Can Artoon deliver?
The main thing that can be said about this game is that Yoshi’s Island 2 really is Yoshi’s Island 2. Coming over a decade after the original, the game looks very much like the original and plays like it as well. As Yoshi’s Island is considered by many as one of the best games of all time, that’s a good thing. Though many will have some apprehension after finding out that the game is being developed by Artoon (of Yoshi Topsy-Turvy infamy), after playing the E3 demo, I can say that there doesn’t appear to be too much to worry about.
Many of the graphics seem ripped right from the original, though characters and scenery are even more colorful than the previous game. In other words, the graphics in the game appear hand drawn, though the newer graphics appear less crayon-like than in the original. The game uses both screens for gameplay, with the possibility of action occurring on both screens instead of something like a map screen occupying one of the screens. Focus can be shifted between the screens so that players can see further up or down the level.
The major new addition to the game is that you can carry babies other than Baby Mario. Baby Peach and Baby Donkey Kong can also be carried by Yoshi, one at a time. Each baby comes with its own set of special moves, and babies are switched at stork “bus stops," where a stork will bring one of the other babies and the player is given the option to switch the baby currently on Yoshi’s back with the new arrival. Mario allows Yoshi to run, as in the original, while Peach packs an umbrella, which used for floating. Baby Donkey Kong lets Yoshi perform a Mega Man X-like dash attack, and can grab vines to climb along the underside of platforms. Different babies are required to complete certain areas.
The E3 demo featured 3 levels. Just as in the original, 30 stars, 20 red coins, and 5 flowers must be collected in each level to obtain 100% completion. At least in the E3 version, red coins did not make their characteristic collection sound, making it more difficult to recognize their collection. Additionally, most of the other sound effects sounded out of place and left something to be desired. The after-stage bonus game appeared to be rigged so that you could never play it.
The first level featured standard Yoshi’s Island gameplay with plenty of Shy Guys and other classic enemies and showed off how Peach’s umbrella could be used to float up in the wind. In the second level, aptly titled “Mario’s Fleet Feet," a giant Tap-Tap chases Yoshi, destroying everything in its path. Mario’s running ability must be used in order to outrun the monster. After this a cave full of enemies must be cleared, and the middle part cleared quickly since successful exit depends on running over red switch blocks. The third level featured a castle setting, and began with rubbery enemies that swung down from above, rotating spike balls, and lava-inhabiting Blaargs. The final boss was a giant suspended blob covered in balls. Once all of the balls were cleared, the demo was completed.
Yoshi’s Island 2’s egg-shooting controls varied slightly from the originals, and only the trigger and shoot method was available. The press and release method was not in the demo, but will hopefully be added later. A or R could be used to active the targeting reticule and throw the egg while L or X locked the cursor.
The game is also very fluid and felt much smoother than the original. Others commented that Yoshi moved too fast, but I actually preferred this; it makes control in the original seem a little sluggish. Platforming fans, particularly Yoshi’s Island fans, will likely have another great game delivered to them soon.