If history has taught me anything it is that when it comes to anything Team 17 get their hands on, it will be a success. It’s not the fact that I live about 100 meters from their original offices or that I am lucky enough to have been a part of their Usability Lab (testing the games before release), it is the fact that they have a solid history in the gaming world from the likes of Alien Breed which I wish they would bring back to Worms.
Yoku’s Island Express; developed by Villa Gorilla and published by Team 17, is a 2d pinball inspired open world game featuring a dung beetle postman who’s job it is on his first day is to save the world in which he works. I wonder just how many times that line has been used to describe a game? I’m trying to think back over my gaming history and I can’t think of another game quite like this one.
I was lucky enough to actually have a full day at the Team 17 offices testing this game before release and I do remember time flying past. It was so much fun to play. The thing is, upon release, there was even more added to the game that I don’t remember from the test build which made it even more fun.
Yoku the dung beetle is constantly pushing around his ball of dung which is batted around using the islands hundreds of pinball paddles. The great thing about this game is that puzzles are thrown into the mix which you have to solve within the fast pace of a pinball machine firing Yoku into areas where you may not have been able to reach before. The great thing is that these various ‘Pinball Tables’ are seamlessly interwoven by the use of tunnels and rails and you never notice any sort of transition between them.
The basic idea is to deliver the mail to the various inhabitants of the island, but of course there is a story to be solved working away in the background. By doing various favours for the islands inhabitants you start to gain extra ‘dung powers’ (well, that’s my way of describing it) and can do new tricks with your little ball of poop which obviously then helps you to gain access to new ares of the game you may not have previously been able to reach.
The actual map of the game is huge but luckily within the game you can unlock a fast travel method which basically fires you from beehive to beehive to get where you need to much faster than becoming lost within the regions of the game.
The scenery is beautiful to look at, but it is also extremely clever. There are so many hidden secrets within the world that are hard to find including various treasure chests containing masses of fruit which is used as in-game currency, but there is more. Some of the chests will hold paint schemes for your dung ball. One point of the map has a hidden area where you can then use these paints to help you with other aspects of the game. I don’t want to give too much away with regards to this, but for one mission you have to speak to a Queen Bee, but her drones wont let you get near to her to talk. You will have to paint your dung ball to fool them into letting you past. The problem is, its not as simple as just painting it yellow, you will have to mix two colours together. This method can be used throughout the game to access other areas that would be normally closed off unless you have the right combination of colours to pass.
The story took me about 7 hours to complete, but it doesn’t stop there. There is a whole host of things to focus on and complete especially for those of you who want to rack up your trophies and will keep you busy for a long time. It’s easy to realise you need to go to a certain part of the island, but reaching it is another matter with the various paths that you can take. There are also so many areas when you think you have opened up the whole of the island that you see on the map and think ‘how the hell do I get there’. It took me a long time to actually work out some of the secret paths and entrances.
There is no replay value within the game though. Once you have completed the story and then have spent another few hours batting your beetle from paddle to paddle collecting as much as you possibly can until there is nothing else really to do then you’re done. There is nothing there to suggest wanting to start over again and possibly doing some things differently as there really is no other way of doing them.
Yoku’s Island Express was released in 2018 and therefore has now been around for a while, but since testing it at the offices I really wanted to get my hands on the full game to put some serious time and effort in and I’m glad I did. The entire experience was a joy from start to finish and is certainly a game that you need to get your hands on to experience for yourself.
8/10 is a strong score for this game the only complaint I do have is that once you have finished the game there is no replay value in it, which is a pity.
**PLEASE NOTE: AIR Entertainment were kindly supplied with a review copy of the game by Team 17 and has in no way influenced my review**