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Yoshi's Island DS (DS) artwork

Yoshi's Island DS (DS) review

"Yoshi's Island on the Super Nintendo was nothing less than a fantastic game. Yoshi's Island DS is nothing more than average. "

Yoshi's Island on the Super Nintendo was nothing less than a fantastic game. Yoshi's Island DS is nothing more than average.

Artoon – the developers of the mind-numbingly dull Topsy-Turvy – tried to strike a fine balance between retaining the feel of the original and introducing new features to keep the DS iteration fun and fresh. They failed on both counts. What we end up with is a sequel that at times is downright aggravating to play.

Yoshi retains all of the abilities that he had in the original. He can still run, jump, and swallow enemies just fine. But now, he has to babysit not only Mario, but also four other babies. Should you get hit carrying one, he or she will start drifting away in a bubble, wailing. And if the countdown timer reaches zero before you regain said baby, Kamek's cronies will snatch him/her, resulting in you losing a life. They're not a complete liability, though, since they each come with their own quirks. DK may be the heaviest of the lot, which means Yoshi cannot flutter for long, but he compensates this by climbing vines and adding explosive eggs to Yoshi's arsenal (as opposed to Mario's eggs rebounding off walls). Peach, on the other hand, has a cute little parasol that allows her to catch gusts of wind.

Though this may sound dandy on paper, the main problem lies in the subsequent puzzles: they're all too predictable and boring. Anytime you see vines, it doesn't take a genius to use DK, and Wario's big-ass magnet means that you'll be fetching him every time you see metal platforms. And because the game likes to throw these types of puzzles several times in most of the levels, it gets old by the time you reach the second of the five worlds. Reaching the end and even attaining a perfect score (climbing up that not-so-subtly hidden vine rewards me with a flower!) has all of a sudden become much easier.

Or it would if the level design wasn't so cheap.

Many of the earlier levels play it safe – shy guys, piranha plants, a few puzzles here and there, even the first boss is pretty much identical to its predecessor’s – and though they aren't particularly inspired and feel closer to a rehash, they do carry a little nostalgia. Beyond that, though, the game tries too hard to impress. Too often does it overfill the screen with enemies and so many moving platforms that you aren't very likely going to get through the levels unscathed. Bullet bills speeding from left and right, shy guys hopping in your way, a dozen goonie birds flying from god knows where: it's total mayhem. Hit after hit after hit you're forced to endure. Artoon thinks they can balance this out by giving you plenty of extra lives along the way (not that you die much anyway – the game is rather forgiving in that you’re given ample time to retrieve the baby before the countdown hits zero), but that doesn't cancel out the fact that it isn't very fun to play by a long stretch.

Yoshi's Island DS also rather annoyingly makes use of both DS screens and pretends that the gap in-between can somehow display pixels. The resulting blind spot means that you constantly have to look up and down to make sure a hidden enemy doesn't surprise you or in case you miss a flower or a few coins. Having that large "dead zone" breaks the flow of the game, even more so than switching babies, but ignore it and you're bound to get cheaply hit. New Super Mario Bros. and even the GBA port of the original Yoshi's Island both played fine on just one screen, but for some reason, Artoon sacrifices functionality to make “full use” of the two screens, coming off as gimmicky and ineffectual.

At least the boss battles are somewhat entertaining, even if most of them ultimately amount to repeatedly hitting them with eggs until they fall. Luring a giant leaping antlion out of quicksand and pushing a ridiculously huge shy guy on stilts the height of both DS screens gradually into lava stand out in particular. One exception to this, though, is the fight against Hector the Reflector, a huge boo ghost, where the whole battle takes place on the top screen. Since past Mario titles have taught us that you can't see boos, in the game’s only ingenious use of the two screens, you are forced to use a mirror – the bottom screen – to dodge its attacks and kill him.

But despite the occasional burst of fun, Yoshi's Island DS, despite the familiar controls and enemies, no longer feels like Yoshi's Island with everything Artoon has added. The puzzles are bland. The urgency to save Baby Luigi in the original has been replaced by Baby Wario and Bowser's inane fight over money. They even got rid of Poochy in favour of a pointless, coin-collecting jumping kangaroo. Even if you're not comparing the game to the Super Nintendo classic, Yoshi's Island DS simply doesn't hold up on its own.

Rating: 5/10

Ben's avatar
Community review by Ben (August 29, 2007)

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