While I wouldn't call Yoshi's Island one of my favorite platformers, I certainly wouldn't bat an eye at the many who do. Yoshi's moveset is fairly complex, and the level design built around it is consistently inventive throughout the game's six worlds. I'm less convinced of the need for the need for, say, Yoshi's helicopter powerup or super baby Mario than Mario's various suits and hats in the older Mario games, but it's not a huge issue. The much-derided crying Mario "health" mechanic is one of the game's bigger strokes of core design success, providing leeway for mistakes in a way that's a bit more interesting—and less punishing—than in earlier Mario games, while still enforcing a degree of consistency and quick, smart responses from the player. If the level themes get a little repetitive at times, the art and especially the backgrounds are consistently beautiful. Whether it's the best-looking Mario game probably comes down to personal aesthetic preference (there's something to be said for the constrained strangeness of the NES visuals, especially in SMB3), it's certainly the most impressively detailed.
My biggest gripe with the game come down to the persistence of arcade-style design conventions (coin collecting, limited lives, etc). While I don't have any issue with these conventions per se, provided they are smartly integrated into the game design as a whole, here they feel almost vestigial. It smarts especially when the reward for unlocking a semi-hidden door turns out to be a slot machine minigame. This stuff feels strange in an otherwise (relatively) slow-paced, exploratory game, and gets at why my favorite SNES games tend to be the ones that abandon these conventions in favor of something else. Then again, the games I'm thinking of have direct antecedents back on the NES which I've never played, so back to gamer college for me I guess?
Reviewed on Apr 02, 2023