Game Review: Yoku’s Island Express

Release date: 2018
Version played: Xbox Series X in 2022

Developed by the Swedish studio, Villa Gorilla, and published by Team17, Yoku’s Island Express is a 2D Metroidvania style adventure/platformer video game featuring pinball mechanics. Taking control of a dung beetle name Yoku, players must traverse the titular island of Mokumana while pushing their ball (or an unnamed substance…) to deliver mail and reunite various tribes, while simultaneously discovering the mystery of who attacked the island’s guardian deity.

+ this game has an incredibly unique format. Off the top of my head, I don’t think any other Metroidvania style games to feature pinball mechanics as a core gameplay element, and certainly none as enjoyable as this one. The Metroidvania aspects are perfectly fine, with new abilities allowing access to new areas at a steady pace
+ the graphics are simple but adorable. I found them reminiscent of Ori and the Blind Forest, though not quite to that mind blowing level. The effects of collecting items on the pinball tables are satisfying
+ thankfully there is a fast travel option available, and it has some of the funkiest backing music I’ve heard in a while. A character in the game even comments on how good the music is

yokusislandexpress_2
An example of a ‘pinball table’ segment, with flippers down the bottom and multiple lanes to aim for.

– there are some frustrating pacing issues. Wanting to collect hidden upgrades or even just earn more currency (here in the form of various fruits) does necessitate some backtracking, and backtracking through previously completed ‘pinball table’ areas is often a chore
– rarely, the pinball mechanics can feel inconsistent. Sometimes the ball seems to be subtly magnetised to go where you need it to – down a lane, to collect a necessary item, etc – but other times you need pixel perfect reactions, leading to constant dead end shots. This was most apparent in one particular area/’pinball table’ but it did show up in a few other places

Should you play this game: This was the Xbox Games with Gold freebie for the month, and it was a short and sweet, and most of all unique, offering. I enjoyed my time with it.

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