakness. As for the Yoshi, their triumphant romp on Egg Island is but a tall tale. Their young will roll their eyes in withdrawn boredom as gray, bearded dinos recount how they once walked right for a few hours to forever enslave their race to Mario’s princess-saving purpose, and how it wasn’t even fun getting there.

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About Matt Paprocki

Matt Paprocki has critiqued home media and video games for 13 years and is the reviews editor for Pulp365.com. His current passion project is the technically minded DoBlu.com. You can read Matt's body of work via his personal WordPress blog, and follow him on Twitter @Matt_Paprocki.