3.75/5 (4)
Consider pinball, and you think blazing lights and loud noises. It’s a quick, precise, demanding type of play. You definitely couldn’t call it quiet. But then here’s a game that makes it so. A so-called ‘pinball enterprise’, Yoku’s Island Express conducts itself with a joyful appeal from title screen to credits. It’s happily smooth vibe guarantees that any potential dissatisfaction simply dissolves away.

From the minute Yoku—a mail delivery beetle—is sent flying up from the wilderness floor through the mist, rising against Nintendo-blue skies and the title logo, you know you’re in good hands. Bound to a ball through an unbreakable line, Yoku can roll along level surfaces or up and down ramps. But unlike a large portion of his platforming peers, he can’t hop. Rather, the flippers, launchers, and guards scattered over the world are his principle strategy for motion.

Progress is genuinely direct above ground. However, jump into a pipe or enter a building and you’ll find many-side networks of slopes and rails, close by single-screen mini tables and others that frame natural riddles, spreading up, and out over the map. You’ll hit targets to free shy little animals, scatter spores for friendly fungi, and protect tadpoles from a mammoth turtle. There are higher-stakes journeys, however even the boss encounters aren’t precisely high-weight circumstances: let the ball fall between any pair of flippers and the thorns beneath just scratch a hole in your wallet, taking a couple of bits of your money with them. Adjacent launchers let you return to the action rapidly, and within seconds you’ll likely have grabbed a grapefruit or a bundle of bananas to supplant what little you lost.

In the meantime, its painterly world revels your curiosity, taking you from hot springs to frozen peaks, mystery bases to trickling caverns—and not always by design, since a mishit can send you down a trail that twists and bends from your planned path. In any case, there’s quite often an easy route back, or a reward anticipating you wherever you wind up.


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