Game: Yoshi's New Island
Release date: 2014
Now that everyone else on the planet has declared this Yoshi's Island follow-up to be a stinker of the first degree, I'm going to spend a few hundred words doing the same here, right? Wrong.
In fact, although I agree with those critics who gnash their teeth and wring their hands while muttering that New Island never quite reaches the heights its predecessor hit in terms of gameplay, graphics, soundtrack or even engagement, I also believe it eventually shows itself to be a "worthy enough" successor to that classic 16-bit platformer in most, if not all, of those same areas.
As for why that is, let's start by talking about the most important of the aforementioned elements: gameplay. For the most part, there's little difference between controls and options found in the original Yoshi's Island and those found in New Island. Jumping, inhaling enemies and tossing eggs serve as the anchors of both titles, and each of those actions feels pretty much the same regardless of which game you're playing. (It's possible jumping is a smidge slower in the 3DS title, but I can't say that with any confidence.)
New Island does attempt to add some spice to the Yoshi-platformer formula by throwing huge eggs of a couple of sorts and a handful of gyro-controlled bonus games that turn the titular dinosaur into various vehicles into the mix, but in my opinion neither winds up making the kind of impact or impression Nintendo seems to think they should make on players. So, it's probably best to think of New Island as "more of the same" in terms of gameplay--which is fine by me.
When it comes to New Island's graphics, on the other hand, there's no question that early impressions aren't good. At all. At first, everything looks, at best, to be a bastardization of the original. (Compare the aesthetics of the opening stage in Yoshi's Island to the first one in Yoshi's New Island for a particularly glaring and depressing example.) A few worlds in, though, and the situation improves mightily. In fact, my only complaint with this game's visuals in the end is that they sometimes seem a bit too mishmash-y due to the variety of art styles (chalk, crayon and watercolor paint among them) stuffed into each and every stage.
Another area in which Yoshi's New Island initially disappoints is its soundtrack. Gone are the assertively peppy songs that filled the first Yoshi's Island title, and in their place are a selection of far more laid-back tunes. Like New Island's graphics, though, I eventually came to appreciate, if not love, its background music and respect that its composer, Masayoshi Ishi, decided to take an altogether different path, aurally speaking, than his predecessor (Koji Kondo).
Given the positive-ish-leaning-toward-ho-hum reactions I've shared so far, it shouldn't be too hard to understand how some people who've played New Island have walked away feeling sour while others (like myself) have left it with a more appealing taste in our mouths. I can't help but imagine, though, that the former group of folks (the ones who aren't fans of Yoshi's New Island) may have had a less negative reaction to the game had the overall experience been a tad more engaging. After all, try as it might, this 3DS title never quite matches the original in that regard--although I'd be hard-pressed to point out exactly why that is. I have a feeling, though, it's due to the folks at developer Arzest being too concerned with aping the first game's key components instead of trying to improve upon them.
Regardless, I still consider Yoshi's New Island to be a worthwhile pick-up for 3DS owners--yes, even those who've placed the 16-bit original on a pedestal--looking for a platformer that'll keep them busy for 15 or so hours. Just make sure you don't go into it expecting it to resemble Super Mario World 3 or anything crazy like that.
See also: previous 'Great Gaymathon' reviews