Mario's loyal dinosaur companion Yoshi may have made his debut in the Super Nintendo classic Super Mario World, but one year later Nintendo gave him his own title on the rapidly fading NES. That game was Yoshi, and it's now come to non-Ambassadors on the 3DS eShop.
It's a falling block puzzler, which is a genre every video game character must star in at some point, we guess. However, it's not a simple question of matching tiles. You can do that, of course, but what you really need to shoot for in order to score big is a combination of tiles sandwiched between two halves of an egg. If you can pull that off you'll be rewarded with an avalanche of points — which of course grows larger the more tiles you've grouped together — and good old Yoshi will pork up a bit in the bottom right of your screen.
For those who haven't played the game before, that might sound confusing, so we'll explain a bit more. Unsurprisingly, tiles drop from the top of the screen and move towards the bottom. You have no control over their positioning, but you can control the plates below. This means that if a Goomba tile is falling in the left-hand column and you'd like it to land on another Goomba, or on the bottom half on an egg, which is in a different column, you can simply swap plates back and forth until it lands where you'd like it to be.
Matching two tiles of a kind will remove them both from play. Simple, right? That's where the egg halves come in.
The bottom half of an egg will simply take up space on your screen until a top half is stacked somewhere above it. No matter how many tiles are in between the two halves, the egg will come together, remove all interstitial tiles from play, and add to your score. So while you can play the game as a simple exercise in tile matching, it strongly behooves you to make use of these egg halves to their fullest potential. In doing so, of course, you run the risk of not receiving the top half in time, which can make the game feel a bit like recent eShop addition Bomb Monkey, with you hoping against hope to be dealt the one tile you need to survive before the stacks get too high and the game ends.
There are two single player modes, and one two-player mode. The single player modes consist of an endless option, in which you play until you inevitably overload a stack, and a stage-based mode, which sees you clearing all tiles from play, after which a congratulatory scene of Mario and his green steed plays for your delight.
The two-player mode, though, is where the main fun will be had. Featuring the welcome addition of Download Play, you and a friend can go head-to-head on a single copy of the game. This is definitely a great selling point.
However, the game itself simply isn't very addictive. While rotating stacks and reassembling eggs is definitely fun in short bursts, it starts to drag relatively quickly. The game increases in speed as you progress, but the increase is so gradual that you're likely to become bored before you're significantly challenged. The fact that you can close up your 3DS to play it again after a break definitely helps, but that doesn't change the simple fact that Yoshi never has that "grab factor" of the best falling block puzzlers, such as Tetris or Dr. Mario.
It's a good game, but far from a great one. The Download Play, we feel, warrants a purchase for those who don't already have it, but the game itself isn't likely to stay in your rotation for long.
The inclusion of Download Play definitely makes this version of Yoshi a bit more enjoyable than its bare-bones Ambassador release, but it's simply not as fast-paced or addictive as other falling block puzzlers. A great soundtrack and crisp visuals help the experience, but overall it's a pretty un-eggs-eptional game.