Now and then comes a game that represents a new idea. It could be a new variant of a classic. It could be a fusion of two genres. It could be something extraordinarily unique and unheard of. Yokus Island Express does it all by tipping the table and turning the Metroidvania genre upside down. With Flipper
It's actually not clear where Yokus Island Express came from. Both the metroidvania and the pinball aspects are so well represented and enhanced that it might as well be a pinball game that has received the Open World treatment. That's a great feeling while playing, because the whole game feels constantly new and exciting. Power-ups mean researching old areas for new hidden secrets and collectibles, but pinball sections around the world require the same kind of pinball wizardry The Who sang all those years ago.
Yoku is a newly arrived dung beetle from Mokumana Island to serve as her postmaster. He rolls his little white ball around the island to deliver mail and quickly discovers a great darkness threatening the island's existence and all its inhabitants. The entire island of Mokumana acts as a series of pinball tables to solve puzzles and move on to the next area, but between the table areas there are plenty of platforms to avoid feeling like a series of pinball tables that are simply strung together. Yokus Island Express constantly wants you to forget if this is a pinball game or a side scrolling adventure, in a way that always makes the game endearing. There is a natural flow from one moment to the next, and no load times mean Yoku is impossible to turn off.
Exploring the Island
The secret paths, bumpers, platforms and other elements that connect the entirety of the map really do remind you of the best Metroidvania games, sometimes hiding the biggest mysteries right under your nose in the early moments of the game. Yoku will visit places and tables on a regular basis while unlocking shortcuts that allow him to easily get from one side of the island to the other. Various side quests will send Yoku all over the map, and I never got tired of the various environments that make up the island of Mokumana.
Much of this charm comes from the hand-painted art style that appealed to me Rayman – especially the last two games, Rayman Legends and Origins recalled. The bright and sunny beach is decorated in lively blues and greens. The thicket of the forest is darkening, with deeper greens that give the feeling of being deep in a jungle. The windswept and snowy slopes of the mountain feel threatening as I climbed the jagged rocks before coming to a calm and cold summit overlooking the rest of the island. It is a beautiful and rewarding moment after the arduous task of overcoming the dangers to climb the top.
Yokus Island Express spans its metroidvania side, ensures that there are many secrets and secrets to solve Collect on the island. New abilities open up new directions and open new ways to play some of the tables, which in turn provide access to new places. New characters will give Yoku new goals and tasks. From the deepest depths of the Underdark to the summits of the mountain, there was much to discover, even after the story was completed. It introduced some elements that the game never had much to do, such as the ability to change ball colors. For most of my playing, I thought that was just cosmetic, until a single puzzle forced me to change the look of my ball. I wondered why this kind of clever mechanics had failed with more puzzles.
There are still a lot of brilliant puzzles with funny solutions and "Aha!" – Moments that spread throughout the game. The limited use of some mechanics makes me hopeful that the idea of an Open-World metroidvania pinball puzzle game has not yet been exploited. I think the Villa Gorilla team can explore and pursue this idea much better. In fact, Villa Gorilla consists of three people, and I'm more than impressed that a game as expansive and polished as Yoku's Island Express came from such a small team.
He Sure Plays a Mean Pinball
A great pinball game is only as good as its physics, and Yokus Island Express gets the right. It's hard to say if I would call the physics completely realistic, but the ball has a good weight. Some of the more complicated tables can be as tough as you would expect from a real pinball table, complete with tight and difficult punches. Yoku can not die or really fail, but when they fall through the thorn bushes between the two fins, Yoku loses fruit, a currency on the island. It also increases a counter in a secret area and influences something in one of the quests after the game.
It is this part of Yoku's Island Express that can frustrate some people. The tables are naturally incorporated into the environment – never really like a "table", but rather a platform area with fins. While the art is breathtaking and beautiful, it's not always obvious what you need to hit or where to aim next. Very occasionally, the path can be either pretty closed or in a really hard angle. My personal frustration came in the form of purple flowers that you can swing around on. It was always a matter of patience to get the finish right. While I appreciated the difficulty of some of the parts of Yoku I'm sure there will be those who get stuck on certain pinball-focused sections and are frustrated. It's a game that will test both your Metroidvania prowess and pinball skills the best way.
If Yoku's adventure has a big drawback, then I wanted more. As big as the island of Mokumana, I could not stop playing after completing everything the island had to offer. I was always impressed with the clever designs all over the world, whether it was a simple platform with bumpers and fins or a complex boss fight with a multi-stage pinball table and a clever "extra ball" mechanics. Yes, in Yokus Island Express there are pinball boss battles. I just want to see what other clever things Villa Gorilla can devise to add to the brilliant and added ideas in the game.
Yokus Island Express is the open-world pinball adventure you never knew you wanted, but you have to play it. The vibrant art, the expansive world and the funny story combine with the best elements of metroidvania and pinball games to create a new experience unlike anything else.
Yokus Island Express review code from the publisher. Version 1.00 checked for standard PS4. For more information on scoring, see our Review Policy