Yoku’s Island Express is the strangest game I’ve played this year, but not in a bad way. You are a cute little red dung beetle named Yoku who is a postman, just arrived on an island to take over from the former Island Express mailman. Your goal is to find the post office to deliver all the mail and overdue packages in this large and vast island. However, not everything goes as planned, and a looming threat is coming, which you will, unfortunately, find yourself mixed up into.
In Yoku’s Island Express, you will never stop rolling your dung ball, firmly attached to you by a wire. Why? Simply because all the gameplay is based on the proper use of this ball. Most of the world of Yoku’s Island Express is based on pinball board, where you will have to solve puzzles, travel around the world, discover secret rooms and face various threats. While it sounds simple and a bit dull at first, the game is far from that, perfectly merging this pinball mechanics with Metroidvania elements turning it into a game genre of its own.
In this game, everything is cute and nice (at first). The few threats that get in your way are all bad animals but with rather smooth and neat visuals. Some characters you meet will be grumpy or unkind, but conversations will always be in a lighter tone. That said, it does not stop Yoku’s Island Express from being a challenge, especially on some of the sidequests or pinball sections. The difficulty is present not just in terms of control but also timing, since hitting the ball a bit too early or a bit too late may make you spend a lot more time than expected in some parts of the game. However, nothing insurmountable if you are patient.
One thing that is amazing is the size of the playable area. The number of areas to discover is quite impressive and the main quests and sidequest are not really easy. From the beginning of the game, you have a glimpse of what to expect when the first quest goals appear on your map and you kind of wonder what you got yourself into.
The game relies on resources – but also new abilities to collect – to advance further into the story and the island. For this, Yoku has on him a small wallet that allows him to collect fruits which will act as currency to unlock pinball flips and bouncing platforms to reach new places. By meeting certain conditions or by searching in chests, you will be able to increase the maximum capacity of fruit, especially as some important items require quite a lot of them. Now that you have your ball for the pinball section, and your bag of fruit, there’s more and that’s all linked to the extra abilities you can unlock, thus the Metroidvania factor.
By progressing in the adventure, you will be able to recover items to customize your ball skills (and looks) and of course, will help you to advance in the scenario. These abilities are pretty well animated and quite funny, including the Noisemaker (a party horn that burst bubbles), a sootling on a leash (a grapple cord creature) and much more. In any case, there’s no death or game over in this title, just losing a bunch of fruits from your game, which is still punitive in its own way.
Yoku’s Island Express was reviewed using a Nintendo Switch digital download code purchased by the writer. The game is also available on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 via digital store releases. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published (click here for more information about our review policy).
• Yoku and his crazy abilities
• A great playable world with tons of parts to explore
• Quirky designs, music, and sound effects
• A really great fusion of Metroidvania and pinball gameplay
• The map can be a bit difficult to read on the Nintendo Switch
• Some pinball sections can be frustrating