Yoku’s Island Express
Reviewed by Kieran
Developer: Villa Gorilla
Publisher: Team 17 Digital Ltd
Category: Puzzle, Adventure, Music
Release Date: 05.29.2018
Yoku’s Island Express
I recently cleared out some of my old toys from the attic of my parents house. Amongst the array of Nintendo memorabilia I found an old pinball table. With the addition of some beefy batteries, I was soon hitting flippers and nudging that table like a pro. The novelty soon wore off though as it is a very basic table. It made me want to play a decent pinball video game. Enter Yoku’s Island Express. This unique title completely flipped the script on genre crossing experiences in a way that I have never before seen.
The Method To My Madness……
When reviewing games, I like to utilise a pyramid scheme to help justify scores. At the top of the pyramid there is Nintendo Ip’s, unique in their own right and deserving of top spot. On the second row, we have 3rd party titles and what I like to call Super Indies. Super indies are games so good, that they could have been made by Nintendo. Examples of Super indies include Steamworld Dig 2, Blossom Tales, Stardew Valley, Celeste and Shovel Knight. Yoku’s Island Express now joins this illustrious list. Inconsequentially, the bottom tier is made up of indies, mobile ports and shovel ware.
In my contorted mind, this is a way of justify giving a solid indie title the same score as an AAA Nintendo title. Absolutely nothing wrong with that at all in my book, but I often get asked how I can give a small budget experience, as delightful as it may be the same score as something like Breath of the wild.
Right, now that I’ve explained the ramblings of a madman to you, perhaps we can crack on with the main event.
After arriving on a the island Mokumana, Yoku is quickly appointed as the new post master. However, it quickly becomes apparent that Yoku’s first order of business will be far greater than sorting mail. The ancient deity has been attacked, an attempt on his life by the ominously named ‘God Slayer’. Yoku must act quickly and gather the guardians to aid the deity, whilst also trying to determine who the mysterious assailant is.
Along the way, you will learn about the mysteries of the island, the ancients and the eclectic ensemble of characters that you meet.
Yoku’s Island Express is an adventure game at heart, and a really well made one at that. It is also a pinball game. In some ways it could be a brand new IP from Nintendo. I’m serious about that too. Yoku is such a lovable little scamp and for such a petite protagonist, has oodles of charm and charisma. Apologies for digressing, but I don’t think it would be out of place to suggest that Yoku could be a character in Super Smash Bros. He is honestly that bad ass.
I think I forgot to mention, he’s also an ant. An ant with an egg, at least, I presumed it to be an egg. I did at times wonder how an egg could handle being thrown about so vigorously during some of the more frantic moments.
But again, I digress.
There are so many intuitive little touches that simply make it feel at home on Nintendo’s hybrid system. Some of the pinball tables have been so cleverly designed it’s a genuine marvel. The way in which the landscapes share a certain synergy with the playfield at times is so natural, so organic, that I honestly wondered why nobody has ever made a platform/adventure/pinball game before.
Just a quick disclaimer, the review copy of the game that I have received has a few little issues. Nothing game breaking, just a few bugs here and there. The developer has stated that upon launch, the game will have a day one patch that will address this and also improve the overall experience. Everything from graphic improvements, more dynamic backgrounds and even little tweaks such as personalised health bars on bosses to match their environments.
All this aside Yoku’s Island Express looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous. And I for one can not wait to go back to Mokumana once the update goes live and experience the upgrades.
The island is full of life and brimming with personality. Again, in that sense, Yoku’s Island Express could very easily be a Nintendo game, with such a bold and vibrant array of colours on display. All of the areas have a distinct tone and offer unique environmental elements.
When I do eventually go back, I may even try and bulk up my measly percentage stat. On my initial play through, a solid 6 hours, and to completion of the final boss, I racked up 49% completion, a quite paltry number by any stretch of the imagination. Less than half way and the main game cleared! That means secrets, collectables and a whole lot more pinball style exploration for this humble scribe to enjoy.
Yoku’s Island Express plays just as you might imagine a pinball adventure crossover might. There are moments of absolute mayhem mixed together with some solid exploration. Throw in a few solid puzzle aspects and a nice tight control scheme and you’re certainly on to a winner. At times I did find myself getting a little stuck in pinball mazes but always managed to escape eventually.
Overall, controls are responsive and the frame rate is excellent. There are moments where there is so much going on, and you can get some real momentum on some of these tables, so it’s great that the game runs so smoothly.
I also believe that special mention is due for the overall design of the game world. Aside from the final boss, every area of the games map can be visited without any need for loading new areas. It’s a completely open world adventure, that you can explore freely. I feel as though this is one of Yoku’s Island Express’s stand out features as it makes the whole escapade extensively enjoyable as you can explore to your hearts content. You could even call it a pinball-vania. All of this without the monotony of loading screens. When I first loaded the game I did find the load times a little barbaric, but upon reflection, it makes sense. A one off lengthier load for unlimited seamless game play. In my eyes that’s a no-brainer.
Yoku’s Island Express is from start to finish, an absolute delight to play. The attention to detail from the developers is staggering, resulting in an experience that lives long in the memory. The unique game play style complements the wacky cast of characters in really bringing the island of Mokumana to life. As well as the absurd amount of secrets and collectables, the sheer fun that’s to be had with this title will ensure hours of pinball adventuring. A must have for fans of unique game play experiences, as well as fun in general.
Gorgeous art style, uplifting soundtrack. Hours of pinball fun, as well as a grand adventure. Cutesy cast of support characters. More secrets than the Bush administration. Seamless open world. Invention of new genre, the Pinball-vania.