fter the disappointing Yoshi's Story on the N64, the god-awful Universal Gravitation on the GBA and the good-but-short Yoshi's Touch 'N' Go on the DS, finally we have a proper sequel to Yoshi's Island - one of the greatest 2D platformers of all time. And it's every bit as great as the original.
This is what we wanted - none of the baby-singing, melon-eating rubbish. This is what Yoshi's Island is supposed to be like. You munch enemies and make eggs to lob at super-speed as you bounce through level after level of platforming greatness.
The premise of the game, and the way it's played, remains much the same. A bunch of baby versions of Mushroom Kingdom characters, including Baby Luigi and Baby Princess Peach, are kidnapped by evil wizard Kamek and you, playing as Yoshi, help rescue them. Despite the similar story, however, there are new gameplay elements to get to grips with. The main one of these is the fact that at certain points in the game Yoshi will rescue other babies that can ride him, each baby having their own special ability.
Baby Mario, the baby you start with, allows Yoshi to run faster; Baby Princess can use her umbrella to ride streams of wind to reach higher places; Baby Donkey Kong will grab and climb vines; and Baby Bowser can spit fireballs. You're able to find and change babies at certain points in the levels, which adds a new puzzle element as you swap babies and use their powers to overcome some occasionally tricky puzzles.
Walk The Dinosaur
There have been some other, smaller tweaks to the gameplay, too. As well as the usual 20 red coins and five flowers, each level contains one hidden giant coin that you can track down. What's more, new character-specific item blocks can only be hit when Yoshi is carrying a certain baby (so red 'M' blocks can only be hit by Baby Mario, for instance).
The game also makes use of the extended view of the DS's two screens, allowing you to hold X and press up or down to shift Yoshi to either screen, expanding your view in the direction of your choice. You'll find many potentially off-screen secrets by exploring with this feature, and while it doesn't literally double the lifespan of the game, it does give you lots more to do.
But we have to say that the similarities between Yoshi's Island DS and the SNES original far outweigh the changes. This new outing seems to intentionally emulate the first game in almost every way possible; it's almost like you're playing a remake or remixed version of the same game rather than a sequel. The intro sequence, where all the Yoshis meet and decide to help the babies, looks almost exactly the same. The end-of-level 'GOAL' screens are identical, as are the bonus stages and most of the menus, including the 3D rotating island in the title screen.
More significantly, the art style, much of the level design, music style and most of the puzzles stick closely to what was in the original, too. This means that while Yoshi's Island DS retains the quality and ingenious gameplay that made the SNES game an all-time classic, it won't offer much freshness to those who've finished the original.
It's not that Yoshi's Island DS isn't fantastic, because it is. But it lacks that surprise appeal. Yoshi's Island on the SNES constantly surprised you - from the first time you saw a door in the apparently 2D background become 3D and slam down on top of you, to the moment when Yoshi is swallowed by a frog and has to fight inside the its stomach. You're Prehistory
With its relentless mimicking of everything in the original game, the DS version lacks any sense of surprise. And despite the boost in technology on the DS, the levels don't seem as fluid. In the old game, log bridges bent under Yoshi's weight at the point of contact, for instance.
If you were expecting a fully fledged sequel that alters and improves on the original, this is not what you're after. On the other hand, if you adored the previous game and just want a trip down memory lane, the 'more of the same' approach taken by Yoshi's Island DS will satisfy. And of course, if you never played the original you'll love exploring this game for the first time.