Review: Yoshi’s Island DS (DS)

Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS:
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Artoon
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 11/13/2006

Without a doubt I love console gaming. Always have and always will. But my true allegiance lies in the realm of handheld systems, and if youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re talking about handheldâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s letâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s be brutally honest: you are really only talking about Nintendo. With the war between the DS and the PSP over before it even truly began, Nintendo once again vanquished its handheld competition. However, the problem with victory is that often the winners get complacent. See Sony and their arrogant attitude these days in the console wars. But thatâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s another topic for another day. The true question here is will Nintendo continue to challenge itself in terms of the content for the DS. So far, the DS flourishes with a great mix of traditional and non-traditional games. This time around; however, Nintendo is going back to the well so to speak and releasing a game in line with one itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s most popular franchises. Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS certainly has high expectations to live up to. The original Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island has always been thought of as one of the all time great platformers to come out. Of course anything in the Mario universe and the platform genre is a recipe for successâ┚¬Â¦But after dusting off the Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island series is the flavor still there or has it gone stale?

1. Story:

Honestly, this is the weakest category, and anyone not expecting it to be so has been under a rock much of their gaming lives. Any game in the Mario series, or its subsequent spin-offs, is usually high on game play and low on storyline plots. Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS is no exception to that rule. At least we have some continuity here, and this game actually does follow the events of what happened in the originalYoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island and picks up the threads of the â┚¬Å”storylineâ┚¬Â and runs with it. Apparently Kamek, the arch-villain of the original, has hatched another plot. This time to avoid being defeated by the baby due of Mario and Luigi he decided to take them prisonerâ┚¬Â¦along with every other baby in the world. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s actually pretty comical for what itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s worth. Of course from there a slight wrench gets thrown in his plans as a stork (well we are dealing with babies here people) frees some of the children. As luck may have it Baby Mario and Baby Peach are among those who get the reprieve from their kidnappers, and are then dropped off right in Yoshi Village. From there the Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s once again decide to help out Baby Mario and company and begin the platforming trek to once again defeat Kamek and stop his plans. For added fun, besides the famous couple of Mario and Peach, eventually Baby Donkey Kong, Wario, and even Baby Bowser join in the fray for added cuteness. Sure, it isnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t exactly the Shakespeare of video games, but the storyline is pretty damn cute, if not exceedingly simplistic. One of the biggest complaints people have about the Big N, usually, is their sometimes child-like plots to their games. The real question here is can the gameplay once again make up for it?

Story Score: 3/10

2. Graphics:

I really enjoyed this game graphically. Much like the original Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island it stands out because of its stark contrasting nature to the graphics we see in todayâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s modern gaming world. The graphics are cute, extremely colorful, and it just gives off a rich and alive feeling to everything. In fact those of us who played the original will feel right at home as Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS does not depart at all from the playful and child-like graphics that is a hallmark of this series. However, with the power of the DS at their disposable Nintendo has cleaned up the graphics considerably since the last go around, and luckily it doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t detract from the overall feeling of scenery in the least. Throughout playing this game I always found myself pleased with the detail and sheer thought put into the graphics scheme, once again providing me with a unique graphic experience. I was impressed, because in a world where (perhaps unfortunately) graphics in games are King, Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS manages to buck the norm, and present a completely different approach to graphics and still dazzle your optical senses with what they present. All the characters look great, especially some of the nifty bosses Nintendo conjure up for us, and it all fits right in with the mood, the backgrounds, and levels presented. And for those of us who like the little things, be sure to look carefully as Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS delivers by making sure the graphics immerse you in each level as much as possible. This is, without a doubt, one of the strongest points to Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS. However, graphics donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t make the game, especially not a platformer from the Nintendo camp. We expect great graphics, and while Nintendo delivers, the real tests are still to come.

Graphics Score: 9/10

3. Sound:

Nothing exceptional about the sound is readily apparent, but it is solid from beginning to end. Once again fans of the original will find the sound of Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS to be very familiar. While that is not necessarily a bad thing; I was disappointed to not see any bold steps taken in the sound department. The music is happy and cheerful, but after a bit it can wear on you despite the quirks it has. Quirks? Well needless to say the sounds of Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS are a little unorthodox at times. The gamer will hear instruments not often heard in games, and while it is refreshing to hear such sounds, I canâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t help but think that this game cries out for a slightly different arrangement of themes to give it a different feel then its predecessor. However, I am speaking as a person who has played the original, and to be fair that definitely does affect my viewpoint here. From the eyes (or ears in this case) of a newcomer to the series I imagine you will be pretty impressed with the sound as it is. It is more then suitable for the visuals the come along with the package presented here. To add to that the sound effects are, as usual, pretty entertaining and top notch for what they are. Overall the sound of Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS are definitely above average, if slightly repetitive at times for the seasoned gamer, but to a newcomer I feel you will definitely find yourself humming along as you chug through the levels of Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS.

Sound Score: 6/10

4. Controls/Gameplay:

This game is fun. It platforming at itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s finest in terms of level designs, controls, and variety. Despite not using the touch features of the DS for anything (which was a bit surprising to me considering the crux of what the DS is all about), Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS IS the best platformer for the DS this year in terms of pure gameplay. Sorry to fans of New Super Mario Bros., but your baby is outclassed and outshined in just about every way by Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS. First off the game is sporting 50 lengthy levels that will need to complete. Donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t be fooled by previous Nintendo efforts lately, these levels really do take some time to complete. In fact the perfectionist gamer will find this game taking far longer then they originally thought it would to complete it to its fullest. Because the 50 levels are really just the tip of the ice berg. Earlier I mentioned the five babies (Mario, Peach, Bowser, Wario, and DK) who are playable. Each baby presents you with a new ability to use in the game and certain abilities will be needed for each level, and you will frequently have to switch babies throughout the level to not only complete it, but to also collect all the extra goodies then you will undoubtedly want to find along the way. For instance while Bowser can melt ice and get through certain enemies with his fire, Wario uses a magnet to move items, boxes, and other assorted things around. The babies also add to the natural abilities of Yoshi. As for the Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s they come complete with the standard assortment of moves. Running and jumping is, as expected, paramount to completing the game and is easy to do. The signature moves of Yoshi are there as well. Ground pounding is available, and just like in SSBM, Yoshi can also stay in the air longer during jumping if you continue to hold the jump button in. And Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s arsenal would not be complete if he couldnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t inhale his enemies and then, for lack of a better term, pop them out as eggs. The cool part here is not that can use the eggs as projectiles (which of course you can), but that depending on which baby you carry will impact what the egg does. This of course all adds to the overall customization factor of this game, as you will have to really use all the characters to their maximum abilities to complete the game.

Now, despite not using the touch screen in its traditional sense, BOTH screens are used throughout the gaming experience. Simply put the environment is enhanced by expanding it to be shown in both screens. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s really adds a little something to the game and gives you a better appreciation for the work and detail put into the levels. Overall the gameplay and controls of Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS are more then solid. There great. Itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s easy to learn for the newbies, and it is like putting on a comfortable old shirt for the retrogamers of the world. Certainly it is the best we have seen this year on the DS, and perhaps in all of gaming for 2006 in the platform genre.

Controls/Gameplay Score: 9/10

5. Replayability

Surprisingly this is a very solid category for Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS. In order to unlock certain secret features, and the usual goodies, you have to really plug away at the game to collect all the miscellaneous items out there such as the red coins, flowers, character coins, and stars. However, it doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t feel like a forced labor. The gameplay is so amazing that you WANT to go back and collect the items, and you want to go through each level, constantly switching characters to discover new secrets and ways to complete a certain part. And the reward is there for gamers who discover the replayability of Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS. Completing the levels to 100% completion will unlock new content, bonus levels, and an extended ending to the game as well. Plus it will give you that sense of really having worked at something because; it is not easy to complete this game to its fullest, despite its cutesy look. You will get frustrated at the difficulty of some tasks that are required to fully complete a level. But it is worth it in the end as you will get your moneyâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s worth from Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS. Time and again I feel you will come back to this game as a staple of your platforming library for the DS.

Replayability Score: 7/10

6. Balance:

Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢m of two minds here. On one hand Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS really can be quite a challenge to those who want to complete the game to its fullest. On the other hand though it is extremely hard to lose a life in this game, and it is almost impossible to not plow through at least the main part because it really is hard to lose a single life, let alone the entire game. When Yoshi is hit all he need do is get the baby back, which will be floating in the air while incased in a bubble. You do have a time limit to get the baby, but Iâ┚¬â”žÂ¢ve seen turtles move faster then the speed of which that time meter drops. The only real threat you will face in this game is the usual mis-jumps that will lead to a loss of a life. But the experienced platformer will truly not have any problems with the main game. The difficulty of Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS, once again, is in the ability to collect everything possible. If youâ┚¬â”žÂ¢re willing to do that then you will get a true challenge. If not then the gameplay experience is still immensely entertaining, but it will not be especially challenging to even the novice gamer.

Balance Score: 6/10

7. Originality

As much as I enjoyed this game, and even though I truly believe it to be at least equal to its predecessor, it takes a hit in the originality factor. The only true new additions to Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS.are the multiple babies, the abilities they add, and the expanded environment through the use of both screens. Everything else feels like the previous game, only more polished and refined. While that is undoubtedly a good thing, it fails to score high on the originality scale because no new ways of playing are really emphasized, and with a complete lack of touch screen implementation that is a bit disappointing.

Originality Score: 5/10

8. Addictiveness:

I had a lot of fun with this game, and I still canâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t put it down. The levels are highly detailed and enjoyable, and the skill required to complete everything offered is something I like striving for. Currently itâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s got a firm hold on my DS and I see myself coming back to it quite often in the future as it really is an example of platforming done right. Old school platformers will be right at home with this game, and will be hard pressed to put it away. In the same token I feel younger gamers and newcomers to the genre will also be impressed with Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS, and will take the same kind of enjoyment out of it. No matter which way I slice it, Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS, is just flat out fun and addictive. Nintendo and the developer, Artoon, got it right here and the product speaks for itself.

Addictiveness Score: 8/10

9. Appeal Factor:

Old school gamer. Young gamer. Adult gamer. Casual gamer. Platformer fan. Person just looking to have fun. Chances are most of use fit into one of several of these categories. Good news: Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS has a little bit of something for all of you. This game appeals to people from all walks of the gaming world, offering up challenges to each group and also providing that fun experience we all crave while playing a game we spend our hard earned money on. Some players might be slightly disappointed with the utter lack of a multiplayer mode in Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS, but honestly it doesnâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t even matter as the expansiveness of the single player mode offers of more then enough to entice gamers across the board.

Appeal Factor Score: 9/10

10. Miscellaneous:

Despite some problems with originality and the story this is definitely a DS GOTY candidate. It does mostly everything right and truly satisfies the gamer. Donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t be fooled by the cute graphics and general look to the game. There is a great game here to be played and looks, as they usually can be, are deceiving. Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS will make a fine addition to your DS library. Fans of platformers or the Mario universe, you have to consider this to be a must buy. Curious gamers, feel free to give this game a shot. Its charm will work on you.

Miscellaneous Score: 8/10

Story: 3/10
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 6/10
Controls/Gameplay: 9/10
Replayability: 7/10
Balance: 6/10
Originality: 5/10
Addictiveness: 8/10
Appeal Factor: 9/10
Miscellaneous: 8/10

Total Score: 70 (7.0) Very Good

Short Attention Span Summary
Donâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t let the score fool you, the story and originality are the only detractors to Yoshiâ┚¬â”žÂ¢s Island DS, which are pretty minor issues considering that this is a Mario-esque platform game, and also a sequel to one of the best platformers ever. I stand by my statement that this is a DS GOTY candidate. Pick it up people, I promise you wonâ┚¬â”žÂ¢t be sorry.