Some games just grab our attention – Yoku’s Island Express was one. Vibrant, lovely music, imaginative looking, and utterly charming, we’ve been awaiting its release with much relish. Swedish developer Villa Gorilla is behind it – the dev team formed in 2013. The result? A pinballvania title, an adaptation of the metroidvania genre, making this the first of its kind.
Its graphical style is similar to Ori and the Blind Forest, its logo is stylised like Yoshi’s Island, and it’s kind of like Kevin Costner’s the Postman (1997) meets the aforementioned Ori. Plus, with a heaping wodge of metroidvania to boot – it’s genuinely inspired, charming, wonderful, and relaxing. It’s our favourite indie game of 2018 (so far) and we DEMAND you purchase it on your games console, or PC, of choice. NOW, dammit!
Yoku’s Island Express
Yes, so there are plenty of metroidvania games around, but Villa Gorilla states on its press release it wants to innovate. A pinballvania game is its answer (check out the artistic INKS for more pinball wizardry– that’s a The Who reference) – you might laugh, but this is seriously one of the most infectiously (like an itchy rash, basically) endearing games we’ve come across in a fair old while.
It’s a simple premise. As with most indie games, you’re straight into the action (As opposed to your average AAA game, where you have to wait an hour for all the cut scenes to end). As the dung beetle Yoku, you crash land on an island and immediately get tasked, by a moody bird ending his shift, with delivering all the mail across the island. What ho, it’s adventure time – in comes the clever application of pinball flippers. But no balls.
Well, there is a ball and Yoku uses it to bounce himself around the island. Straight away, this is a simple mechanic that’s intuitive and great fun. As you bounce wildly all over the place, the intricate design of the world (best showcased in the game’s Super Metroid type map, which is stylised like Ori and the Blind Forest’s) gets quite jaw dropping in its free-flowing setup.
You’ll often enter an intricate series of pinball lanes and get shot from one end of the island to the next. It has a natural flow to it – you don’t get lost, or frustrated, or sweary as the game is so naturally charming and relaxing. Yoku can’t die, basically… we think. You do collect fruit as you go along to unlock pinball launchpads. If your fruit total hits 0, you may well die, but we didn’t hit any such issues. The game has a sedate difficulty setting – makes a goddamn change, after the nightmare that can be Runner3.
Oh, plus there’s that lovely soundtrack. Jesse Harlin is behind this one – it’s a joyous affair. Make no mistake, this is a game for all ages. Kids will love it, adults should find it enormously endearing, and old age pensions will be totally unaware it exists, due to differing cultural pastimes between generations (this does mean, of course, they won’t get offended by it, so that’s really great for the OAPs).