Review: Quite possibly the best Mario title ever released on the Game Boy Advance.
When it comes to Nintendo and platform titles, one can't help but think of such quality filled games as Super Mario World, Mario Bros 3, Super Mario Sunshine, and the slew of others that are unique in their own right. They are deeply rooted into our psyche not only as great games, but great experiences as well. Nintendo platform titles cannot be easily faulted when it comes to anything Mario related for the amount of time, quality, and effort that is reflected in each title he performs in.
Yoshi's Island is another one of Nintendo's beautiful platform titles, yet it stars Mario not as a main character, but something more resembling a sidekick than anything else. For starters, Mario is about six months old in Yoshi's Island and the game, as the title suggests, takes place with a character that is considered one of the greatest additions to the Mario platform games in recent history. That character is Yoshi.
The game starts off with a stork delivering both baby Mario and baby Luigi to their mother. While they are on their way, two wizards of Koopa faith peer into the future and see that these two little bundles of joy could be the downfall of their master and all that they are attempting to build. In an attempt to eliminate the threat, the wizards try to kidnap both the brothers and put a stop to their future problems. Although they were successful in capturing Luigi, baby Mario fell out of the sky and careened towards the Earth, landing safely on Yoshi, one of many tiny dinosaurs inhabiting Yoshi Island.
In order to complete the game, it is Yoshi's task to protect Mario and save Luigi from the evil clutches of Koopa and return them to their rightful parents. Although the objective may seem simple, there's a lot more to this title than simply keeping little baby Mario safe from the wizards. With six worlds to traverse and at least eight stages a piece, Yoshi has his hands full for the next few days as he tries to save little baby Mario and Luigi.
Typical Mario titles always involve a great deal of jumping and a number of special moves to make your way through levels and quickly breeze through the game. Yoshi is a completely different character altogether from the older versions of Mario in Super Mario World and the like. Yoshi's moves do involve jumping just like Mario, but his exceedingly lengthy tongue is but one of his special abilities. The tongue allows him to basically eat almost any enemy and either spit them out towards another enemy as a projectile, or swallow them and excrete an egg, which can be aimed and used as a projectile as well. Never before has a Mario title received such a complicated array of techniques, but Nintendo pulls off such controls with relative ease. To swallow the enemy, simply press down after eating it or press the lick button again to shoot it out. Targeting of an egg can be performed by pressing the R-button and the target actually spans 180 degrees of motion in the direction you are facing allowing you to hit almost anything as well as bank the shot off of walls or tubes.
Not only that, but Yoshi also has the ability to transform into vehicles at certain points to access areas not easily crossed in another form. Two such examples are the Yoshi helicopter, which allows him to fly around the stage and a Yoshi digging vehicle that allows him to dig through soft dirt otherwise destroyed by Yoshi eggs. The vehicles themselves are just one more example of how varied this game truly is and how wonderful a departure it is from the standard Mario fare.
Although the simple basics of avoiding bottomless pits, spikes, and lava are some of the ways to keep Yoshi alive, the one thing that killed Mario in previous titles were other enemies, but in Yoshi's Island, Yoshi is actually invincible and can step on just about any enemy just fine, but the consequences to Mario are unacceptable for he will fly off of Yoshi's back and float in mid air until Yoshi can save him. As he floats, Mario will whine non stop until he is rescued, but Yoshi has a small amount of time to complete such a task or the wizards will snatch up Mario and win the game.
The amount of time that Mario can float in mid air can be lengthened by destroying certain items in the levels and collecting dancing stars that fall to the ground. The amount of time you can extend the clock is an addition to 10 seconds that will always be the default, but once you lose any of the extra time; it is lost until you can collect more of the dancing stars. These few options make the game a lot easier to go through, but making it easier just means that you are not as severely punished for a simple mistake. Yoshi can still die by landing in some of the areas mentioned above, but for the most part, time is your enemy in this game and it's a forgiving enemy to say the least.
One of the more unique qualities about Yoshi's Island, as if it wasn't unique already, is the game's ability to stretch pretty much any standard enemy into a boss. Standard goombas become massive enemies bouncing all over the levels until you can take them down with a few egg tosses in their direction. Although the boss battles are easy, each is incredibly unique and fun to play because of the enlarging technique used by the Gameboy Advance.
Speaking of unique traits, another one is the level design of Yoshi's Island. The game is modeled graphically like a coloring book with thick black lines outlining the levels and backgrounds with fun little artwork all over the level that looks like it was drawn by a six year old. Although that sounds like an insult, it's actually a great compliment because the game has a lot of artistic style and class based on this graphical design. It looks simple, but it's done in such a way that it seems more beautiful than anything else. After awhile though, most players will start to forget about the artistic style and will concentrate on the incredible game play involved in the title.
Although the game is practically a direct port of Yoshi's Island, which originally appeared on the Super Nintendo ten years ago, it still looks incredible and is one of the best looking games currently on the Gameboy Advance. Although that is a great achievement on the part of Nintendo, what's even greater are the new additions to the GBA version, including special levels that can be played by completing a level 100% and collecting all coins, happy face flowers, and finishing each stage with about thirty seconds left on the clock. Although that sounds tedious, the new levels opened up are very original and enjoyable making it worth your time to actually scavenge the levels for all the extras.
One of the things that really bothers me about the game is the inclusion of the same tired Mario Bros. game for multiplayer purposes. It's nice that Nintendo wishes to cater to the people who enjoy playing 4-player games, but it's the same exact game as in the previous Super Mario Advance releases with no additions whatsoever. Given the design of Yoshi's Island, the sheer variety of the finished product, and the creative ways that new aspects are introduced, it's hard to believe that they couldn't just add in one different multiplayer aspect utilizing just one of their vastly creative ideas. It's disappointing, but that just further solidifies the purchase of this game being more for single player purposes than anything else.