The pinball platformer is an idea developers like to feed quarters into every so often. If a character is round (Pac-Man, Kirby) or can bunch up into a ball (Sonic, Samus, enslaved Pokémon), then they’ve probably been bashed about by flippers at some point. But these games tend to be reskins of traditional pinball; few reflect their source material. Yoku’s Island Express doesn’t have a known mascot to trade on, but it does have bigger vision for bumper-boosted platforming.
Rather than confine its hero to a single table, Yoku explores an open world that’s peppered with flippers, bumpers, drains and lanes. Some screens are self-contained tables that have grown out of the jungle, but for the most part this familiar furniture is batting you up trees or pinging you across canyons. It moves like pinball then, but across a blueprint torn straight from Metroid: the big 2D map, backtracking, new powers to reach new areas. All good stuff.
Based on my first hour with the game I’m impressed with how Villa Gorilla play to the strengths of all their inspirations. Like a good Metroid-style game it whips you around interesting locations, turns a few on their head with new powers and leaves you hankering to see what is just out of reach. And like a good pinball game it rewards consistency; spotting the sequence of attack is one thing, pulling off that chain of moves is quite another.
And it looks to get better as it goes on. Right now I’m plugging steam vents with a tribe of gremlins repurposed as a classic multiball. I imagine I’ll be doing something completely different in ten minutes’ time. In the video below I talk through some of the basics, explore the opening area and crush a load of slugs to a gooey paste. If you too want to declare war on slugkind, Yoku’s Island Express ricochets onto Steam on May 29.
Please do subscribe to the RPS YouTube channel for more of this kind of thing.