Nintendo really had their work cut out for them when tackling the task of producing a sequel to one of the best-loved platformers to grace the Super Nintendo back in the mid nineties. In this sequel, Nintendo and Artoon have stuck to the same formula of the original while still offering some gameplay innovation which doesn’t feel forced or unnecessary. Sure, the visuals and audio are improved but still maintain the aesthetic charm found in the original.
Yoshi’s Island DS isn’t your typical platformer even though on the surface you may initially expect exactly this. The underlying gameplay mechanics throughout the 50 different levels, found in the game’s five worlds, are far more than just a simple run, jump, beat the clock… done. Yoshi needs to collect items, using his tongue. These items can either be used as a projectile or stored as eggs which can be used to access hidden items or an area… if used correctly. Each world has a sub-boss along with a main boss fight in which Yoshi will have to use his various abilities. Getting to grips with Yoshi’s ground pound and flutter jump will be essential in beating some boss fights later in the game. Along with all these levels and abilities there are also some items that require Yoshi to transform into a helicopter, a drilling machine and a number of other forms.
The main difference in gameplay is that you can now switch between five different babies that join the adventure while riding upon Yoshi’s back. Each baby version of the iconic characters allows you to take advantage of abilities unique to each character. It sounds like such a meek change to the gameplay of the original Yoshi’s Island but adds an unbelievable amount of value to the game. Only specific babies can access given areas due to their abilities. At any given time you may not have access to a certain character which will make some spots seem to be out of reach; until you try with another supporting character, that is. You start off with Baby Mario and Baby Peach and soon a Baby Donkey Kong, Baby Wario and Baby … Bowser (yes BOWSER), join the fray. Baby Mario gives Yoshi the ability to dash. Baby Peach sends Yoshi flying over a gust of wind similar to how she would jump in Super Mario Bros 2. Baby Wario is greed as always and lets you grab coins with his magnet and move metal objects. Baby Donkey Kong can grab onto ropes and vines, no surprises there. Lastly Baby Bowser has the ability to melt objects with his fire breath. In addition to all of these abilities each baby changes the way in which Yoshi uses his egg projectiles.
Yoshi’s Island DS features levels that by appearance seem to be hand-drawn, similar to the original. Yoshi’s sprite animation, in particular, is adorable and his grunts and squeals are as cute as ever. These animations carry over to the Shy Guys and Petey Piranha plants throughout the games. The attention to detail is fantastic. Yoshi’s Island DS is a sequel that remains true to the original and provides plenty in fresh, innovative design that prolongs the games lifespan. If you are a fan of platformers this shouldn’t be ignored.