Yoshi’s Island has always been considered as one of the best, if not the best 2D platformer of all time. It features some really slick graphics, great level design, tight controls and enough challenges to keep you busy for a while. That game was one of the reasons why I kept playing my SNES for so long even after the N64 was released. Nintendo’s Yoshi’s Story didn’t exactly live up to expectations, and since its release we have been waiting for a proper sequel and here it is finally.
While game developer Artoon doesn’t have the best history when it comes to game development, this game as well as Blue Dragon on the XBox 360 proves that they indeed have some talented teams in its development studios. This game isn’t called Yoshi’s Island 2, so it isn’t a true sequel but more of an expansion perhaps. The reason for that is Artoon didn’t add much to the game except for two new gameplay mechanics; the addition of new babies and the use of two screens. During the course of the game, players will unlock baby Peach, baby Donkey Kong, baby Wario and even baby Bowser as playable characters. Each one of them has a specific ability that will help you complete the game as well as find all of the secrets. Baby Donkey Kong for example has the ability to climb up vines while Peach has an umbrella and can jump in streams of wind to get to higher places. Baby Wario has a magnet to attract moving platforms or coins and Bowser can of course spit out fire. Baby Mario’s only ability is that he can run faster than the rest.
Level design had to be changed in order to take advantage of all those new abilities you can use as well as the dual screen setup, and while at first it seems really fun, I wish they had added more to the stages because those available don’t make perfect use of all the babies. Most of the time you don’t even need to use them all except if you want to collect everything in specific stages to unlock additional content in the game. If you are looking to finish the basic story, you can use Mario most of the time. It is a welcome addition, but I think more time would have been needed to polish the level design and make better use of the playable characters that Artoon added to the game.
The game is a bit shorter than the first Yoshi’s Island, but it will probably take you more time to complete since it is a lot more difficult. The first two worlds are rather easy and you should be able to breeze through them in no time. In the third world you will see the difficulty increase a notch, but in the fourth and fifth world, it gets so hard even I had a difficult time and I’m used to difficult platformers. The increase in difficulty isn’t constant and might turn off a few players. I’m glad that additional lives are easy to get and that I had well over eighty lives when I reached the fourth world so I could retry as much as I wanted.
Some of the levels are very frustrating in that they have too many elements going on screen at the same time. Add to that plenty of bottomless pits and you can see why it feels really cheap at times. For example, in one of the stages there is a constant bottomless pit and tons of platforms on rails where you have to jump to the next one before it falls and then there are birds flying around releasing bombs on you and at the same time you have fire spinning around… I like some challenge, but sometimes in Yoshi’s Island DS it feels like they just added more stuff on the screen or bottomless pits and spikes where they were not necessarily needed just to make it more difficult, and sometimes the stage design suffer from that making it unbalanced.
The bosses in the game though are really easy, a lot more than I had anticipated. While they were also easy in the first game, this time around you have to go through very difficulty stages to then get to an easy boss and again, this makes for an inconsistent level of difficulty which makes no sense at all. They look funny and really cute though and they are still fun to fight against so I guess that makes up for it although it seems like they were added as an afterthought just to be consistent with the first game.
Surprisingly though, the art style holds up to its predecessor and it really shows Artoon’s talent. They made a really good job at updating the look of the game and adapting everything to the DS’s dual screen setup. While the sound design does suffer a bit, as the songs aren’t as memorable, the game’s look should stay in your mind for a while.
To round off the whole package, there are also a bunch of unlockables like secret stages that push the game’s difficulty level even further, minigames and a time trial mode. I honestly had to stop trying to collect everything after trying a few times as it got too difficult, but I can see some hardcore players trying to complete the game and get that coveted perfect save file. But besides that this game doesn’t offer much replay value, unless you’ve really enjoyed it and feel like going through it a second time. But even with all of the problems I mentioned, Yoshi’s Island DS should still be a definite purchase for all platform fans as I honestly had more fun with it than with New Super Mario Bros, and that is saying a lot!