Yoshi's Island DS Review

By Frank Provo

Yoshi's Island DS is a terrific platformer thatís every bit as fun and charming as its predecessor.

The Good

  • A wildly diverse platformer with lots of huge levels  
  • all of the different babiesí abilities give players plenty to do  
  • crayon graphics and lighthearted music provide a charming atmosphere  
  • unlocking everything is a real challenge, even if finishing the game is easy  
  • improves on the original without mucking anything up.

The Bad

  • Some people may not like the cleaned-up graphics  
  • music tends to be understated  
  • no multiplayer.

Many people feel that the original Yoshi's Island is one of the best platformers ever made (if not the best). After all, it was a fun Mario-style game with an interesting mix of gameplay ideas. Its charming crayon-inspired visual style was also unlike anything else we'd seen up to that point. For the sequel, Nintendo and Artoon clearly wanted to keep everything that people loved about the original game intact. Besides the obvious uptick in audio-visual quality that is afforded by the Nintendo DS, Yoshi's Island DS pretty much looks, sounds, and plays just like its predecessor. There is one significant improvement that the sequel introduces: You can now plop different babies onto Yoshi's back and take advantage of the unique abilities that each diapered tot has to offer. It sounds like such a modest change, yet it totally kicks the sequel's replay value into the stratosphere. The different tykes give you more ways to frustrate enemies and more ways to interact with the environment. And, because certain babies can access spots that others can't, you're always discovering new items and secrets each time you go through a level. Thanks to this one key upgrade, Yoshi's Island DS manages to duplicate the look and feel of its predecessor yet seem fresh and new at the same time. It also accomplishes this without mucking up any of the things that made the original so great in the first place.

This new game picks up where the previous one left off. The evil wizard, Kamek, having already been thwarted once by those insufferable Yoshis, kidnaps Baby Mario and Baby Luigi a second time, along with all of the other babies in the world. Unfortunately for Kamek, a mishap between one of his minions and a stork frees a handful of babies, depositing Baby Mario and Baby Peach smack dab in the middle of the Yoshi village again. The stork informs the Yoshis that Kamek is up to his old tricks. As they did the first time, the colorful dinosaurs decide to take turns hauling the babies to Kamek's castle so that they can put the smack down and free the captive kiddies. It's a hokey story, but it's cute. It also provides sufficient justification for why you can now swap babies at the various stork stops that are situated within each level.

At its heart, Yoshi's Island DS is a run-and-jump platformer that is similar to Mario's own adventures. The underlying gameplay involves making your way to the exit on the other side of the level, jumping across gaps and pouncing on small enemies. The 50 different levels scattered across the game's five worlds are lengthy, intricate, and visually interesting. You can also look forward to fighting a gigantic boss in the middle of and at the end of each world. Yoshi has quite a unique set of abilities. He can run and jump, of course, and you can make him perform a ground pound by pressing down on the control pad after a jump. You can also make him flutter short distances by keeping the jump button pressed. One way to get rid of enemies is to land on their backs. Or you can make the tiny dino stick out his tongue and drag an enemy into his mouth. From there, you have the option of spitting the creature back out, either at another enemy or at a switch. Or you can make the dino swallow the enemy and turn it into an egg. Eggs are useful little projectiles that you can launch at enemies or bounce off of walls to grab items and activate switches that you otherwise couldn't reach. On top of all that, there are items in certain levels that transform Yoshi into vehicles, such as a snub-nosed helicopter, a mole-shaped drilling machine, or a cute, blue submarine.

Throughout the game, Yoshi is constantly carrying one of the baby Nintendo characters on his back. In the first game, this meant that you'd lose a life if Baby Mario was knocked off Yoshi's back and not retrieved before timer ran out. In the sequel, there are five different babies to swap among, and each baby gives Yoshi an extra subset of abilities. You start the game with Baby Mario and Baby Peach, but it isn't long before Baby Donkey Kong, Baby Wario, and Baby Bowser are added to the cast. Baby Mario can make invisible "M" blocks appear and gives Yoshi the ability to dash. Baby Peach can use her parasol to send her and Yoshi flying on a gust of wind. Baby DK can grab onto dangling vines and swing across ropes. Baby Wario can use his magnet to grab coins, as well as drag metallic boxes and platforms around. Baby Bowser can spit fire to defeat enemies and melt ice. Each baby also changes how Yoshi's egg projectiles work. For example, eggs fired with Mario on the dino's back will ricochet off walls. Those launched with DK in tow, however, will explode like bombs when they hit something.

Most levels are designed so that you have to switch babies at least a couple of times to reach the exit. Many levels have optional spots where you can pick up some extra coins or stars by using a specific baby to access an out-of-the-way spot. You'll also discover many secrets simply by going back through a level with a baby you haven't brought before. A greater emphasis on exploration is what all of the different babies really bring to Yoshi's Island DS, which wasn't evident in the original game. The original Yoshi's Island had some sweet level designs that were oriented around Yoshi's main abilities, but only a few actually made you work to get all of the flowers and bonus coins. In Yoshi's Island DS, you have to swap babies frequently to collect all of the flowers and coins that are necessary to earn a high grade for each level. At the same time, the levels in Yoshi's Island DS are at least twice the size of those in the original game. They're also absolutely massive compared to the short levels included in New Super Mario Bros.

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  1. A cartoonish exterior belies a challenging game.Yoshi's Island DS is fun but ultimately flawed in some meaningful ways.

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