Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
Though Yoshi’s Island is technically the sequel to Super Mario World, it bears almost no resemblance to its predecessor. The game tells the story of the attempted kidnapping of the baby Mario and Luigi. Kamek the Magikoopa, on orders from King Bowser, tries to snatch them from a stork, but only succeeds in taking Luigi. Baby Mario, however, lands on Yoshi’s back, and after realising what has happened, all the Yoshies agree to help Mario rescue his brother. The obliging Yoshies take turns to carry Baby Mario through levels on their backs right until the final confrontation with King Bowser.
A change from the traditional ‘kidnapped Princess’ plot, it gives the game a completely different feel than a typical Mario platformer. With Kamek waiting for the perfect chance to snatch Baby Mario, there’s a greater sense of urgency to foil his plans. The new castings, both Yoshi as the central character and Kamek as the new antagonist, are a refreshing change. Kamek even chips in with the odd speech, taunting and trying to belittle Yoshi, as opposed to a mute Bowser in Super Mario World.
With you in charge of Yoshies instead of Mario now, it only takes one second to realise that they don’t control like Italian plumbers at all. Hurling fireballs, eating mushrooms, and running around invincible are moves reserved for Mario and Luigi. But Yoshi has a floaty flutter jump that puts even the jump man to shame, allowing him to both reach higher ground and stay in the air longer. What distinguishes Yoshi from Mario the most, however, is his capability to make and fire eggs. Using his familiar red tongue to stuff enemies into his mouth, he can ‘excrete’ them into eggs straight away. Holding as many as six at one time, Yoshi uses them to attack foes and hurl them at winged clouds that replace the question mark blocks of past Mario games.
As if that weren’t enough, unless he happens to fall into a bottomless pit or a pool of lava, Yoshi cannot be killed, no matter how many times he is hurt by enemies. Instead, every time he gets hit, the blubbering Baby Mario drifts away from Yoshi in a bubble. If you do not retrieve him by the time the star counter reaches zero, Kamek’s minions capture Baby Mario and Yoshi loses a life. Though the main quest is consequently a little easier, the game is not afraid to pit you against numerous enemies at once.
Yoshi also has other powers to help him rescue Luigi. In many of the levels, he can morph into a vehicle for a short period, including helicopters and torpedo-firing submarines. Elsewhere, Yoshi can also hold one of three types of watermelon in his mouth, temporarily granting him abilities to roast or freeze enemies with fire and ice. Even Baby Mario gets opportunities to shine. Whenever he comes across a super star, he gains invincibility and the ability to run up walls, which helps Yoshi progress to otherwise unreachable areas.
The large arsenal of moves opens up for some great puzzles and boss fights. While some levels only have you collecting keys to unlock doors, others stick you in dank underground mazes that provide a good challenge without ever becoming frustrating. Boss fights also frequently appear to cap off your treks through forts and castles, and these never disappoint. Before each encounter, Kamek shows up to magnify your foe, which means instead of kicking aside a standard tiny koopa, you have to face off one ten times your size. The colossal size of these foes makes the matches feel like David vs. Goliath, but what’s especially engaging, especially in the later levels, is figuring out how to uniquely defeat each boss, whether it’s taking advantage of your surroundings or their enlarged weak points.
It’s the variety, though, that keeps the game fresh over the six worlds and twelve boss fights. One minute, you’re trying to get past playful monkeys in jungles; the next, you’re jumping over cute little penguins in the snow. Most of the old enemies are back, such as the shy guys and boos, alongside the new — ravens, baby-stealing bandits, mace-wielding penguins, and more. In fact, over one hundred different types of foe can be seen throughout the entire game.
Yoshi’s Island also looks fantastic, and even though it adopts a unique crayon-art graphics style, the attention to detail is remarkable, from the crayon-like shadings on clouds and trees to the cobwebs in the corners and crevices of castles. The colourful and cheery style complements the lively soundtrack and sound effects, too. Not only can you hear Yoshi cutely grunting like a small child whenever he pushes chomp rocks or squealing his own name whenever he’s happy, but the environment isn’t neglected, either. The cute groans shy guys make as they come out of their pipes, making their presence known, is just one example out of many.
All in all, Yoshi’s Island is a brilliant follow-up to Super Mario World. Though its cartoon graphics may suggest otherwise, the game is fantastically deep, going far beyond the simple run-and-jump type of platformer. It packs a good challenge and flawlessly integrates exciting platforming action with light puzzle-solving. Aesthetically pleasing and endearing, Yoshi’s Island surpasses its predecessor in many ways.
Ten out of ten