Yoku's Island Express Preview

Coming to PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch (tested version) on May 29, 2018

The Metroidvania games have enjoyed a rebirth during this console cycle. Beloved gems such as Axiom Verge, Owlboy and Ori and the Forest of the Blind have helped the genre penetrate the mainstream by showing that they can be both creative and challenging. However, Yoku's Island Express further agitates the formula by combining classic multi-layered platforms with fantastic pinball mechanics.

Developer Villa Gorilla has a deep fascination with the idea of ​​pinball culture and this is shown on Yoku & # 39; s Island Express, resulting in a platform game like no other, and one that is immensely fun to to play.

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If you are not familiar with the genre Metroidvania, players explore a unique and cohesive world in which unlocking new items and equipment gives greater access to new locations within the world. Metroidvanias often involve quite a step backward and revision of previous locations, with the player armed with new skills to unlock new areas . It is about being aware of what is around you, and Yoku accepts it with all his heart.

Pre-order the Yoku & # 39; s Island Express from Amazon

You play as an infectiously happy Dung Beetle named Yoku, who is crowned as the new postmaster of Mokumanu Island. As its name suggests, you will have to travel the world delivering mail and doing odd jobs for its inhabitants. These result in fruit that can be used as currency to unlock new areas and platforms. Every moment on Yoku's Island Express feels like a step forward as you learn the ins and outs of its intriguing mechanics.

Yoku drags a spherical ball at all times, acting as a way to activate pinball fins located all over the world. Blues and oranges are activated by using the buttons on the shoulders and the interaction with both feels clearly intuitive. At the touch of a button, it will bounce off the screen, often picking collectibles or activating switches to progress.

It's contextual for your position, too. If it is at the beginning or end of a fin, its final position can vary enormously. Time is everything, and such consideration turns the pinball madness into specific levels that are established in a wider world. I found myself lost in small areas, of a pint, trying to find the perfect moment to pack every piece of fruit in sight.

My main goal was complete, but the tenderness of Yoku and the soft controls like butter make you come back for more. If the whole package maintains this, it could consume hours without you noticing.

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The island of Mokumanu is full of adorable characters willing to provide missions to Yoku. These will expand the developing world and perhaps provide new skills.

One of the examples above involves finding a toolkit for local maintenance personnel. This causes you to receive a Slug Hoover. Yes, you heard that right. It is essentially a grenade launcher that uses nearby slugs that you suck as ammunition. Shooting these flammable mollusks on purple rocks will cause them to explode and reveal a new path.

I hope the rest of Yoku & # 39; s Island Express continues to surprise in this way. Having mechanical curved balls in the mix is ​​immensely fun and forces you to re-evaluate areas that were once considered dominated. On the other side, noticing a treasure chest in the first few minutes just to return to it with a perfect plan of action in mind is immensely satisfying. This is what Metroidvania's best titles do, and Yoku has the potential to sit happily among them.

The most complicated pinball puzzles at opening time are fairly isolated issues. They are effective methods of tutoring elements that I imagine will deepen later in the game. For example, key fragments that must be collected in a specific order, or blankets of deadly thorns that will restore your progress and rob you of precious fruits. I saw little in the way of the enemies, although I could definitely see the pinball stages acting as a backdrop for some creative encounters with the bosses. Fingers crossed!

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Yoku & # 39; s Island Express is beautiful for the way it presents the watercolor backgrounds scattered among the cute but simplistic characters that are a delight to interact with. The dialogue is just as good: the sharp observations provoked more than a giggle or two from me during my time with the game.

To summarize in quick and simple terms; It feels like an unorthodox mix of Rayman Legends and Studio Ghibli & # 39; s Spirited Away.

In terms of narration, it's little more than a loose platform in which Yoku's acrobatic antics take place. You have the task of pleasing the local people as you slowly approach a dark aura that invades the earth. This occurs through marshy swamps and patches of forest fog that feel much less idyllic than the sunny plains above them. This not only has thematic importance, but it is a great way for environments to highlight their things.

First impressions

At its opening hours, Yoku's Island Express is a fun, addictive and original version of the Metroidvania formula with a winning personality to match.

Pre-order the Yoku & # 39; s Island Express from Amazon

I am excited to see how the final version expands on the ingredients presented here and turns them into a digital party that will be hard to miss.

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