To many of us, the original Yoshi’s Island for SNES represents the pinnacle of 2D platformers (if you missed out, go grab a copy of the GBA port). It has absolutely everything you could ask of the genre: brilliant level design, clever puzzles that don’t slow down the action, and an absolutely awesome main character. If you don’t love Yoshi, your heart is cold and shriveled.
In his latest adventure, Yoshi, friend to all the Mushroom Kingdom, returns to save the day with the help of Baby Mario and his friends. Everything you remember from the original is here: a tasty variety of enemies to swallow, satisfying egg-throwing action, and lots of tricky items to collect, all laid out in some of the prettiest 2D levels you will ever see.
The most significant change to Yoshi’s Island DS is the addition of interchangable babies, each with its own special capabilities. Baby Mario can run and hit Mario blocks, Peach can use her parasol to ride wind gusts, Donkey Kong can climb ropes and vines, and has a dash attack, Wario can move metal objects and attract coins with his magnet, and Bowser spits fireballs.
Throughout each level there are stork stations where you can swap out your current baby for any of the other babies that are part of your team. This allows for quite a bit of variation on the types of puzzles we've seen previously in Yoshi's Island.
None of these puzzles are too tricky, though. You might have to use Mario to hit some blocks so you can push a box to hold down a switch that turns on a fan for Princess Peach to use her parasol, but that's about as involved as it gets. Which is okay, because the emphasis here is still on great platforming, with just enough brainwork thrown in to keep you on your toes.
Remember how hard it was to get a perfect score on each level in the original? Well, now getting every last flower, star and red coin is twice as tricky, because you have two screens to constantly scan for hidden items and hard to reach goodies. You'll have to aim your egg even more carefully for that hard-to-reach flower, because often you'll have to shoot across both screens to get it.
That's where one of the games only flaws (and a minor one at that) comes in. The gap between screens causes a blind spot that cuts across the middle of each level, so when you're moving from one screen to the other, it's possible to get hit by unseen enemies or fall off a ledge that was hidden in the gap. You can avoid this by hitting the X button + up/down on the control pad to scroll up or down, allowing you to look before you leap when necessary.
Some may complain that Yoshi's Island DS doesn't offer anything new compared to the original Yoshi's Island. The two games play almost identically, but since the SNES version was so totally rad, this isn't a bad thing. In a time when 2D platformers seem to be fading into gaming history, for fans of the SNES it's downright heartwarming to see a sequel that is true to the classic.