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Yoshi's Island DS

For: DS

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Product: Yoshi's Island DS | Developer: Artoon | Publisher: Nintendo | Format: DS | Genre: Platform | Players: 1 | Version: Europe
 
Yoshi's Island DS DS, thumbnail 1
Freud would have plenty to say about Nintendo's fascination with childhood. Not only does the company's business encourage us to revert back to that playful state of juvenility cruelly stolen by the responsibilities of adulthood, it's now forcing its game characters to do the same – starting Yoshi's Island DS, we're plunged into the Mushroom Kingdom flanked by the chubby, knee-high forms of babies Mario, Peach, Wario, Bowser and Donkey Kong.

Another, more sinister, thread running through Nintendo's output is the threat of kidnap – and here that's literally kids getting napped. Is there something in Miyamoto's distant past he's only telling his therapist?

Whatever. This time it's baby Luigi who has been snatched and the culprit's that mischievous broomstick-riding Kamek. So it's up to the race of evolutionary niche dinosaurs, the Yoshis, to come to the little critter's aid. After all, it's their island!

Thus you venture forth into a familiar 2D platforming world full of collectible stars and coins, timed switches you need to bash to reveal steps into the sky, and hordes of henchmen, who even when they wear Eminem-lookalikey ice hockey masks are always somehow cute.

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Your first fellow traveller in this beautifully-balanced world is baby Mario; when perched neatly on your back he provides the dash ability. He's not particularly useful in these opening stages though, since you're still getting to grips with Yoshi's moves.

Yoshi's long tongue captures enemies, who can be immediately thrown at fellow malcontents or be converted into eggs, which if not used, bobble along behind you in a fairly comedic fashion. Deploying them sees you playing a tiny rhythm-type game via what's known as the egg cursor – a slowly rotating targeting system that sweeps from right to left and back again. Hitting the 'A' button when the cursor's pointing in the correct direction is all that's required to launch them.

As well as removing bad guys, firing eggs is also a necessity in terms of getting your paws on otherwise unreachable bonus coins, stars, flowers, and clouds, since the developer Artoon makes full use of the DS dual screens, with both high-up sky cubbyholes and deep-down subterranean areas.

And, whisper it softly, forget Baby Luigi, collecting items is actually the main thrust of Yoshi's Island DS.

Most levels are relatively benign experiences in terms of making it through, requiring more in the way of perseverance than skill. Even as the abilities of the other babies are dolled out when one is added at the start of each new chapter – Peach floats, Donkey Kong climbs, Wario's got a magnet and Bowser breathes fire – there's always plenty of time for you to work out how to make your way through each level, at least via the most straightforward route. There's seldom a puzzle without the requisite baby changing stop or egg-generation block nearby, for instance.

In fact, the only way you can really screw up is to get hit by an enemy and lose the baby off your back, at which point it will be enclosed by a bubble and float away. You then have a set number of seconds to regain contact. Generally the baby will simply float towards you, however, and even in the absolute worst case scenario (another kidnap, this time of your companion), you just have to restart the level.

So it all boils down to how determined you are to divine the difficult routes and collect those hard-to-find items. Completing each level (there are eight plus a couple of bonuses per chapter) results in a percentage score being calculated from the number of gold and red coins and flowers you found. And this is where Yoshi's Island DS' replayability comes in.

Of course, many people will happily trundle directly through each chapter, taking the occasional spin through any unlocked mini-games available, and only replaying a level when it's obvious they could do much better. Yet as with most Nintendo games, there's plenty of extra joy in working that little bit harder and going completist.

But even if you don't, the attention to detail throughout will delight. From the charming flower fans that you use to take to the air with baby Peach or the opportunities Yoshi gets to morph into a helicopter, a tank and a submarine, as well as taking control of a bouncy kangaroo, there's always something new to experience, while the accompanying audio really sets the tone. The graphics, while overtly simple (and very reminiscent of the original SNES console classic, which this version barely departs from, baby-swapping aside), inspire a gentle unthreatening atmosphere too, which is totally in keeping with the game's pace.

In fact, the only blemish is the slightly slippy control when Yoshi lands on small platforms. You'll fall off more things than is strictly necessary, even for a platformer. But one iffy feature within Yoshi Island DS' wealth of riches is a small price to pay for a game that is never showy but always giving. Go get it babies.
 
Yoshi's Island DS
Reviewer photo
Jon Jordan | 2 January 2007
Not only is Yoshi's Island DS huge, cute, innovative and beautifully presented, its layering of light platforming skills and hardcore item collection mean it's ideal for all abilities
 
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