Villa Gorilla / Team17 Digital Ltd (studio)
29 May 2018 (released)
29 May 2018
This week for reviews, Alice got the ultimate Warhammer fan service with Warhammer Space Hulk, filled with ungodly violence, action and horror. I on the other hand got a cute critter 2D adventure. You may think I got the short straw and let me tell you …
This game is actually very good. Let me tell you why I’d rather be a little beetle delivering post than a murderous brute in the darkest depths of space.
Yoku’s Island Express takes us on an unforgettable journey where a small beetle named Yoku lands on a strange island to begin a new life as a post master. Yoku’s adventure begins innocently enough, as you make your way to the post office to begin your new duty, until you discover a sinister figure known as the God Killer to wreaking havoc on the island, attempting to kill of the island’s Accent beings and being the world into darkness. Wow, for a children’s game about a post delivering Beetle, this is pretty dark.
So it’s up to Yoku to deliver post and unite the Island chiefs to help stop the God Killer. Along the way Yoku will help a number of colourful characters and discover a long line of secrets and the unsettling history of the Island along the way. As I said for a children’s game there’s some heavy themes here. I liked it and it’s nice to see some serious elements in a children’s story that explores some themes such as extinction, unity and why it’s important to deliver post (okay that’s not so important).
I can see the developers taking notes from Dark Souls where back story and additional information can be seen through exploring the environments and helping out others. There are even some multiple choices you can decide on during certain segments of the game which don’t actually amount to much in the end but are interesting none the less.
Gameplay is broken down to mainly exploration, puzzle solving and physics based, environmental puzzle/action set pieces. Okay, so easiest way to describe these segments are as pinball with different interactions and elements thrown in. Across the island and throughout various set pieces and arenas there are bumpers, flippers and different objects to bounce from. Using the triggers on your controller you can flip Blue or Orange coloured flippers (There are no Portals, no) and bounce like mad off various objects in order to gather fruit (which is the game’s currency), gems (which unlock doors) and explosive slugs (which explode).
There’s a great variety of different interactions and layouts which keeps the game engaging and never hinders on a repetitive vibe (for the most part). There are a number of big set pieces and even boss battles which use these mechanics rather well. I’d say that the bigger set pieces and even the boss battles could last a little too long, often being in three stages and you just repeat the same series of actions over and over. But I can’t deny the game does extremely well to deliver a range of challenges and situations that revolve from pinball mechanics. It’s a great and even exploring the island, solving small puzzles, finding loot and helping others is extremely fun.
My main problem with Yoku’s adventure sadly is the physics for certain mechanics. The rope swinging is a nightmare as Yoku will spin infuriatingly fast, making it extremely difficult to judge when to let go and aiming for the next point to swing from is just pure luck. Not to mention for the enclosed, arena style moments, using the flippers requires pin point accuracy and timing. One Nano second off and you’ll be thrown in a new direction altogether. It can be quite difficult even for a fully grown adult to judge the timing for jumps, let alone a child. Along with the physics being a little overly sensitive at times, I’ll imagine there might be a few moments you’ll be swearing blindly at the game. Hopefully the children won’t be.
Despite these little problems, there was never a time I felt trapped or completely hopeless in progressing through my adventure. There are often multiple paths you can take, meaning you can avoid repeating troublesome areas and if you like to spare some of your fruit, you can unlock a fast travel which actually unlocks new areas for you to explore.
Yoku’s Island Express is hugely entertaining for both children and adults. I loved the beautifully crafted world that highly detailed and engaging to explore, with a vast amount of secrets, side objectives and characters to meet. While the physics could be tweaked (especially the swinging mechanic), these never really became too much of a problem, or even stopped me from enjoying the game altogether. Yoku’s journey is a fantastic one that could compare to Ori and Blind Forest to some degree and it’s definitely worth checking out.
++ Bright, colourful and beautifully drawn
+ Great fast pace lateral elements
+ Great amount of exploration
- Physics for certain mechanics need tweaking
- Some set pieces are drawn out
An Xbox One review copy of Yoku's Island Express was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review