What I'm Playing - No. 156
Welcome back to another weekly wrap-up of the games I’ve been playing over the past week!
There are no spoilers in this post.
Click a title to skip to that section. Games contained within this post:
Yoku’s Island Express (PC)
Yoku’s Island Express is a combination of two things that I never imagined could come together this well: pinball, and metroidvania.
You play as a dung beetle named Yoku as he’s arriving to Mokumana Island to take on the job as the island’s postmaster. One thing I couldn’t get out of my head when playing this game, I kept reading Mokumana Island as Monokuma Island by accident, which would be a very different thing. Anyway, Yoku travels everywhere with a perfectly round stone, rolling it around and getting pulled around by it thanks to the tether connecting him to it. For some inexplicable reason, Mokumana Island is filled with pinball paddles, which are made for playing pinball with Yoku and his rock.
If you don’t like pinball at least a little, you probably won’t like this game. You don’t need to love pinball or have played other pinball games to enjoy it, but if the idea of playing pinball disgusts you then Yoku’s Island Express probably isn’t for you. I haven’t played much pinball in my day, I remember playing some 3D Pinball Space Cadet on an old version of Windows, but that’s about the extent of the virtual pinball I’ve played. I really liked Yoku’s Island Express though! The pinball mechanics are fun, and blending them together with metroidvania elements is a really novel concept.
Primarily, you’ll spend your time exploring the island, rolling and pinballing your way around. The rest of the time, you’ll be overcoming the various pinball tables the game throws at you. These are integrated naturally into the world map, but you can tell when one is coming because you’ll pass through a little tube to enter them. In the pinball tables, you’ll have to either hit certain precise targets, collect a few key-like items to open up the path forward, and there’s even a few boss fights in the game during these parts. Some of these got a little challenging, requiring some specific timing in order to hit the right targets, but luckily there’s no game overs or life systems in the game. If you fall to the bottom of the table into the thorns, you just lose a few pieces of fruit - the game’s currency, which is easy enough to earn back. There’s no need to be a pinball wizard to enjoy the game, which is nice.
Aside from giving you a large world to explore non-linearly, Yoku also earns its metroidvania badge by featuring several abilities that you unlock throughout the game to open up more of the world to you. Among these are the ability to dive underwater, and another one that lets you slingshot yourself around. Plus, there’s a number of optional collectibles you can backtrack for once you’re fully upgraded, as well as several side quests. In light of all this, it really feels like a metroidvania, but because of the pinball mechanic it definitely stands out within the genre.
Plus, the art style is really colorful, and I like the painted look it all has. The opening area is especially upbeat and charming, and the music helps a lot in that regard. That said, there is diversity in both the environments and music. It’s not all bright and upbeat, with a few creepy and mysterious areas mixed in here and there to keep things from becoming too one-note.
Once I finish a game’s main story these days, I usually stop playing. Yoku’s Island Express was such a fun, fresh experience that I played a little more even after finishing the main story. My final time for the main story was 4 hours 47 minutes, and after I went back into it to experience the joy of pinball again, I had completed a few more side quests and gotten a few more collectibles, and my final time came to about 6 hours 20 minutes. If the pinball metroidvania concept sounds at all interesting to you, I recommend giving Yoku’s Island Express a try, it’s a great time!