The DS is retrogamer heaven. If you consider all the sequels, revamps and upgrades of older games they are obviously aiming to capture a certain audience that lived the days of the SNES. Yoshi's Island for the DS is exactly such a title. Loved the first game to bits and I was really excited to see how the sequel for the portable turned out.
The first Super Mario game on the SNES is still considered to be the platform's best platformer (some even say of all time), but I've always preferred Yoshi's Island. The graphics are more detailed, the controls more solid and the game world has a certain creativity lacking in Super Mario World. Sadly, the original game was way too easy and once finished held little extras to keep the attention span going.
They did their best to fix this in the DS version, but went a little overboard in doing so. The game doesn't contain as many levels as the original but the difficulty level picks up pretty quickly. Halfway world 3 the levels become longer and harder to finish, sadly not always using proper game mechanics. There are a few too many unavoidable pitfalls and sections that require you to know what happens when and where. This learning curve adds to the difficulty of the game, but certainly detracts from the fun.
Each level has a score of 100 points, requiring you to collect 30 stars, 20 red coins and 5 flowers to reach the full score. If you're aiming for a full 100% game prepare to spend long and hard times trying to get all these items within each level. Especially in the later levels I often spent 45 minutes to 1 hour getting everything without being hit (meaning your stars are decreased). Sadly, there is little reward in getting a full 100% game. There are two extra courses in each world, one which is unlocked by reaching a certain amount of points within a world. These extra levels are good additions, but they proved to be even tougher and often meant having to slave away another 45 minutes getting another 100 points.
On the upside, the levels leave more exploring to do, especially with 5 types of babies to your disposal. Three (Mario, Peach and Donkey) will remain with you at all times, two (Bowser and Wario) are only available in certain levels. They all have their strengths (and weaknesses), needed to get all 100 points in each level. This adds some welcome tactics while navigating through the different levels and keeps the game varied.
Visually the game is still top notch (if you like the sketchy look that is). There is plenty of detail in the graphics and many tiny things to be discovered (although they still couldn't hide the fact that this isn't an in-house Nintendo game), sadly the soundtrack is not up to par. I ended up playing the game without the sound on, as most music was pretty repetitive and the howling of the babies would become quite annoying after a while.
Yoshi's Island is still a fun game, with plenty of secrets to discover, some nice variation in gameplay and a solid difficulty level. But if you're really aiming for a 100% finish the game becomes tedious, irritating and is just too hard while delivering not enough pleasure. When they release the next installment of the game, it would be good to aim for something in between, and maybe leave the creative work to Nintendo again. Still, this game has plenty of nice bits to discover and is a worthy purchase if you're looking for a good platform challenge.
Signing off with a little trailer goodness.