Yoshi's New Island review

  • 3D graphics that make 3DS platform shine
  • Tons of items to collect
  • Platforming gameplay reminiscent of original
  • Small, uninspired levels
  • Dull boss fights
  • A lackluster soundtrack

Like many other Nintendo platformers, Yoshi’s New Island can’t help falling under the shadow of its predecessors--in this case, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. The original was the culmination of all the lessons of 2D Mario games that had come before it in terms of level design, enemy types, presentation, and more, which made it brilliant. But since then, every Yoshi's Island game to come out has failed to live up to the high-water mark the original installment set in 1995. Sadly, Yoshi's New Island is no exception. 

In a vacuum, that might seem strange since it’s not actually that different from the original Yoshi’s Island. Yoshi still eats enemies, tosses eggs, and solves simple puzzles to deliver Baby Mario through six worlds en route to Bowser’s Castle. The pastel graphics are still there, and getting hit by an enemy will still result in Baby Mario getting knocked off Yoshi’s back and sent flying off in a bubble. And while these touches will most certainly activate a tinge of nostalgia, Yoshi's New Island struggles to keep up with modern platformers; a sense of malaise that I blame on the level design. Far from a step forward, Yoshi’s New Island in many ways represents a regression from the original game, many of its stages being a relatively straight shot from beginning to end with little in the way of interesting twists or puzzles. Rarely does it match the rich, multi-tiered efforts found in the original Yoshi's Island, instead tending toward being linear, uncomplex, and worst of all, repetitive. 

The most egregious example is a sequence in Bowser's Castle in which I was forced to hunt down keys by doing things like hitting a cloud with an egg while dodging a spined enemy on a falling platform. Less challenging than boring and repetitive, it made me wonder if Yoshi's New Island had run completely out of steam after only six worlds. Much the same could be said for the underwhelming boss battles. Whether I was fighting a giant crab or a giant armored fish, the method for beating bosses was the same, and the level of challenge was consistently trivial.

For a game with such lovely pastel colors, Yoshi’s New Island feels oddly beige in its design.

It’s also kind of easy, which has been a knock on the series before. Rarely did I feel overwhelmed by the number of enemies on the screen, and with the possible exception of the ice world, I didn’t worry about the jumps too much either. As mentioned before, the boss battles are rote affairs--expose the weakness and hit them three times for the win. I’ll grant that boss battles aren’t exactly essential to a great platformer--they’re almost more of a palette cleanser than the main course--but like the rest of the game, they feel weirdly undercooked.

So it’s with that the graphics are left to carry the day, and happily that’s one thing that Yoshi’s New Island gets right. I’ll admit to having been a tad worried when I first saw that Yoshi’s New Island would be mixing polygons with hand-drawn backgrounds, but the effect is very nice. Rendered in a pastel style that gives it the look of a children’s coloring book--a style perfectly in line with the theme of protecting Baby Mario--it’s one of the few games on the Nintendo 3DS that absolutely must be played with 3D turned on. It looks great without it; but with it on, it suddenly becomes a beautiful diorama, with weather effects like snow really popping out of the foreground. The 3D graphics also help to make Yoshi seem even more alive and animated, one of my favorite examples being when he eats a giant enemy and you can see him visibly struggling to get it down his throat and into his stomach. 

Also to its credit, Yoshi’s New Island does manage to squeeze in a few elements that help to freshen up the original formula. For instance, the game riffs on New Super Mario Bros.’ extremely satisfying Giant Mario power-up, whereby Yoshi eats a Giant Shy Guy and then tosses massive eggs around the screen. Giant metal eggs, used as a weight to explore underwater areas, likewise add variety to the otherwise staid level design. 

Unfortunately, these new elements aren’t used enough. The metal eggs for instance--easily the most interesting new mechanic for the way that they add a new dimension to the water exploration--only pop up a couple times in the whole game. Ultimately, this is what I mean when I say that the level design is uninteresting. It rarely feels like the developers utilized some of the cooler design elements at their disposal, and they also lack interesting themes outside of the fairly typical water, sky, and ice. I look at contemporary platforms and the innovative things they do--for instance, Donkey Kong Tropical Freeze and its levels based around musical themes--and I think: “Why can’t Yoshi’s New Island do anything this neat?”

I’ll grant that it’s a competent effort. The pastel graphics, egg-tossing, and light puzzle-solving all do their share in helping to differentiate Yoshi’s New Island from other Nintendo platformers. And the large number of collectibles--another Yoshi’s Island mainstay--once again serve to liven up the exploration a bit and give it some replayability. But after nearly 20 years, I think it’s fair to expect more from a Yoshi’s Island game, and I don’t just mean in terms of new mechanics like giant eggs. When I’m playing a platformer, I want one of two things--memorable levels or a really solid challenge. Often, those two elements go hand-in-hand. Yoshi’s New Island lacks both.

Yes, this is a beautiful-looking game that more than justifies the 3D aspect of the 3DS. Yes, it is ultimately more Yoshi’s Island. But if you're looking for Yoshi's New Island to surprise or delight you, you will sadly be out of luck.

More Info

Release date: Mar 14 2014 - 3DS (US)
Available Platforms: 3DS
Genre: Adventure
Published by: Nintendo
ESRB Rating:
Everyone: Mild Cartoon Violence

Yoshi's New Island borrows heavily from the original game, but it fails to match its flair or originality


  • Pruman - April 8, 2014 11:12 a.m.

    I don't get why everyone is so down on this game. I'm what you'd consider a Yoshi's Island superfan. The SNES game is my favorite Mario game, 2D or 3D, by a longshot. I'm six levels into this one, and am finding this game to be a perfectly enjoyable sequel to it thus far. Sure, Nintendo hasn't been able to get the music or sound effects right since the first game, the controls and feel are off ever so slightly, and lots of the little details are missing. But it's a lot more fun to hunt down coins and flowers with my own wits and cunning instead of just needing to have the right baby at the right time. Although I enjoyed that aspect of Yoshi's Island DS, it made it impossible to get perfect scores on all of the levels until close to the end of the game, and I am a collectible hound. Most of the time, I just never went back. I've already replayed a bunch of levels in YNI to get 100% completion. Most of the negative review sentiment seems to be "it's not as good as Yoshi's Island." I don't think that's fair. Most video games EVER MADE are not as good as Yoshi's Island.
  • GamesRadarCollanderCooper - March 13, 2014 5:46 p.m.

    This review is going to devastate Nintendo's fan
  • shawksta - March 13, 2014 5:09 p.m.

    You know i found an interesting review for the game that basically looks at it from the point of view of the new generation. To which New Island's purpose is to re-introduce people to the world of Yoshi's Island. For us, it doesnt look appealing and it burrows too heavy from the original, but if it appeals to the newcomers, especially of the young age to introduce, it might succeed.
  • jh4911 - March 13, 2014 8:13 p.m.

    Interesting but it appears to not be better than the original... why not play that instead if you're new. Anyway it's very pretty and clearly worth a play, I'll probably check it out.
  • Vonter - March 14, 2014 10:06 a.m.

    Is like with movie remakes, you watch them instead of the original "because their "new"".
  • shawksta - March 14, 2014 11:26 a.m.

    There's different point of views on that subject, for example Yoshi's Island isn't easy to actually play on its original format save for the adults who know how. And even then, its like a reintroduction to the series.
  • GOD - March 14, 2014 12:54 a.m.

    Basically it's Yoshi getting the New Super Mario Bros. treatment. The year of Yoshi is almost upon us!
  • shawksta - March 14, 2014 11:24 a.m.

    To be fair, we hadn't had a 2D Mario game since World (I might be wrong) to which the return of it was neat, and frankly NSMBU stands right next to 3 and World.
  • shawksta - March 13, 2014 2:16 p.m.

    You see normally special gimmicks don't appear much if only because the level design vary each time, like 3D World, but this doesn't seem to be the case to which its understandable why you feel the Giant egg wasn't used to its potential. I was already off putted by the revert in gameplay from the baby mechanics but it seems worth looking through just for the environment. Guess this is something ill skip until its on sale or cheaper. Meanwhile on other platformers, I just found 2 special visual references to King K. Rool in Tropical Freeze and me and my bro are going through Rayman Legends and its awesome. Also incoming Yoshi reveal for smash tomorrow is high likely.
  • BladedFalcon - March 13, 2014 2:26 p.m.

    New challenger... BABY MARIO!!! *Nintendo puts it's best trollface*
  • shawksta - March 13, 2014 2:29 p.m.

    Honestly, its odd why Yoshi was the only original veteran since N64 (excluding Ness, Jigglypuff and Captain Falcon as they were hidden) who wasn't shown at the Smash Bros trailer back at E3. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if they gave him the Bowser Redesign treatment and flat out updated his model to include Baby Mario on his back.
  • rainn'sgaydar - March 13, 2014 10:19 a.m.

    Stale level design? I guess you could say Nintendo...put baby in a corner. I'll let myself out.
  • GR_RyanTaljonick - March 13, 2014 10:45 a.m.

    HAH. I chuckled.
  • Jackonomics2.0 - March 13, 2014 9:10 a.m.

    So basically they listened to the cry babies who blabbed against Yoshi's Island DS, and this is what they get, a game that's nothing but ripping off the original Serves them right.
  • BladedFalcon - March 13, 2014 8:59 a.m.

    Welp, that settles it then, I won't have to bother with this game at all. I'd say this is disappointing... But in order for that to happen you had to have some solid expectation beforehand. From the moment the blandness of this game was shown I was skeptical it would amount to anything noteworthy. And even the brief moment in which I felt like maybe it could be good quickly faded away when I realized that the positive preview was written by Henry Gilbert, a wuss when it comes to games, and thus not a trustworthy source of whether the game will be actually challenging or good.
  • Jackonomics2.0 - March 13, 2014 9:12 a.m.

    The disappointment was already there when they ditched Yoshi's Island DS's mechanics just to go back to the original nostalgia driven roots. To be fair though, Artoon is shit, I find know why they went with them again.
  • Jackonomics2.0 - March 13, 2014 9:14 a.m.

    *I don't know why
  • BladedFalcon - March 13, 2014 1:49 p.m.

    See, I think that the problem is that they didn't go all the way in either direction. They should have either made something completely original, or if you're gonna go for nostalgia, then do it fucking right, as in taking that exact same kind of sprite graphics and enemies and level design and expand upon it. As it stands, this game feels like a very mediocre mush that doesn't go either way. And yeah, I didn't even think Artoon existed still, they ARE fucking terrible, they're the ones responsible for the travesty that it's Yoshi's Topsy Turvy, right?
  • shawksta - March 13, 2014 2:25 p.m.

    Artoon did make Yoshi's Topsy Turvy. Jackonomics is technically half right, the game wasn't made by Artoon, its made by Arzest, which more or less, is just Artoon and Panzer Dragoon devs in a different name after filing for bankruptcy. Its sad the game didn't go well, lets hope Yarn Yoshi does, if that's even still alive, its been more than a year. You called it last year when we questioned it back at E3 not appearing that it probably has been cancelled.
  • Vonter - March 13, 2014 10:20 a.m.

    It goes either way, I mean some games try to excuse mediocre gameplay with good graphics. But yeah this one looked odd from the beginning but I at least expected the Nintendo quality in the gameplay aspects. Now if they just release the SNES version on the VC that'll made my day. Also after seeing this I was reminded of Mischief Makers, that one at least was challenging in some parts and had over the top and cool boss battles.

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