Yoku’s Island Express review for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also On: PS4, Xbox One
Publisher: Team17
Developer: Villa Gorilla
Medium: Digital/Cartridge/Disc
Players: 1
Online: No
ESRB: E10+

It took me awhile to write this review, in large part because I kept getting stuck. While this certainly speaks to my level of gaming competence, in a way it probably says more about my time with Yoku?s Island Express than anything else I could possibly write.

This is because it illustrates the game?s most notable flaw: it?s awfully easy to get stuck in spots. This, in turn, is because of how the game is structured. It?s part-Metroidvania platformer and part-pinball game, and, more often than not, advancing to another part of the map requires that you figure out how to solve a section that closely resembles a pinball table. As inventive as this is, it also means that unless you?re a talented pinball player, you?ll probably get stuck doing the same loops over and over again pretty frequently.

Not only that, because you have to rely on pinball controls so often, you?ll also find yourself backtracking even more frequently than you would in your typical Metroidvania. On top of the usual back-and-forth that defines the genre, in Yoku?s Island Express you also have to factor in the fact that, much of the time, it?s hard to control where you?re going. If you?ve ever complained about a d-pad or thumbsticks, just wait until you experience controlling your character with pinball flippers.

As you can imagine, it can be frustrating. But — and this is a very important ?but?– it?s not so frustrating that I was ever tempted to give up on the game.

A bit part of my willingness to push through those moments of frustration can be chalked up to that aforementioned inventiveness. Yoku?s Island Express definitely draws some inspiration from Sonic the Hedgehog, and it does so in a way that recalls the early, nonsense-free days of that franchise. Flying around your screen at high speeds will never not be fun, and being able to do so in a big, open world like the one you find here only adds to that feeling.

Even more than that, though, it?s easy to fall in love with Yoku?s Island Express because it?s just so loveable. You?re playing as as an adorable little bug, rolling a ball around the titular island, delivering letters to the various inhabitants and solving their problems. Everything you encounter, from other animals to the environments, is brightly-coloured and brimming with life, and it?s hard not to get sucked into the feeling of joy that permeates this game.

In other words, Yoku?s Island Express is kind of a testament to the power of positivity. Sure, it?ll leave you frustrated at times. But it?s frustration borne out of wanting to experience more of this delightful world, and that?s more than enough to keep me pushing through those brief moments of annoyance.

Team17 provided us with a Yoku?s Island Express Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: B+