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Keen to capitalise on the success of Super Mario Advance 2 (Super Mario World) GBA, and now towards the end of the life of the SNES, Nintendo released Yoshi's Island. This was later brought to the GBA as Super Mario Advance 3.
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.
Yoshi's Island is in many ways a direct follow up to the critically acclaimed Super Mario World. But here, perhaps due to the success of Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog, the focus is more on action and less on exploration. The worlds and levels have more of a linear progression to them, and accordingly the open map of Mario World is replaced with a scroll with a single path to follow.
You control Yoshi (Mario's green dinosaur friend) who carries a baby Mario on his back. This setup makes you vulnerable, as the various hazards in the game easily knock Mario off. Whereupon you need to chase him down and get him back on board within the allotted time. This keeps the action on a knife edge, and combines with Yoshi's ability to swallow enemies and fire eggs to create a fast paced platforming experience.
Even with this high impact edge to the game, players are still incentivised to explore every nook and cranny. Completing the levels give a certain amount of satisfaction. But it is the experience of locating and collecting every flower, red coin and power up star that drives gamers to play levels over and over.
The game also adds more interaction with the environment. Whereas in Super Mario Advance 2 (Super Mario World) GBA moving platforms could be switched on and off, here you have to use your weight to propel them along. It's a simple idea but one that makes the game play that much more tactile.
The initial play through of each level rarely takes more than five minutes. However, as is true of the game overall, to collect every item takes considerably longer. These items are essential to getting the most out of the game, and mean that players will be entertained for a good thirty hours before they have seen the majority of what is on offer.
As with other platform games the exacting left/right controls make it challenging for very young and novice players. This is more the case in Yoshi's Island as the added requirement of keeping baby Mario on you back makes things more hectic.
Expert gamers, particularly those that have enjoyed Super Mario Advance 2 (Super Mario World) GBA, will relish this challenge. The innovation and added complexity, together with the fast pacing of the game make this a unique Mario experience.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
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