A Delightful Weekend Getaway
Yoku's Island Express is a cute little platformer/pinball game with a great soundtrack that doesn't overstay it's welcome.
You are some kind of bug (I just looked it up, apparently you are a beetle) that's attached to a ball for no apparent reason and you roll your ball around, playing through small and unique pinball tables to advance through the game. It does a great job of slowly introducing you to the gameplay mechanics; you start out with nothing but soon get a little party whistle that made me laugh every single time I used it for the rest of the game. From there, you slowly collect items and open a fast travel system that takes you around the map quicker. It's a surprisingly fun game for someone who usually just curses at pinball games. You can find all kinds of cool secrets around every corner, and it does a nice job of switching between pinball tables and platforming in the overworld. The fast travel is a godsend later in the game when you have to travel all over the map to accomplish tasks. I will say that before unlocking the fast travel or if you're far away from a fast travel location (you can only do it from a few choice locations on the map), it can be annoying to have to rehash the same pinball tables you've already cleared over and over if you fall off an edge or want to go back to explore something with a new ability you've gained. I spent an annoying amount of time re-treading places I had already been and re-doing pinball boards just to get back to where I needed to be to fast travel.
The pinball mechanics are very responsive, and you won't die that often. When you fall below the pinball board it just takes some of your fruit (think coins) away, that you use to buy little cannons that shoot you into a new area or other goodies. It isn't a game you're going to spend a lot of time dying and having to re-start, generally you can just re-collect all the fruit you lost by continuing to play in the pinball table. It's nice that it isn't too punishing, as the game seems to recognize that re-playing the same pinball games over and over could get super frustrating. There are some frustrating parts that require several shots with deadly accuracy and if you miss you have to start the whole section over, but generally the boards are short and designed just to move you through to the next level.
Once you get far enough in (and that isn't very far as this game is only maybe 5-6 hours long) you can have several quests open at once and can accomplish them in whatever order you want, with the vast majority not even being required to complete the game. I didn't even bother collecting the seemingly unlimited items to find in every nook and cranny, and I still found enough to encourage me to keep exploring. The creators of this game clearly understood how to not overstay their welcome, 5-6 hours is the perfect amount of time for this fun little game and by the time you start to get tired of playing pinball the credits will roll. If you're a hardcore fanatic you can collect a bunch of extra items and do all sorts of additional missions, but none of them are necessary to enjoy and finish the game without worrying about being a completionist.
You are here to save the island from a bad guy. It's pretty straightforward and I appreciate that the game doesn't care about the story and you don't have to, either. The characters you meet are cute but not deep by any stretch of the imagination, but they are entertaining nonetheless. The game doesn't have to make sense to be fun, and now you don't have to spend 10 hours reading text bubbles. Thanks Yoku!
The Graphics in this game are beautiful watercolor backgrounds set in lush forests, deep caves, and gorgeous little beaches. There are islands everywhere so obviously you will see a lot of water as well, and each section of the game fits nicely with the island theme. I will say it's hard to read the map from the switch when playing undocked because the screen is so small, but this game is meant to be played on a big TV where you can enjoy the gorgeous graphics in full.
This game has a short OST, but several of them are worth listening to on their own. It is generally relaxing beach music with a little bit of weirder stuff thrown in every once in a while. To listen tot he best music from the game, check out "Yoku Taidua," "Welcome to Mokumana," and "Flight of the Space Monks," and
Overall this game was the perfect length for a short weekend game that gives a new, clever spin on all the metroidvania games out there today. It's worth the $15-20 price for sure.