Yoku’s Island Express follows Yoku, an adorable dung beetle who has arrived on Mokumana Island to relieve the resident Pterodactyl as the new post master. Yoku is planning to start his job in paradise but as with every video game ever, things are not as they seem. The local Island God has been sent into a deep sleep and its nightmares are causing storms and earthquakes, which is chaos for the locals! Yoku decides to step up and help, starting his adventure to help wake the deity and rebuild the post office.
As mentioned before, Yoku is a dung beetle and is accompanied by his ball of…well….dung. The game plays like a 2D platformer combined with a pinball game. (Yes. You read that correctly). It feels like it shouldn’t work but it does, incredibly well. The best way to describe the gameplay for visualisation is the casino based levels in Sonic the Hedgehog, but much more polished and refined. The player controls Yoku as he pushes the ball around the large, open world environment using the left analogue stick. When Yoku reaches a flipper, they are coloured yellow, blue or a mix of the two and are controlled using the L and R triggers. That pretty much sums up the gameplay, which although doesn’t sound like much, it all blends seamlessly together to create a truly fun experience. The pinball sections are not sections as such, they are a core part of the environment fused or a variety of purposes, for example visiting new areas of the map or completing an quest. Some areas are unreachable for Yoku, even with the help of a flipper so a plethora of power-ups are unlocked as he progresses, the likes of which I won’t spoil.
Yoku is not alone on the island as there are a large number of colourful characters to aid him and impart quests for him to complete. As well as the main story quests, NPC’s give Yoku errands and side quests as he progresses, each with their own rewards. Quests can range from delivering parcels, to collecting items or reaching certain areas among other things. Each will give Yoku something worthwhile, be it fruit (the games currency), upgrades or sprinkles which can be used to change the colour of Yoku’s ball. The quests had a good level of variety and due to being in different areas of the map, never felt too monotonous. The map is as open-world as it can be for a 2D game and is split into zones as the game progresses. These range from underground caves to snowy mountains and everything in between. Yoku is able to spend fruit to use a beeline which is a series of cannons that help him travel from a-b without the fuss in-between. The most fun I had was shooting across the map from a cannon, spotting a new section and trying to solve how to access it. As well side quests, Yoku has collectibles to pick up in the form of 100 Wickerlings. These have a quest attached (which again I won’t spoil) and can be hidden anywhere on the map, adding a little more depth to the game.
The only way I can describe the gameplay of Yoku’s Island Express is fun. Lots and lots of fun. I think it’s fair to point out that Pinball games are my guilty pleasure, however I think even Pinball newbies will find it hard not to enjoy this game. The gameplay is smooth and fluid, the levels are well thought out and the difficulty curves naturally. The pinball sections increase in complexity without becoming frustrating and solving them is extremely satisfying. The quests themselves are fun and varied and I thoroughly enjoyed searching for the collectibles before solving the puzzle of how to get to them (I’m 4 short if anyone wants to send me a map!).
As for visuals, Yoku’s Island Express is gorgeous to look at from the outset. The map is hand painted and the colours really pop in HD. The characters are almost paper-like in their movements, which adds to the story-like charm of the game and the whole look is very pleasing to the eye. Each area has a distinct style, from mountain peaks complete with snow, murky dark caves and bubbling lava pits; each well animated and detailed.
Overall, Yoku’s Island Express is a completely different experience that mashes together genres in such a flawless way that it feels like this should have been done before. The gameplay is easy to pick up and play for both older and younger gamers and the collectibles add an extra challenge for those who want to look for them. The only slight downfall is the length, as it is a tad on the shorter side although it is much more of a complete adventure than many other games of this price range.
This is a game that I have looked forward too since first playing at EGX last year and it did not disappoint, I literally couldn’t put it down!
- Fun to play.
- A Little on the shorter side.
Yoku’s Island Express is a charming game that looks beautiful and is great fun to play. It pulls you in for “just one more go” and is an example of how genre mashups should be done.