Tag Archives: Cute

Yoku’s Island Express review

Yoku’s Island Express combines pinball mechanics, platforming and adventure in a remarkably compelling and enjoyable package. Think Sonic Spinball meets Dizzy. Pinball flippers help you guide the dung beetle protagonist and his attached ball of dung around a diverse island environment. Meanwhile, the tale of a new postman unravels as you roll and crawl around the island dropping off mail in post boxes and otherwise helping the denizens of this remote land, a land steeped in mystery and lore. It’s fantastically entertaining and intriguing.

Indeed, it’s a clever melding of mechanics that works so well because of excellent level design. Starting on the beach you make your way through a forest, up in to the tree canape, a snow-covered mountain, a dusty desert and the dark, damp depths, all the while aiding the creatures you encounter and fulfilling your new role as the postman for the island. Crawling gets you across the flat areas but pinball flippers, and later an ingeniously appropriate fast travel system, handle the rest.

The right and left bumpers activate the blue and orange flippers you find to launch you up to new levels of elevation or propel you through tunnels and caves. It’s broken down into short walking sections, quick flipper propelled transitions to new areas, and full-blown pinball setups. Moreover, by progressing with the main story, as well as the personal stories of the denizens, you unlock more areas of the well-sized island play-area. Through new items, relationships with NPCs, and the currency of fruit you collect, new paths open up, allowing you to explore further.

As such, there’s also some Metroidvania backtracking to this style of exploration and unlocking of new abilities. Early on there are plenty of teases of collectables blocked by barriers that you can return to and collect later, and thanks to opportunities to spend your fruit to buy maps that mark the location of these collectables, you’ll seldom lose them entirely, although the map does fail to show you accurately what has and hasn’t been collected until you pass a save point and sometimes not until you approach that area.

Navigating to them, however, can be tricky. Despite a fast travel system being introduced in the later stages of the adventure it’s limited to where it can take you. The depths of the island are particularly difficult to get to and can lead to some frustration as you search far and wide for the right path. However, the island is also full of secret areas, ones that tend to reveal themselves during this practise of searching for the right path. It’s level of frustrating on you will largely depend on your sense of reward from these little secrets.

The main story and your other interactions with the flora and fauna cast is charming and very reminiscent of Dizzy titles. Largely you’ll be sent on fetch quests, but this feels perfectly appropriate considering your postman duties. Some more unique requests also crop up that take some extra thought, but they’re intuitive enough to fuel your intrigue and need to explore rather than truly task your grey matter. And indeed, there are plenty of things to keep you busy. The island is truly packed with content. This does mean that it’s a busy environment, but for the most part you’re kept to the critical path as the main story unfold, only afterwards does the island truly become open to you.

Indeed, if you enjoyed the 2D adventure games of yore then Yoku’s Island Express is ideal to scratch that itch, the addition of pinball mechanics for the majority of the movement is a lovely bonus. Moreover, it works splendidly, with the physics doing a bang-up job of making the pinball sections feel just right. They require some pinball wizardry too, with marks to hit and a timer to be wary of, largely in the form of exploding snails attached to your ball of dung, it’s terrific fun, a fairly unique melding of mechanics, and full of charm and smart design.

Thanks to Xbox and Team 17 for supporting TiX

Super Lucky’s Tale review

A lot is asked of modern 3D platformers, largely because the giants of the genre have perfected so many of the mechanics of these terrific adventure games. Bright and welcoming visuals and audio, intuitive and clever level design, likeable characters, tight and responsive controls, and a 3D camera that’s quick and easy to manoeuvre yourself but dynamic enough to follow you and twist and turn at the right moments. Super Lucky’s Tale only really gets some of these elements right, but despite the odd blunder with those it struggles with, it’s still an excellent 3D platformer.

You take control of an adorable fox, on a quest to defeat a family of fiendish felines as they mean to take control of an all-powerful book and take over the world. It provides enough of a narrative drive to push the experience forwards but it certainly lacks the chops to enthral you. Fortunately, it can take a back seat, offering the occasional opportunity for a gag from one of the cats or a tip from your sister in regards to mechanics. It’s the joy of platforming and collecting that truly keeps you coming back.

However, the joy of the platforming is frequently threatened by the aforementioned blunders with the mechanics. It can occasionally feel a little sluggish moving Lucky around, particularly when jumping. Additionally, the camera isn’t free moving and turns in fixed degrees. This can make some areas a little tricky to see and manoeuvre within. Fortunately, the areas you’re exploring are on the small side. Indeed, Super Lucky’s Tale provides themed hub worlds, with doors leading to small self-contained levels. It’s a smart design that helps mark your progress and makes the camera control less frustrating. Moreover, levels take on one of two forms: a 3D environment to explore or a 2D level to scroll through. There’s also variety beyond that, with levels offering different mini-quests, some triggered by denizens of each level and some automatic, such as fetching objects for characters or auto scrolling levels forcing you to react accordingly. It’s pleasantly varied.

We also encountered some performance issues when running on an Xbox One S. Switching to the Xbox One X, however, cleared that issue up completely and granted jaw droopingly crisp visuals to boot. This, however, did introduce a more novel problem: a sense of overwhelming. Super Lucky’s Tale is utterly crammed full of objects, flora and fauna, all beautifully animated and sporting vibrant colours. It makes each frame remarkably busy, offering such a huge array of things you can interact with it can be a bit too much to comprehend. Largely, these are in fact just decoration or destroyable objects hiding trinkets, the rest is superfluous but gorgeous, and a plausible reason for the frame rate issues on the older Xbox hardware. You do eventually get used to it, and despite it being initially overwhelming it’s a marvellous reaction to have to a game’s visual design.

At the core of the experience is collecting four-leafed clovers from each level, unlocking boss fights and defeating the gang of cats. Each level challenges you to find four clovers, each requiring different criteria to be completed. It’s a little on the obtuse side, initially, offering little clue as to how precisely to unlock each clover, but some trial and error soon fixes that. Even the controls are a bit of a mystery at first, with some of Lucky’s moves not explained at all. Indeed, Super Lucky’s Tale fails to fully explain its mechanics and world to you and it can be a little frustrating as you figure it all out on your own, but once it does all click, there’s no denying how much fun the experience is.

The collectathon compulsion is strong here, and completionists will find each missed clover tormenting. Moreover, the boss fights are locked behind collecting a certain number of clovers, pretty high amounts in fact, providing plenty of encouragement to replay levels and conquer their challenges. It makes what is essentially quite a short adventure a much longer one, but it doesn’t fall into the trap of padding so much as it feels like an experience designed around thorough, systematic level completion. It’s a design that forces a more linear progression than what’s typically found in the genre, which helps greatly with your quest to indeed complete the adventure one hundred percent. It’s a design quirk that won’t work for everyone, but for those looking for a 3D platformer with a stricter structure, it’s ideal.

Thanks to Xbox and Playful for supporting TiX