At first glance, Yoku’s Island Express appears to be just a regular metroidvania. That is, until one notices that there is no jump and the playable character is a beetle rolling a ball around. This is because the game takes all of the elements from a metroidvania game (platforming, bosses, etc.) and combines it with pinball. The result is a unique, yet fun experience.
Seamless pinball elements. Yoku’s Island Express does an excellent job of incorporating pinball elements into a metroidvania game. The game world is explored using flippers scattered throughout, allowing the player to jump to higher areas, cross gaps, or drop down to lower areas. However, scattered throughout this same world is a number of actual pinball tables (or more like pinball walls in this game’s case). Within these areas, the player is tasked with tackling more traditional pinball gameplay, hitting certain switches or breaking through different obstacles to open up previously locked areas. The game transitions between more traditional platforming and actual pinball so seamlessly that it just feels natural, despite the stark contrast between the two.
Great aesthetic. This game gave me heavy Rayman vibes, particularly that of Rayman Legends. Everything from the art style, music, and even the design of the game’s world just screamed Rayman to me. The aesthetic is so similar that it is almost criminal, but I am definitely not complaining, as it really does fit. The game world is full of fun, colorful creatures to talk to and the game’s overall color scheme just radiates positivity. It is quite a joy to roll around and explore such a world.
Fun exploration. The world of Yoku’s Island Express is packed full of stuff to find. Secret rooms are waiting to be discovered, chests full of upgrades are scattered about, and there are a number of side quests to be completed as well. The game simply has so much stuff to do outside of the main story that I was only at 54% completion by the time the credits rolled. I even made an effort to find secrets and such during that playthrough. I have always appreciated games that filled their world to the brim with content like this and Yoku’s Island Express goes above and beyond in that regard.
Slow traveling. Traveling around the world of Yoku’s Island Express can be quite annoyingly slow at times. Getting to and from on the map often requires the player to enter previously completed pinball areas and land precise shots to get back to the other side. The game does mitigate this problem a bit through its use of rail ducts (allowing some of these pinball areas to be bypassed if already completed) and its fast travel system (allowing long-distance travel at a price), but these additions only remedy the problem slightly. The rail ducts are only available at a few of the pinball areas, leaving the vast majority without. The fast travel system, while useful in the late-game, is not worth it in the early game because it costs so much fruit to use. That fruit is better spent on locked flippers, as many of them are required for the player to progress. Sure, the player can grind for more fruits at any of the pinball areas, but the idea of grinding in a pinball game does not sound appealing.
Boring sidequests. I may have praised the amount of content packed into the game world, including the sidequests, but it does not help when the majority of the game’s sidequests are simple fetch quests or something similar. One quest, for example, has the player taking up the role of a mailman tasked with delivering packages around the island in order to earn the title of postmaster. These quests just bore too quickly, especially considering how painful it can be to travel the map earlier in the game. Once the fast travel system is up and functional, it becomes less of a pain, but a pain regardless.
The unique blend of metroidvania and pinball is done excellently and with a great aesthetic to match. The world is also full of secrets to find, but is victim to a number of boring fetch quests and annoyingly slow travel times. Even so, the game is an easy recommendation. The genre combination alone makes it quite the refreshing experience.
You can buy Yoku’s Island Express on Steam here.
I was provided a free review copy of the game in order to write this review. Read more about how I do my game reviews here.