When I read that Yoku’s Island Express was described as an “open-world pinball adventure”, I had my doubts. I don’t mind pinball in short bursts, but I couldn’t believe they could actually make an engaging “adventure” out of it. But seeing as this was a free demo, I had nothing to lose but time.
The main character is a dung beetle, and newly hired postmaster, named Yoku. My very first impression was that the graphics were bright and the characters were quite adorable, followed by the budding realization that a so-called “pinball adventure” was actually a very real thing, after all. While Yoku can push a ball left and right, he is unable to jump, so you gain ground by using the pinball bumpers strewn about the landscape. As you scale the mountains of Mokumana Island, you collect lots of fruit, which can be spent to unlock more pinball bumpers to reach new areas.
The demo had us climbing around the island in search of a mushroom to feed to a grumpy eel, during which we found a party noisemaker that Yoku could use to get the attention of locals and break certain items, which I found to be quite hilarious. By the time the demo had ended with us getting rid of these soot things clogging up a house, my opinion of the game was miles more positive than when I began.
This game was surprisingly fun and addicting, and I find it quite impressive that they were able to take something as simple as pinball and make it into what some people are describing as Metroidvania pinball. The only similar game I played in the past was Sonic Spinball on the Sega Genesis, though I thought that game was pretty frustrating, what with the ability to die and lose a lot of progress if you made a mistake. Fortunately, I didn’t have such issues with this game, though I can’t exactly say I know what the game’s difficulty is like later on.
But at least as far as the demo is concerned, Yoku’s Island Express is a surprisingly fun and unique game that I wouldn’t mind playing more of in the future. People say the game is 5-6 hours for the main game and about 8-10 if you want to get 100%. At $19.99, it might be a bit pricey for the short length, but perhaps I’ll be making the game my own if it ever goes on sale in the future.