Yoku’s Island Express can only be described as a 2D adventure-platformer, but all of the platforming is done in pinball machines.
Some are going to liken it to a MetroidVania, and the game has exploration around an open map with gated progress locking you out of certain areas without the right abilities. As such, you definitely could describe it the way of a MetroidVania, however, there isn’t any combat in the game, save for a few boss fights, so it’s important to make sure you know what you’re getting before you buy.
The game controls very well, no matter what input method you use. On keyboard, left-shift controls the blue flipper, and right-shift the yellow flipper. If you plug in a control, you’re using left trigger and right trigger instead.
In order to add some variety, all of the abilities that are unlocked add new ways to interact with the environment, which allows the player to access new areas, as mentioned above, but in addition, also add new elements to the exploring and pinball sections of the game.
Although the story of the game has a serious undertone, as the entire island is doomed to destruction, Yoku’s job title is officially just the postmaster, so I never took it too seriously, and all in all the feel of the entire adventure is very bright and positive thanks to the colorful characters that you meet along the way.
For those that are still enjoying the game after completing the main story, there are also side missions, a range of collectibles, and little mini-challenges strewn across the entire island for those completionists. These extra objectives will add a few additional hours of play, without the need for too much travel thanks to the fast travel system in the game being quite flexible, allowing you to jump out at multiple spots to get where you want to go quickly.
If you can’t tell just by looking at screenshots and videos, Yoku’s Island Express features an incredible art-style. There entire island is painted with beautiful detail. The colours are bright and the pathways are well-defined. Not only that, but the trees and bushes sway in the wind, and some areas backgrounds are animated with nice weather effects which all add to the beauty of the game. Yoku is also quite the character, although small in size, his little run and swim animations are adorable, and the way that he dangles behind the ball when in pinball sections is amusing too.
The sound design is incredible too. The soundtrack is silly and upbeat, with each area having it’s own theme. I personally didn’t find the soundtrack to get repetitive either, despite spending quite a bit of time in each section. The sound effects are great too, the flippers have a very chunky flicking sound, and the various other pinball effects all sound great too. Each individual character that you meet throughout the game has a silly Banjo-Kazooie, style sound effect voice that really adds to the overall feel of the game.
The fun pinball gameplay with simple controls, inability to die, bright colors, bubbly soundtrack and sound effects, and the silly characters make this game a great adventure for players of all ages. I can’t recommend this game highly enough.