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With the release of the DS Nintendo have taken the opportunity to update their existing franchises. Yoshi's Island was originally a SNES game that was then brought to GBA as Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi's Island, and had a following eager for a new version.
Yoshi's Island DS delivers on the promised update, whilst largley staying within the bounds of the original game. Although playing a little safe, most agree that this is a confident outing for Yoshi in each of his colourful variations.
Platform games task you with getting from point A to point B. The world you journey through is usually based on different levels, and populated with enemies, switches and lifts to be negotiated. As you work through each level you pick up various collectables that accrue score, special abilities and access to hidden areas.
The DS game continues the novelty first introduced in Super Mario Advance 3: Yoshi's Island of carrying a baby Mario through a hazardous level. Again this focuses the gameplay on action rather than the exploration of other Mario platform games such as Super Mario Advance 2 (Super Mario World) GBA.
Yoshi's Island DS takes advantage of the increased real estate by spanning the action across both screens. This enables the player to see more of the world around them, although at the same time introducing a problematic gap between the two screens where enemies can hide.
The real advancement here over the previous game is in the ability to carry different babies on Yoshi to endow him with different powers. A baby Princess Peach enables you to glide with her umbrella. A baby Donkey Kong enables you to climb vines. The game builds puzzles around these abilities that can only be swapped at certain points in the level. The result is again away from platform exploration and towards puzzles and action.
There is nothing quite as tense as progressing through a level, only to have your precious baby cargo knocked from your back. As the player jumps, runs and stretches to get the baby back a clock ticks down in the top left corner. This knife edge gameplay and the confident reproduction of the original game's art style and platforming bring the joy of Yoshi's Island to a new audience.
Players who remember the original Yoshi's Island, will recall how it wowed players by extending the Super Mario Advance 2 (Super Mario World) GBA platforming experience to new interactive heights. Not to mention presenting them with such a fresh (hand draw) graphical style. Yoshi's Island DS itself has a much more conservative remit - that of reproducing the Yoshi's Island experience verbatim.
The extra horse power in the DS means that some levels are able to be a little larger that the original game. The more puzzle focused elements (swapping the various babies to obtain the appropriate ability for example) mean that things are slower paced and take a little longer to complete.
The ability to 'sleep' the game at any point makes up for the sometimes sparse save points. But there is no denying that to really get the most out of the game you need to dedicate more than the odd snatched ten minutes.
Very young players are likely to find the exacting action oriented controls a bit tricky. Although my kids spent a happy few hours just jumping around - something which did involve the almost constant crying of baby Mario as he floated off to oblivion.
Intermediate players who are looking for a platforming game that takes advantage of both the DS's screens will find this game delivers. This is probably the biggest advantage of Yoshi's Island DS over New Super Mario Brothers. The difficulty level, although easy at first, does get harder quickly which may put some off.
Experienced gamers who want to revisit the key elements that made Yoshi's Island such a hit on SNES and GBA will find they are well catered for here. This is more a reproduction that a fresh rendering, and come the end some hard core players may feel a little short changed in terms of innovation. But there is plenty here to enjoy.
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