When I think of a pinball, I don’t really consider it a good genre to mix with a platformer yet Yoku’s Island Express has not only managed to pull this ridiculous feat, it has also made it into a great game that is incredibly fun to pick and play.
Yoku’s Island Express is basically your definition of a delightful puzzle platformer that has hints of metroidvania in its progression. It is set on the Mokumana Island where our main protagonist, Yoku, arrives one day in the hope of setting up a post-office. Little does he know that this Island is the host to all kinds of scary beasts and terrible secrets, and since Yoku is just a pint-sized dung beetle, he has to utilize all the help that he can get to make his way through the Island.
The thing that immediately grabs your attention when starting Yoku’s Island is that the game is completely non-linear. As soon as you arrive in the Island, it will be your choice to explore it as you want without any restriction forcing you to take a linear path. The Island carries a diverse set of locations within itself so you won’t just see greenery but also experience other weather conditions or vibrant colorful locales. This adds more value to the exploration that is basically revolving around the Pinball mechanics.
The game offers little controls for the platforming sections and instead the majority of the progress will be made with the Pinball focused gameplay. Yoku is attached to a ball that he can roll around and it ties directly to the Pinball controls where you can use the flippers to knock Yoku around the level. Even though Yoku can’t jump or perform other functions as expected from a typical platformer, he will be able to learn new moves through the items that he gets from the Island inhabitants.
As you explore the Island, you will discover many creatures that will ask you for help, usually revolving around going to a specific place to gather some items. They are separate from the main story quests but a couple of them are essential to progress further in the Island. The reward is usually some special item that will let you learn a new move or unlock an ability. Sometimes, you will be able to use it to get across previously inaccessible locations using your new abilities.
The pinball mechanics are basically the core of the game. They are used to solve puzzles, clear obstacles, travel to different locations, and discover collectibles. You control the right and left flippers with the trigger buttons. Pressing the button associated with a flipper will make it move. The Island itself is carefully designed around these mechanics and hides a good amount of secrets. You won’t be able to discover all of them easily without some help.
There is no traditional combat in the game and instead the focus is all on exploration, solving the main story quests, or discovering the collectibles. The more you explore, the better chance you have of solving the quests. The Island is shown with a completely zoomed out view that gives you a detailed look at your location with respect to your objective. Initially it will be shrouded in clouds and as you discover a new location, the clouds are removed from it on the Island map, thus making it visible to the player. Thus the key here is to explore the unknowns, learn how to solve the puzzles if presented, and then reach your quest objective.
Yoku’s Island Express is not exactly a difficult game. The challenge it carries is mostly for the pinball segments where you have to rely on a set of timed button presses and a bit of luck in order to navigate to the next set of objectives. It is possible to get stuck at a pinball segment for an extended period of time since you won’t be able to hit at the right angle, but the game makes sure that you aren’t bored by continuing to throw new collectibles in the form of fruits.
There is no standard health in the game and instead it works mostly like a sonic game in that sense that coins are replaced by fruits. You will start with a short pouch that can carry just 100 fruits but it will gradually grow bigger as you unlock more upgrades for it. Certain abilities or secrets are hidden behind a large amount of fruits and once you have are able to get a specific amount of fruits, you can spend them to unlock flippers or trade them for items. As you progress further in the game, the requirements will increase and you will end up needing a bigger pouch. It will also help you survive in case you are stuck at a boss fight or a challenge.
Yoku’s Island Express Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: Yoku has arrived on Mokumana and he’s ready for the easy life, soaking up the sun and delivering parcels on a tropical paradise!
Yoku’s Island Express is an incredibly fun and exceptionally beautiful game that somehow makes pinball fun. It offers a large variety of locations and has plenty of collectibles that will keep you occupied for a good amount of time.