Yoku’s Island Express Review: Pinball-vania


Big bright beautiful games, that’s what
we need more of.
Yoku’s Island Express definitely lands in
that category.
I pretty much picked it up based on that alone.
The trailer doesn’t give too much away and
I was skeptical about playing another platformer.
However, while Yoku’s Island Express could
be considered a platformer I would recognize
it as a pinball game.
Which was surprising, and I love it.
I love it so much.
From the way the music gets stuck in your
head to the way the characters are so colorful
and fun.
Also you’re a dung beetle!
This has to be the first game with a dung
beetle main character.
I made a snap decision to purchase Yoku’s
Island Express, a decision for which I have
zero regrets.
Yoku’s Island Express blends two classic genres
perfectly.
I don’t know if it will go down in history
as a Metroidvania with pinball or a pinball
game with a Metroidvania menu system.
As noted previously, I consider it a pinball
game.
Either way the design of pinball machines
woven throughout the world feels seamless.
Nothing stops to force you into a pinball
area, it happens in a way that feels natural.
Yoku’s Island Express could have easily been
a string of pinball mini-games that would
have felt forced.
Small pinball elements included in the platforming
prepares you for what’s to come.
Anyway, on a personal note, I grew up on pinball!
Between going to the bowling alley with my
mom on Sundays, Sonic Spinball, or Epic pinball
I played many types but never by sense of
smell.
To me, pinball is meant to be goofy and Yoku’s
Island Express is a bit goofy.
However, the virtual pinball tables I played
were more arcade and that’s also replicated
in Yoku’s Island Express, they’re not trying
to have real pinball physics.
You don’t need to have the same background
in pinball that I’ve had.
As long as you don’t mind lining up shots
from precise points on a flipper you’ll be
fine.
But it’s not as simple as just the end of
the flipper either, the developer knew what
they were doing.
The side flippers are my favorite as it takes
timing the shot perfectly, the game is best
with multiple flippers.
As with anything that takes precision it can
get frustrating to try and hit the exact spot
the devs want and by the ninth time your patience
is gone.
It’s worse when you miss a shot only to plummet
down to a different set of flippers and then
have to work you way all the back up.
But you know what, there were zero incidences
of weird physics.
The ball always did what I expected.
It would have been a disaster otherwise.
It’s a little different here than for a platformer
since it’s a ball you’ll be out of control
partially for.
Also the game expands the mechanics as you
would expect for a Metroidvania.
For example, you gain a slug vacuum which
attaches a slug to the ball.
That will allow you to break the dark rocks
which lead to new areas.
Side note, with the slugs they can be frustrating.
They won’t stick to your ball forever and
will eventually explode even if you don’t
hit the rock.
So you’ll be trying to line up the shot and
then BOOM slug explodes.
Now you have to work on getting the slug back
and working to hit that rock again.
It can be stressful to line up perfect shots
when you know you’re on a timer.
I feel comfortable saying Yoku’s Island Express
has plenty of mechanics to keep it interesting.
The game moves at a good pace.
It gives you the new power and then right
away gives you a place to use it.
Then as you slowly backtrack you’ll remember
other places that you passed and so you’ll
go back and use it there.
I wanted to keep playing and use the new powers
constantly.
So much so I finished the game in a weekend!
You’re not just delivering the mail either.
Short side quests allow you to get to know
characters and you can take time to find the
hidden Wickerlings.
Another aspect of Metroidvanias is the backtracking
and, yeah, Yoku’s Island Express delivers
on this as well.
It’s generous about opening shortcuts though.
But, my favorite is the fast travel system.
These amazing beehives shoot you around the
island and became my main mode of transportation
by the end of the game.
They also happen to play one of my favorite
music tracks in the game, it’s damn good.
Instead of wasting the player’s time they
let you jump off at any of the stops too.
Lovely!
If you would like me to continue to gush about
the game then I will.
The aesthetic is the best!
This island actually has a diverse climate
with beaches, jungles, and snow.
You’ll meet all kinds of strange characters
on your journey to save the island.
They’re all well crafted, especially for how
many there are.
I was constantly enjoying the visuals.
Also, an island world deserves island music
to go along with it!
The soundtrack is great and I’m still listening
to it.
If I was going to complain about anything
it would be when the game wants you to use
a slug explosion to reach a platform.
For example, if a platform is a bit unreachable
you can use a slug explosion to get the height
you need to get up there.
Like rocket jumping but slug jumping.
You have to line it up perfectly and guess
how the ball is going to move from that explosion.
I could have done without it but at this point
I’m being pedantic.
There’s no way this should stop you from playing
the game and it’s only required to get all
the Wickerlings.
I had no trouble finishing the game.
Side note, for people with limited time Yoku’s
Island Express let’s you buy items that show
the hidden Wickerlings.
Saving you from having to search high and
low.
A huge fan of that.
Look, the biggest recommendation I can give
a game is that I kept playing after I finished.
That’s not typical.
But with Yoku’s Island Express I ended up
finishing the side quests.
I didn’t want to stop playing!
However, I didn’t collect all the Wickerlings,
I’m not that crazy.
This is the biggest endorsement I can give.
I would one hundred percent this game if I
had enough time, it’s that much fun.
Overall, Yoku’s Island Express is a wonderful
game that I love.
Adding Metroidvania aspects to a pinball game
was genius!
I recommend this game to all.
It has something for everyone and it’s easy
to pick up and play.
It’s also beautiful, well-made, and fun!

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