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Posted on Jul 5th 2018 at 08:00:00 AM by (Addicted)
Posted under Metroidvania, Pinball, Metroidvania, Hidden Gems


In theory, a pinball-centric Metroidvania shouldn't work but Yoku's Island Express feels like a breath of fresh air in an increasingly crowded genre. It's whimsical, charming while staying true to everything I love about 2D platformers. Despite an occasional frustration with the pinball paths I enjoyed every minute of the six-hours I spent unraveling the mysteries of the island.





There is a lot to explore in Yoku's Island Express

Yoku's Island Express cleverly fuses a traditional Metroidvania game with pinball mechanics in a way that feels unusually instinctive. You take control of a small beetle postmaster named Yoku, pushing around a marble and making deliveries on a large open-world island. There's a straightforward but delightful story to follow, alongside an extensive amount of side quests, hidden collectibles, and other diversions.

While the majority of the beautiful 2d levels might make it seem like commonplace run 'n jump platformer Yoku can't jump. Instead, you'll have to use paddles (using the controller's shoulder buttons) to knock Yoku's marble into tracks, bumpers, and more dispersed around the island dragging Yoku along with it. It's a unique concept and the swift responsiveness of the flippers is gratifying in the same way as jumping in Super Mario Bros.


Getting Yoku's marble in to a particular lane can be frustrating due to the precise timing involed in some of the shots


As you roll around an explore the island you will occasionally drop into specific areas that are essentially small pinball tables, each with their own lanes and skill shots that sometimes require frustrating precise shots. There are lots of familiar pinball mechanics here such as lights to turn on in, bumpers to knock you around, all of which spill fruit the game's currency on to the table. Familiar tricks such as putting up one flipper to let the ball roll over to the other work here but now if the marble slows down too much you can take control over Yoku and have him push the ball over the gap.


Traversing the island requires the use of pinball staples such as bumpers and flippers

I loved the contained pinball challenges, and they are used in inventive ways. Many have purple doors that you need to unlock by collecting purple gems on the table before you can proceed. Instead of playing for points, akin to a regular pinball table you're trying to make specific shots to free the gems from crystals or spinners. Boss battles are impressive multi-ball affairs with challenging skill shots and multi-level tables.

Before the Beeline fast-travel system is unlocked it can become frustrating and repetitive as navigating around the island will require replaying tables you've already beaten. This can become more annoying when traversing the table requires a series of shots with tight timing so barely missing multiple times in a row can hurt the flow of the game.

Despite this, it's hard to stop smiling when playing a game this upbeat and charm is overflowing out of every corner of Yoku's Island Express. There isn't any combat outside of the boss battles, and the item you use to break open crates and pots is a party-blower noisemaker that you can spam as you run around the island. The upbeat music, appealing painted art style, and quirky characters make the journey through this island a pleasure and helps alleviate the frustration.


Boss battles are epic

Yoku's Island Express's combination of Pinball and Metroidvania is a strange concept that comes together to create something unique with its beautiful art style, satisfying pinball mechanics, and upbeat music. Skill shots can sometimes cause frustration but Yoku's Island Express has a revitalizing attitude that will keep you smiling.


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Comments
 
I hadn't heard of this game until about a week ago, when I was listening to a few backlog podcast episodes, and it was mentioned on Retronauts in favorable light. I'm very curious about this now, however, because it looks nice, and is an interesting blend of genres. Good overview!
 
I was in a game store while video of Yoku was playing on the TV. The guy in front of me remarked that the industry was "running out of ideas" and that it "looked dumb." He then bought his pile of first person military shooters and sports games and left the store, at which point my wife and I burst out loud laughing, along with the employee.
 
Great review, thanks!

I heard only very good things about this game, it is on my list to be bought when the price goes down. Right now it is $30. It is unique, has great ideas and is overall well executed. Certainly one of the games on physical disc which shouldn't be missed.

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