Nintendo fails to bring A-game in ‘Yoshi’s New Island’

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Nintendo’s favorite green dinosaur lets gamers down in “Yoshi’s New Island,” though some may still love this simple and happy creature.

In the game, Yoshi hurls eggs, swallows enemies and hums while kicking his cute red feet in midair. A popular misconception — there is not just one Yoshi, but many, and they come in all the colors of the rainbow. Vibrant colors and crafty worlds full of pleasant enemies — shy guys, bandits monkeys — characterize the Yoshi’s Island series, which began on the Super Nintendo in 1995 and has continued on handheld devices ever since. As usual, Yoshi carries Baby Mario through valleys, volcanoes and dungeons in hopes of saving Baby Luigi from the evil clutches of Kamek and Baby Bowser. 

Yet the brilliant colors — vermillion castles, crayon-yellow flowers and shimmering night skies— do not appear until late in the game. The music, too, is toned down at the beginning to a drum and marimba. Instead, the color scheme is mostly stripped away only to gradually build up level by level, world by world. This buildup lacks luster. Yoshi must transverse five worlds of dullness before the game comes to life. 

There’s a level of difficulty most games developed by Nintendo achieve that allows veterans, newcomers, kids and adults to enjoy the game. “Yoshi’s New Island” misses that sweet spot. While the other games in the series are ruddy and adorable, only this installment plays as if it was made for ages 11 and under. The art style looks wonky in 3-D. Most levels bear one or two easy challenges. The enemies are, perhaps, too carefully place to put up a good fight. 

The transformations Yoshi undergoes — submarine, helicopter, jackhammer, a pair of skis — underwhelm, due to the monotonous soundtrack and clumsy gyroscopic controls. Also, in this installment only, Yoshi becomes superpowered and bolts through the stage like a streak of light. But the rainbow-colored dinosaur moves too fast to actually control. It seems like the game is doing all the playing for you. 

Also new — after eating a giant red shy guy, Yoshi makes a huge egg that destroys everything in its path. This new ability makes for some small but gratifying puzzles the series has not seen until now. 

The story mode takes about eight hours to beat. Two-player mini games can be unlocked along the way. Gone are the high-energy soundtracks that make Nintendo games astonishing. Despite its shortcomings, Yoshi’s New Island is not a flop. It has great levels, though the number of them can be counted on one hand. The rest are fine — not boring, clunky or epic (as one might hope). In one awesome level, “Eggstraordinary Terrain,” Yoshi leaps from quilted ball to quilted ball while dodging ravens and nabbing coins. The music and colors on this level make for a real jubilee with the thrill of old school Yoshi and the sureness and dynamism of contemporary games by Nintendo. For die-hard fans, the game might be worth it for the last world alone.  

Contact Josh Escobar at [email protected].