2006 saw the surprise release of a sequel to the fondly remembered (and rightly so) SNES game, Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island for the DS, simply called Yoshi’s Island DS.

Yoshi’s back with the same loveable and ageless cartoony style of his past outing. Baby Mario is in the mix once again as well. In fact, this game is such a direct sequel to the original Yoshi’s Island that it would be hard-pressed to tell the titles were released over a decade apart if it were not for the difference in systems.

Story

Joining the green dinosaur and his ward, Baby Mario, are other playable baby versions of Mario universe characters, including Baby DK, Baby Peach, and others.

The plot is tied together with occasional interruptions from Kamek and Bowser who have captured Baby Luigi and are out for more infants, a group known as the “Star Babies.” It’s the light fun you’d typically expect from a Mario (or Mario spinoff) title, and suits the game well.

Controls

Yoshi’s Island DS plays almost identically to its SNES counterpart, with a few tweaks for the added abilities of Baby Mario’s new pals. For example, Baby DK can dash with down and Y (depending on your control settings) and Baby Peach can use her umbrella to catch the breeze and fly higher up into levels.

R and A bring up the egg-aiming cursor, holding B makes you flutter jump. No special touch-screen mechanics thrown in to spice things up here. It’s hard to argue with that choice, considering how well these controls worked before, and how well they hold up.

Yoshi's Island DS screenshot

Image: Yoshi's Island DS. Nintendo.

Gameplay

Yoshi’s Island DS‘s great failing point is that it slavishly repeats the gameplay of Yoshi’s Island, but introduces to the mix a level of challenge more typical of other platformers. That is to say, you can easily find yourself running into an endless pit or vat of lava, and that will be all, especially near the end of the game. Enemies still cause Mario to float away (again easily overcome), but interest in exploration can rapidly wane as player deaths mount.

Level design has not been changed to keep up with this upgrade in difficulty. Players are still required to seek out items and navigate non-linear levels. As you can imagine, this gets tiresome fast in tougher levels, when any number of flowers, red coins, numbered balls, and keys you’ve collected can be snuffed out by a renegade lava pit.

Despite this issue, I still found myself having plenty of fun with the title. The slowed-down platforming style works for the most part, with the more methodical Yoshi’s Island playstyle of shooting eggs and exploring caves shining through until the last couple worlds. I also found myself continuously encouraged to keep playing just to see which new baby character would be introduced next.

Yoshi's Island DS screenshot

Image: Yoshi's Island DS

Graphics and Sound

The rich, colourful graphics of the original Yoshi’s Island were made possible by the Super FX chip. Instead of using the additional power provided to produce gimmicky, choppy 3D animations, as with so many other Super FX games, the team at Nintendo opted to give us the splendour of a game that looked like it was drawn in crayon. That look hasn’t aged in the ten-plus years since, and this title is great evidence of that. The 2D, hand-drawn looking imagery is perfectly suited to the DS.

The sound is similarly reminiscent of the original Yoshi’s Island. You’ll hear catchy, up beat tunes that echo the fun environments Yoshi is encountering, but rarely will this music be truly original. Obnoxious crying baby sound effects are back as well. Yoshi’s straining and grunting are here too.

Overall

Yoshi’s Island DS is a solid and very enjoyable entry in the DS’s lineup of platformers. Although its fun is hindered by a difficulty that doesn’t always lineup with its gameplay, and its design is a bit of a rehash, the relaxed atmosphere and engaging gameplay are enough to make this one worth the time. Fans of the original Yoshi’s Island may be disappointed to not find much new here, but those unacquainted with this game’s predecessor will likely be blown away by the many little twists and gimmicks in store.

Review: Yoshi’s Island DS