Game Review: Yoku’s Island Express (2018)

‘It’s unique gameplay, beautiful visuals and fun worlds all roll into a great game’

 

Yoku’s Island Express, 2018

Developer: Villa Gorilla

Publisher: Team17

Platform: Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One

At Christmas I really wanted either Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or Pokémon: Let’s Go, Eevee! but my mother, instead, got me a random game called Yoku’s Island Express (I got the latter two games the next day). In Yoku’s Island Express you’re a dung beetle, who becomes the postmaster for the island of Mokumana, but soon you have to save the island from a looming calamity. The gameplay combines side-scrolling adventure with pinball, with many areas turning into a game of pinball for you to complete certain missions (even some boss battles take place in this pinball style). This, to me at least, was a unique and fun combination.

As with most adventure games, there are collectables aplenty; with fruit being the main item you collect, which allows for extra bumpers to be bought. Of course there are wallet upgrades (to carry more fruit), ball colours (which allow you into extra places on the map), chests and, most importantly, Wickerlings. There are 80 Wickerlings in the game and collecting them all (however tedious towards the latter numbers) allows for a bonus ending. Yes, some of these collectables weren’t the most fun to collect, but most came with their own challenge, some utilising the pinball mechanics, others requiring good old-fashioned thinking, making them somewhat enjoyable to collect (this was the first game I’ve completed 100% in a long, long time).

But, its biggest draw is the pinball-adventure combination. I loved this. Going from side-scrolling, open-world adventure to a game of pinball was so much fun.

At the start.

Yoku's Island Express, 2

Unfortunately, by the end it just became quite repetitive and tedious. The games required such precision that trial-and-error is no doubt going to be utilised and it loses its appeal. The fact you can’t die also let it down for enjoyment, as it never felt like there was anything major on the line. You can lose fruit by failing in the pinball trials, but that only sets you back a little bit as fruit is so readily available. When you come up against big bosses and they just wait while you get your angles right, it just doesn’t have that must-save-the-world feel I wanted, especially considering I was, in fact, saving the world.

Another negative was the size of the world and the lack of adequate warping mechanisms. There are some that propel you around the map, adding more Wickerlings and bonuses if you’re willing to explore, but if you’re on the ground on one side of the map and need to visit the sky in another, it’s a long, long, long journey. I spent so much time just travelling and getting lost that it made a relatively decent-length game last twice as long as it should have.

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Overall, though, I really enjoyed playing Yoku’s Island Express, so much so that I made the effort to 100% complete it. It’s unique gameplay, beautiful visuals and fun worlds all roll into a great game. Its score is just unfortunately hampered by the huge world, lack of stakes and borderline repetitive mechanics.

Overall Rating: * * *

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