Thank you Team17 for sending us this game to review!
Yoku is a dung beetle headed to Mokumana Island to become their new postmaster. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes before his arrival as their deity, Mokumana, is attacked and it’s up to Yoku to rally the three island chiefs to save it.
A dung beetle is an interesting choice for a starring character. Thankfully, most of the time Yoku is rolling around a white pinball. Later on in the game, you can change its color. Though you can move left and right to explore the island, most of the movement in this game is done pinball-style!
Combining platforming and pinball genres is rather different, but fun. There are also some Metroid-like elements so you can throw Metroidvania into the genre mashup as well. Granted, I prefer having more control of my character like traditional platformers, but I enjoy the pinball aspects quite a bit too. The hand painted levels are very detailed and can be daunting at times when realizing that getting from point A to point B will require a lot of pinball action. Scattered around the levels are several telescopes to give you a broader view of the island to see how close you are to your next objective.
Like most platformers, you’ll need to collect stuff. Fruit is the collectible currency on this island. You’ll need to use fruit to unlock bumpers required to access new areas. Sometimes fruit is on the ground waiting to be picked up, but you’ll earn a lot more as you knock it loose in pinball areas. By putting mail in red mailboxes you’ll earn some fruit that way too. Wallet upgrades are worth seeking out as they allow you to carry more fruit at a time. Some of the bumpers cost eighty pieces of fruit to unlock and the beelines that allow you to quickly traverse the island cost one hundred pieces of fruit to activate them. Along with fruit, there are eighty wickerlings to collect during your journey.
The controls are pretty simple as the left trigger activates the blue flipper and the right trigger moves the yellow flipper. Some bumpers require both triggers to be pressed, but you won’t want to press both triggers all of the time. Many of the pinball sections have locked bumpers that require collecting purple orb-like keys to make them accessible. Other obstacles include boulders that can only be removed by vacuuming up explosive slugs and using them against the giant rocks.
Along your journey, Yoku will befriend some helpful allies. Kickback the Bee will block some thorny plants and prevent Yoku from getting injured and losing fruit from them. The Dive Fish allows Yoku to go underwater. In the beginning of the game, Yoku gets a party horn that’s useful for waking up slumbering characters and opening up flowers/checkpoints.
There is some cartoon violence as slugs explode and Yoku has to suck them up with his vacuum tool. In the beginning of the game there’s a giant eel-like creature that demands a toll of a mushroom. Yoku can give the eel a normal mushroom or a poisonous one that knocks it out. There are some boss battles and they’re handled pinball-style.
Yoku’s Island Express is a silly mashup that works surprisingly well. Because of the lack of control, I only enjoyed this game in small spurts. The game can be completed in six to eight hours depending on how good you are at pinball. If you enjoy platformers, Metroid, and pinball games, Yoku’s Island Express is worth checking out. If you’re still on the fence, there’s a demo available. This is an impressive first entry from Villa Gorilla and I look forward to more titles from them.