Party whistles, pinballing and big smiles. What more do you need?
Conventions always have a wide variety of games, from the easily ignorable to the immediate hits. The games that grab me immediately are rare, but I love it when they do. Yoku's Island Express from Vanilla Gorilla was one of those hits. One of the people behind it is Jens Andersson who was responsible for the fantastic Colors 3D on Nintendo 3DS. He is back with something that I already sorely miss.
The game is about Yoku, a dung beetle who happens to be a postman. He pushes a ball, attached to a string, forward to discover the world and see its sights. In Yoku's quest, he will talk to a variety of animal NPCs to figure out what is happening on the island. From what I played, there is certainly more than meets the eye.
The way that the gameplay handled is quite unique. It has an interesting blend of Metroidvania and pinball mechanics that instantly intrigued me. You explore this lush open world, go to various places and interact with the environment. One of the examples shown in the demo was a party whistle. Once collected, you are free to blow as much as you like, which is the most adorable thing ever. It also has a serious use, as it is used to distract a particularly vicious opponent.
Yoku's Island Express has a true sense of an open world that feels connected by smaller sections. It is here that you play around with the pinball mechanicsas represented by different color flippers and bumpers. The bumpers are meant to more easily guide Yoku to a new path, but the flipper section represent the true challenge of the game. The flippers are needed to get yourself through tunnels, solve puzzles or snag all the fruit that you can. It was a blast to send Yoku flying.
Great graphics also enhance the experience. The lush environments are incredibly well put together with well detailed level elements. Add to that the backgrounds add atmosphere to Yoku's Island Express. The music has a jungle feel too, which is to be expected with a title like this. Also, the party whistle has a noise. ...and I loved hearing it.
All in all, Yoku's Island Express left me smiling. After I was done and handed the demo back to Jens, there was a genuine ''aww'' coming out of my mouth. Not because I was disappointed by the demo, but I wanted to see even more than shown there. It was so incredibly engrossing that I didn't want it to end, which are the best type of experiences. Yoku's Island Express is coming in 2018, which is not soon enough.