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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Impressions of the Yoku's Island Express Demo; 50% Off

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - The 50% off is news. The demo is not, but I finally played it.

I hope you remember Yoku's Island Express. It's the fairly well-received 2D pinball-platformer adventure game developed by Villa Gorilla and published by Team 17 that released last year in May. It stars the post-beetle (a beetle that delivers packages) Yoku, who won KoopaTV's Best New Character of 2018 award against staunch competition. He's super-cute.

His game is also 50% off until July 24. That was the same scenario at the end of March 2019, which I called out because the sale advertised indie games up to 30% off, yet here was Yoku's Island Express at only $10 instead of $20. But at the time, I let it pass by and I took no action.

But unlike the United States Postal Service and the Mokumana Island postal express, and like the Paratroopas that run our kingdom's mail service, I won't be lazy this time. I've learned (almost a year later) that Yoku's Island Express has a demo, and so I played through it. Behold my thoughts... and by the end, read if I've bought the game. (You may or may not care about the same things I do, so you may or may not also buy the game based on what I write and show.)

Yoku's Island Express Posterodactyl don't feel like sticking around Nintendo Switch demo
The former island express postmaster, Posterodactyl, is a lazy loser who flies away and doesn't want to stick around for a big job.

The game looks gorgeous. The character design is amazing (hence Yoku being the top of 2018) and the graphical detail is incredibly appealing. In terms of sound and music, it's... fun and interesting. The demo gives Yoku a noise popper and that's fantastic.

Yoku's Island Express Credits Musicians Vocals Erik Peabody ukulele
Look at all of the musicians! There's even a ukulele player in Erik Peabody. (Keep ukulele in mind for the next paragraph.)

My number one reason that I haven't bought Yoku's Island Express immediately is that the pinball gameplay is a bit intimidating. I associate pinball games with disasters like The Legend of Zelda: The Ukulele of Pinball, and Mario Pinball Land. However, Yoku's Island Express isn't an ordinary pinball game. It's also a platformer. You move Yoku with the control stick when he's not being propelled by bumpers and flippers with the ball that's tied around him. There's an inventory, a map, and an A button that interacts with the environment or activates the noise popper (which interacts with the environment).

That's fine. Until the bumpers and flippers kick in. (Let me just mention here that they're natively integrated into the environment, especially the bumpers.)

One of the basic things I look for in a platformer is how the controls are. I want the feeling that I can control the player character and accomplish nice things. That's why Super Smash Bros. Melee is such an appealing platform-fighter. You have basically total control over your character.

This is the amount of control you have in Yoku's Island Express:

That's pretty much a deal-breaker, and it's what I expected would happen if I tried to play the game. I don't want a whole game worth of those kinds of moments. It's humiliating at best—more often frustrating. The core mechanic is that you don't always have total control over Yoku. You have control over the flippers, and many times throughout my demo I forgot that the right shoulder button is the yellow flipper and the left shoulder button is the blue flipper. Sure, it makes sense in the scene portrayed in the video, but when there's just one flipper colour out by itself that isn't to the left or right of anything, who knows what's going on? Though, for the most part, solitary flippers are coloured in blue and yellow, meaning both will work.

Since in these gameplay instances you control the flippers that determine Yoku's fate, you'll have to time them precisely like any other game of pinball. But unlike, say, gauging when you need to jump off a platform to reach the next faraway platform in a traditional 2D sidescroller, it's a lot harder to figure out when I need to press the shoulder button to activate the flipper.

People who really like and are good at pinball probably have a much easier time than I do, but... I can't say the gameplay is particularly satisfying. At least everything else about Yoku's Island Express is, at least from my impression.

Yoku's Island Express out now Nintendo Switch demo clear
Yoku's Island Express is out now! And has been for quite some time.
...This is the screen that shows up when you finish the demo, so despite what I wrote, I did manage to complete it.

Ludwig ultimately decided not to purchase Yoku's Island Express because if he can't go through the demo without making a fool out of himself, he'll inevitably be unhappy when the full game starts layering on complexities. But if that doesn't intimidate you, then do feel free to buy Yoku's Island Express at 50% off until July 24. You could totally fund it with the prize of the KoopaTV Loyalty Rewards Program Round 27 (the current round)!

Next demo Ludwig gives impressions on is Cadence of Hyrule, another game that has its core mechanic be movement restriction.

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