Yoku’s Island Express (PS4, Switch, Xbox One, PC)

In this game you play as a dung beetle named Yoku who has set out for an island to start his new job as Postmaster.  But when he arrives he soon learns that an evil being has scratched and scarred the guardian of the island, leaving it for destruction.  Now it’s up to the little dung beetle to deliver summons to the leaders of the island so they can perform a ritual of healing and save the day.  But how can a little dung beetle who can’t even jump do that?  Well, like all dung beetles, Yoku rolls around a ball of…well, let’s just say it’s sand since it’s all white in this game.  This island has pinball-like flippers scattered all over the place, so you’ll flip and toss Yoku and his clump around like a pinball!  So yeah, it’s a pinball-platformer hybrid and very similar to Sonic Spinball.  So if you enjoyed that one, you’ll definitely want to read this review.  Yoku’s Island Express is available on nearly all current consoles, but reviewed on PS4 here.

Yoku really can’t do much on his own.  You can move him left and right, and soon after you start you get a party horn you can blow with the X button to break small objects and get people’s attention.  But when you press the L and R trigger buttons when there are flippers on screen, you’ll activate them and send Yoku flying if he’s on them.  Many of the games challenges are set inside little pinball tables, and you must hit objects and go up ramps to open paths to achieve your goals.

The game has many collectables, but the most common are fruits inside bubbles.  These act as both your currency and your “lives.”  You use the fruits you’ve collected to open up new flippers and other things.  But when you are on a pinball table, if you let the ball go down a hole, you’ll run into some thorns and Yoku will lose some fruit as well.  If you lose all your fruit you’ll start at the last checkpoint.  Luckily I never had that problem in this game, and the checkpoints are scattered so frequently it wouldn’t be much of a setback anyway.

As a Postmaster you’ll deliver a lot of goods and messages to the residents of the island.  The map is set up similar to a Metroid style game where you can revisit places with new skills to open up new paths and goodies.  Later on you’ll be able to dive underwater, suck up explosive slugs, and swing on certain plants.  The game offers a few ways for you to get around quickly, but sometimes backtracking is still a bit of a chore because of the pinball setup, and the map doesn’t always help make things clear either.

The other main problem with the game is the controls.  Just moving and flipping around works great, and it’s easy to get the ball where you want it to go most of the time.  But later skills like sucking up exploding slugs and swinging on plants, the controls aren’t as precise and don’t always work, which is a shame as it makes the game needlessly frustrating sometimes.  Also, the game is a little on the short side, but there are TONS of secrets.  Seriously, when I beat the game it still said I had less than 50 percent of it complete!  Wow!  So yeah, despite these problems, I still enjoyed the game a lot and it can be quite addicting.  Definitely a good example of an indie game done right.

Kid Factor:

Yoku’s Island Express is rated E-10 with ESRB descriptors of Animated Blood, Crude Humor, and Fantasy Violence.  There’s not really much in the way of blood, but lots of animated bug guts and scratches.  You’ll also do things like launch a rocket with an evil spider inside, so that’s a little brutal.  There’s also a bit of potty humor involving bat poop that you can actually see coming from a bat, and the fact that you’re rolling around a ball of what could possibly be dung the entire game!  But other than that I think it’s a great game the whole family can enjoy.

3 Responses to “Yoku’s Island Express (PS4, Switch, Xbox One, PC)”

  1. I played a couple of hours and really enjoyed it.

  2. I like the graphics and possibly the mechanics as well. I’ll look for it on Xbox One.

  3. It’s funny, I never got that into pinball (or video game versions thereof) but this was squarely in my wheelhouse. I can’t remember the last time I bothered to get all the collectibles in a game, but by the time I got to the credits I had nearly everything, so I got right back in and grabbed the last few stragglers. I think the Switch was its natural home, too — perfect for playing in bed!

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