Genre mashups are ever popular in the gaming world. Combinations can be a brilliant way to breathe life into an otherwise stale section of gaming at the same time as attracting players from each genre present. You've got roguelite FPS, third-person MOBAs, typing practice slash shooters, puzzle RPGs... you name it, it probably exists. Of course, just because two genres are enjoyable on their own doesn't mean their merging is a guaranteed success, and there have been plenty of flops. Yoku's Island Express, Villa Gorilla's bright and cheery platformer combined with pinball, is a fun endeavor but doesn't do enough to be great.
The star of the game is Yoku himself, a teeny tiny insect tasked with the profession of island postmaster. His job gets a lot more complicated when there is trouble with the island's deity. Instead of delivering mail, Yoku finds himself delivering letters to gather the island's three sages to perform a ritual. Of course, there are a lot of happenings along the way.
The world of Yoku's Island Express is large and open, and the way pinball has been integrated into the areas is interesting. Wherever you go, you'll encounter yellow and blue flippers, each color of which can be activated with the Xbox controller's triggers. There is regular platforming in addition to the pinball mechanics, and Yoku will unlock new moves as he goes along that allow him to access more of the map and reach hidden compartments.
There are tons of different collectibles, side missions and Easter eggs strewn about the world, and there is always something that can be done or explored further in Yoku's distinctive, hand-drawn locations. It's easy to get lost exploring and unlocking collectibles on the way to do quests. The art is stunningly beautiful, and the chipper soundtrack is top-notch as well.
The game is fun to play, especially thanks to the captivating environments of the island, however Yoku doesn't push any boundaries for platforming or pinball gameplay. Seasoned platformer players aren't going to find any new mechanics they haven't seen numerous times before, and anyone here for the pinball will be disappointed. The pinball sections are simplified compared to even the most basic pinball games with the most exciting twist being an occasional multi-ball. Of course, platformer fans won't mind the lackluster pinball gameplay since it's not their main focus, but Yoku's is hard to recommend to anyone specifically looking for a pinball fix.
Yoku's other main problem comes from its open world. While it's fantastic that there is so much to do in such a large play area, the map can be confusing and hard to traverse. When Yoku gets a new quest, a marker is shown on the world map, but it can sometimes be hard to figure out how to get from point A to point B. Seeing the location on the map isn't as helpful as it should be — especially since the map is clouded for locations not visited yet — and it's not always clear if the path to the objective will be on the right, left, top or bottom, leading to aggravating backtracking through large areas and completed pinball tables that can be annoying to travel through again.
Like many platformers, players who want to fully complete Yoku's Island Express are in for a lot of collectible hunting as well as completing all the game's side quests with a few optional objectives thrown in. Collectibles include tiny creatures called Wickerlings, treasure chests, cosmetics for Yoku's pinball, ability upgrades and more. There are also achievements for completing the story. I'm not exactly sure how long Yoku's would take to complete 100%, but completing the game to 72% took about ten hours.
SummaryThe beautifully drawn and wonderfully composed Yoku's Island Express is another nice addition to the Xbox One's library of platformers. There is a ton to unlock and collect on the island's large map, which is rewarding and fun to explore, although the size of the world can sometimes lead to problems. But while the mashup of pinball and platforming is enjoyable to play, players aren't going to see anything in Yoku's they haven't already seen from either genre.
- Fun mix of platforming and pinball
- Pleasant atmosphere, visuals and music
- A lot to do, discover and collect
- Traversing the map and finding paths can be tedious and interrupt the fun
- Neither platforming nor pinball mechanics push any boundaries
EthicsThe reviewer spent ten hours completing Yoku's Island Express' main story and as many side objectives as possible, earning 21 achievements for 700 gamerscore in the process. An Xbox One download code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
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