Review by MaxH

"Better than any other 2-d platformer in existence? RED TEH RERVEW TE FYND OUTT!!!!11"

Interesting fact: The style of this game wouldn't have been so vivid if Rare hadn't of made Donkey Kong Country. You see Shigeru Miyamato (Creator of the game) first designed the game as fairly standard looking, but Nintendo rejected it and said they wanted something 3D looking, they wanted to capitalise on the success of donkey Kong Country. Angry at this, Miyamato went off and made the game as cartoony as he could. The result is like nothing else.

The story of the game is simple, as is the norm with platformers, but for once it's absolutely brilliant. The stork carries babies Mario and Luigi over Yoshi's island on the way to their parents' house. But as it's slightly bird-brained (!) it drops Mario onto the island. Straight down to the ground he plummets, amongst a group of Yoshi's. They decide to get Mario to his original home, and they will take it in turns.

The appeal of this game is unlimited. Not only is it packed with hundreds of neat little features, it also introduces innovative combat and health systems. You can jump on some enemies heads if you like, but that's a waste really, since you can get Yoshi to eat most of them! Eating an enemy and swallowing it (You can choose to simply spit it out) will produce an egg, you can carry six at a time. Pressing the Y button will bring out a cross-hair that moves steadily in a semi-circle. Press Y again and you will launch an egg wherever the cross-hair happens to be at the time. It takes a while to get used to but it makes attacking a little more strategic. Plus it's nice to have something to do to your enemies rather than just jump on them or punch them.

The health system is more reminiscent of Sonic's rather than a past Mario game, but I feel it works a lot better than sonic's ring-losing unfairness. When you are hit, Mario floats off your back in a bubble, crying. You must make contact with the bubble to bring him back to you, you have ten seconds to do this. You CAN, however, collect stars that will increase the time limit you have. Although once it gets to nine and under, it will only recharge back to ten, so any extra seconds you collected will be gone if you lose them. It adds a certain urgency to the game. As the time limit whittles away, the ringing that accompanies the time limit (Like that of an alarm clock) gets louder and more desperate, as does Mario's crying.

The game as a whole is a joy to behold. It's the only platformer I've played that never seems to repeat itself. It does of course but you just don't notice, you're too busy having a great deal of fun as these different challenges are thrown at you. The levels' aims are simple: get to the end. It's what you do on the way that's so fantastic. At the end of a level you are given a score out of one hundred. Thirty of these come from how many of those 'catch Mario' seconds you have (Up to twenty extra can be collected to add on to the default ten). Twenty come from red coins. There are hundreds of coins in each level, but only twenty of them are red, some placed among clusters of regular coins, other more deviously hidden. The remaining fifty points comes from collecting flower heads. These big prizes come five-a-level and are always in plain view, they are usually easy to get to as well.

And you WANT to get all this. Whereas in other games you may not particularly care about getting everything, the thought of playing this game more and being rewarded for it just seem like the right thing to do. And it's quite a challenge to get to the end with all thirty life points in tow and ALL TWENTY red coins collected. The game's levels are linear, but they encourage exploration, sometimes offering three different routes through. And it's never just normal platforming jumping either. Yoshi's Island has been carefully designed to make you've never played anything quite like it.

How? Well, every level has a theme. It won't just be 'this level has snow, there is your variety', it will be 'this level has snow and you can ski, ride on ski-lifts and push giant snowballs down rolling cliffs, there is your variety'. None of the themes are wildly ground-breaking but they all make the levels that bit more memorable, and it's that bit that counts. You've got lakitu chucking fireballs down at you from a cloud, a level where you must rise up slowly on balloons and levels made almost entirely of time-bomb platforms. And you've got so much other stuff filling them. There are bean stalks to grow, puppies to adventure with and various hilarious enemies to dispatch. And there's about forty levels of this!

It's that last part that really finishes off the levels with a touch of magic though. The varying themes are excellent, as are the the new combat and health systems and the need to collect everything. But none of them bring as much character to the game as the enemies, they seem to have actual personalities. The jumping shy guys are annoying, the pirahna plants are arrogant and most of the rest are just plain bizarre.

There are the big fluffy floating white things that will inebriate Yoshi completely, having the screen wave wildly, filling with psychedelic colours as yoshi stumbles around drunkenly (Which, along with Mario's power enhancing mushrooms, makes Nintendo's drug reference list almost complete). Then there are the bandits that chase you and steal your baby! Most irritating of all are the flying shy guys that helicopter on screen holding holding a red coin or extra life, only to circle around you tauntingly and fly off seconds later. Then of course there are the ones that are just plain ODD. There is a huge fat duck that strolls around two of the levels wearing blue and yellow striped trousers I believe, and he does nothing at all. He can't hurt me when I walk into him and I can't eat him to use him as an egg. He can't be bounced off or pushed to help my quest in any way, and he can't heed it either. He's just there, waddling around. So I just can't help but love him, I visit him often just to see if I CAN do anything with him. I never can of course.

The curiosity and pure delight that these enemies bring is just one of the pulling factors of Yoshi's Island. This combined with the sprawling, thoughtful level design makes for the most fun platforming experience I've ever had. And it's not at all effortless either, there are quite a few puzzles along the way. Most of them are simple ones within the normal levels to retrieve a flower head or bunch of red coins, but the hardest ones are to be found in the castle levels (These come up once every four levels and result in a boss). Some of them are particularly baffling and take a lot of pattern and memorising of the level lay out to succeed in. Then on course there are the bosses. Some are just plain obvious and easy, but others have less blatant weak spots. Every one of them has a different pattern and some of their weak spots can be quite puzzling. The final boss demands you to master an entirely new strategy of attacking while the floor is blasted away beneath you. It exudes a brilliant sense of drama and is unbelievably tense. Out of the many disappointing to excellent boss battles I've seen, this is the only one that I consider to be TRULY fittingly 'final'.

And it's easily the best looking game on the SNES. It may not be as technically lush as games like Donkey Kong Country, but it exceeds that game in terms of sheer charm and imagination. Backgrounds are crayon-style and move around in a wonderful storybook style, and the FX chip is put to use with some impressive 3-d moments. And it's all so atmospheric too, you can see. Everything is colourful and bursting with personality, the surreal enemies especially. And many of the level structures have thick black outlines and look very cartoony, almost the 2-d equivalent of cel-shading. It's bustling with style and character and it looks so unique, I've never loved the look of a game so much.

And the sound proves to be just as endearing. The music is so cheerful and bellowing that you are forced to notice and like it. It's repetitive nature may get on your nerves but it's just impossible to dislike. It's like a particularly cute puppy that humps your leg, it may be constantly all too noticeable and gets on your nerves, but it's impossible to hate. It's cute mostly, as you'd expect, but I love the country western ones. The sound effects are a real curiosity. A lot of them are normal, but some of them are really weird. The sound of Yoshi straining his legs to float sounds like someone frantically moving a bread knife up and down some sheets (Not that I do that often). And the effect for slipping on ice sounds like someone going 'ooh ooh ooh ooh', not in the orgasmic sense, but in the rather worried sense.

It's a big game too, loads of levels and they are big long ones, at least three times the size of the ones found in Super Mario world. And getting one hundred points on every level will take a hell of a lot of effort (And will result in the uncovering of some simple but fun mini-games. Two players can play them too!). And it's really hard in some places. The last boss is NOT a pushover.

Overall, I can't think of any reason not to own, or even love, this game. It may not be as long-lasting as Donkey Kong Country 2, but where it's beaten in challenge it excels in playability. It's a constantly fun journey across some massively varied levels that can genuinely surprise while delivering familiar thrills. It's a depressing reminder that Nintendo don't make games the way they used to.

Fantasy Island
+ Some excellent innovations in the basic structure
+ Compelling to the last boss
+ Multi-route levels make for extended exploration
+ I've never had so much fun in a videogame
+ Good puzzles and challenges
+ Varying level themes
+ Never seems to repeat itself
+ Thoughtfully designed and completely original boss battles
+ Lasts long enough
+ Brilliant enemies
+ Terrific sense of character
+ Outstanding visuals
+ Good sound effects

Yoshi no likey
- Not as long as it's rivals
- Music can get annoying
- No secret levels!

If you like this....
Super Mario World - SNES: The second best game in existence that involves Mario
Yoshi's Story - N64:Uninspired platformer that doesn't match this in any way, but is enough short-lived fun for a rental.
Donkey Kong Country 2 - SNES: My second favourite platformer on the SNES


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 12/21/01, Updated 12/21/01


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