Yoku's Island Express Review
Yoku's Island Express is a unique pinball platforming adventure developed by Villa Gorilla and published by Team17 released for all platforms (PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC). You play as Yoku, a small Dung Beetle who has just taken a new job as the island's postman. After starting his new job, Yoku will discover there is trouble happening on Mokumana Island. The God Eater has taken out the island's deities and put the island in peril. It is up to Yoku to travel the island and find a way to save it from destruction.
Yoku's Island Express is comprised of two main gameplay elements. An adventure platformer and a pinball table. The adventure aspects of the game are very Metroidvania-like where the player will explore the world but will be locked out of certain areas because they haven't discovered new items or abilities. Throughout the game, Yoku will learn new abilities or obtain new items that allow the player to explore further areas that couldn't be traversed previously. Like most Metroidvania type games, in Yoku the player will return to previously explored areas several times over before completing the game.
Fortunately, once you reach a certain point of the game, you are able to unlock a type of fast-travel called the Bee-Line that allows Yoku to fire off in barrels to traverse the island areas much faster than normal.
The pinball gameplay is really the heart of this game. The majority of areas in the game are like mini-pinball tables where Yoku must travel through and clear certain goals to obtain new items or advance to the next area. There are puzzles to solve in the game, and while most are pretty simple, some of the extra side quests can be difficult to figure out.
There are hidden chests and secret areas to discover, and not all of them are required to complete the game. The game can be finished by only unlocking about 40-50% of the game's total items and secrets. Some of these items and areas can be really difficult to reach, which I found to be frustrating.
As with standard pinball tables, each pinball area has left and right flippers that are used to knock Yoku through the environment. Colliding with bumpers will cause fruit bubbles to appear. Fruit, in this game, is used as a form of currency to unlock additional flippers, bumpers or additional perks in the environment. As the player progresses through the game, they are able to earn unlockables to expand the amount of fruit they can carry.
As the player progresses through the game, they will unlock additional abilities like the Slug Vacuum, Dive Fish, the Sootling Sprite leash, etc. The Dive Fish allows Yoku to dive into the water to enter new areas and grab items that are sunken deep into the depths of water below the surface. The Slug Vacuum allows the player to suck up explosive slugs and blow up larger boulders that Yoku normally can't get by. And the Sootling leash allows Yoku to grapple hook around carnivorous plants to climb up higher areas in the environment.
While the game is based on an island and most of it's traveled locations are island themed, there is a decent variety of environments in the game. Besides the standard island and water, there are underground areas filled with dirt and caves, as well as snowy mountains towards the latter half of the game.
While trying to locate the Clan Leaders in the island for help, the leaders themselves are dealing with their own problems and need Yoku's help. Not only will this require additional puzzles and environments to solve, but Yoku may also have to defeat a large boss. While there aren't a ton of bosses in the game, I am glad that the developers added some boss fights to really enhance the story and expand the experience.
Throughout the journey, Yoku will meet several different characters and personalities. While none are super memorable that will stick with you months after playing the game, they are still fun and energetic and give the world life.
The music in the game is very appropriately island themed and reminds me of The Lion King or the Jungle Book. While I don't feel there was a ton of variety in the music, what is present in the game is definitely enjoyable.
One of the best aspects of the game is that it is a fun family friendly game on all major systems. If you're a parent that only has an Xbox One or PS4, there aren't always as many family-friendly titles available. But Yoku's Island Express is definitely a great game for kids and parents alike.
Who Should Play This Game?
Players that enjoy Metroid-vania type exploration games. Or if you enjoy playing pinball and want to experience a unique way to play. Normally, these types of games are aimed at more mature audiences. Yoku shines in that it is aimed at both kids and adults.
What Makes the Game Worth Buying?
The gameplay offers a unique experience you really aren't going to find in any other video game. The pinball exploration is extremely well executed and makes the adventure a lot of fun. At $19.99 the game is well priced and offers a fun adventure good for all ages.
A unique mixture of gameplay elements (pinball & exploration)
A colorful world full of interesting characters
Great island-themed music
Younger themed game available on multi-platforms
Some areas are really difficult to get to
It isn't always very clear on how to solve some sidequest problems
Relatively short - about 5-7 hours.
Disclaimer: A PlayStation 4 review code was provided by the developer.