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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Yoku's Island Express isn't Yoshi's Island... or is it?

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - ...Nah. It's something completely different, but that could be good!

You may be watching some of Nintendo of America's videos on YouTube. Perhaps you're watching the mass of Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze videos they're uploading, since that comes out tomorrow. Whatever you're doing, you see something catch your eye on the video list, or the related videos on the right sidebar... What is that? A Yoshi's Island game?!

Nintendo YouTube channel uploads May 2018 Yoku's Island Express Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze
See? Second on the left, second row? Yoshi's Island! Let's click on it!
Once we get to the video, we're greeted with an ESRB rating of Everyone 10+, and a descriptor of Animated Blood. Yoshi...? What happened to you? ...But it turns out that this isn't Yoshi at all. It's Yoku's Island Express.

...If you look at the YouTube comments, all of them are about Yoshi. That's...not an exaggeration:

Yoku's Island Express story trailer YouTube comments Nintendo Yoshi
The video has over 400 comments and over 45,000 views.
Quite frankly, they're overwhelmingly about people thinking it's Yoshi's Island.

In reality, Yoku's Island Express is a 2D pinball adventure developed by Villa Gorilla and published by Team17. ...Yeah, pinball adventure. The protagonist is named Yoku. He delivers the mail. Despite the whole point of a mailman is that you take set, efficient routes, this is actually an “open world” game. Or it's actually a Metroidvania. I've seen conflicting reports within the same article. Those are kind of opposite genres. Upon watching video of the game, it's much closer to a Metroidvania, and there's a lot of puzzle elements.

In any case, the “express” that Yoku's Island Express refers to is the rapid mail service. The titular “island” refers to the fact that the express takes place on the island, which isn't named Yoku's Island, but is in fact named Mokumana Island. Yoku, as a postal employee, possesses the island express. It's a dramatically different etymology than if you were thinking about Yoshi's Island. For example, it's not a fast speed-run modification of the Yoshi's Island game.

That said, here's how people get confused at first glance:

Yoku's Island Express boxart versus Yoshi's Island comparison
Left: Art of Yoku's Island Express. Right: Boxart of Yoshi's Island.

The font is sort of similar in style. It's... obviously completely different when you pay attention, but with fuzzy memory of what the Yoshi's Island font looks like, you could get confused. Of course, Yoshi's and Yoku's look similar. It's that Yo at the start and an apostrophe s at the end, and they're similarly-sized names. Plus, there's an Island right after. In addition, Yoku's Island Express has a lot to do with eggs (see the picture — the egg is the most important thing), and Yoshi's Island's gameplay is all about eggs. Both games also feature very stylised and pleasant graphics.

We know there is a Yoshi game in Nintendo's pipeline from E3 2017, though we haven't heard about it since. We don't know its real name, but it's apparently coming out in 2018. With Yoshi at the back of people's mind that could be named anything, you can maybe see how Yoku's Island Express could attract people's Yoshi-related attention.

Yoku's Island Express doesn't really have free control over Yoku like you have over Yoshi. You maneuver him primarily through pinball flippers scattered across the world. That means if you have bad pinball reflexes, you're screwed. Think a classic pinball game with flippers in more places than just the bottom of the play field, but it side-scrolls.

Yoku's Island Express gameplay pinball adventure open world bumpers flippers
At the very least, Yoku's Island Express looks over nine thousand times better than Yooka-Laylee Ukulele of Pinball.

I have more pinball experience than I care to admit, but I'd probably do dreadfully at Yoku's Island Express and have a lot of frustration, since basic navigation would be a challenge for me. You can't tell in a still screenshot, but the yellow flipper is being extended outward by pressing a shoulder button. It's actually a miss, and the ball that Yoku is connected to (he's the little red guy next to the yellow flipper near the centre of the screen) will be unaffected by the flipper's movement. He'll proceed to slide down in shame. This might happen for a while until you learn to be competent.

I don't know what Yoku's Island Express's difficulty curve ultimately is, but maybe someone will find out come May 29 when it releases on the three major consoles, along with the PC. It appears to be $18.

There's even a possibility that Ludwig could find out if he somehow earns the privilege of receiving a review copy. The game clearly has nothing to do with Yoshi's Island, which is what this article wished to establish. Do you believe that Yoku's Island Express looks interesting on its own merits? What do you feel about pinball? Ludwig isn't sure if the controllable objects in the game are called bumpers or flippers.

Ludwig has played Yoku's Island Express, and he accurately predicted that he would be frustrated with the gameplay.


  1. Tricking people to believing something new is related to something beloved is not novel. Just look at all those "From the makers of [name]" for a movie. They sometimes go far to say things like "From the Director of Nightmare Before Christmas" on Coraline's tagline to trick people to believe it is a work of Tim Burton when it is referring to the other director of Nightmare Before Christmas, Henry Selick who indeed worked on Coraline.

    1. Whoa whoa whoa whooooa.

      Team17/Villa Gorilla aren't intentionally tricking anyone!

      Yoshi shouldn't go monopolise names that begin with "Yo" that interact with islands.


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