Because many video games lean on familiar gameplay loops, archetypal characters, and genre conventions, when you’re reviewing them it can sometimes feel like you’re saying exactly the same thing about a game that you already wrote about previously. But every now and again you’ll have to write a sentence during a review that you know you’ve never written before, and you’ll likely never have to write again. This is one of those times. Yoku’s Island Express is a 2D, open world, Metroidvania, pinball game starring a dung beetle postman dragged into a battle for the fate of the world on his first day on the job. Beat that.
It’s the sort of premise that appears to be so ludicrous, featuring so many disparate, seemingly incongruent elements that it could quite easily have been generated by picking ideas out of a hat, but incredibly the game isn’t just wacky for wacky’s sake, and the whole thing really does mesh wonderfully. As a dung beetle, Yoku is constantly pushing around a ball of dung and the island is littered with pinball paddles. Yoku controls with the left stick – or d-pad, if you prefer – while the paddles are colour co-ordinated – orange, blue, or a mix of the two – and mapped to R2 and L2. So Yoku can wander around the island rolling his little ball of dung, and then he’ll happen upon a paddle and if he stands atop it and you tap the corresponding button he goes flying. There’s some simple platforming puzzles at the start of the game using the paddles to reach places that Yoku couldn’t otherwise get to, and the mechanics are introduced in a way that does an impressive job of succinctly explaining how the game works.
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