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Yoku's Island Express is a gorgeous pinball platformer

you are a dung beetle

The title might remind you of famous baby-tending egg monster Yoshi, but Yoku's Island Express [official site] has more in common with a certain Sega spin-off than anything from the Nintendo stable. This is a game for all of us who wish Sonic Spinball had spawned a thousand imitators, though the trailer shows a much more expansive platform game with pinball elements rather than Spinball's tiny tables. Developers Villa Gorilla describe it as "an open world/metroidvania-style pinball adventure" and what a handsome open world it is.

It's the pinball features that caught my eye, but it's the rest that kept my attention. Sure, the trailer doesn't show a great deal but there's enough to convince me I'd like to see more. As much as anything else, I really like the idea of playing as a dung beetle who is trying to deliver the post.

"Yoku the dung beetle sets foot on the beach of Mokumana Island, ready to take on the duties as the new postman. But the ancient island God is trapped in a restless sleep and the islanders are plagued by quakes and storms brought forth by its nightmares."

The game might look adorable but that's some Cthulhu type behaviour right there. But forget the possible cosmic horrors and think about the sheer joy of delivering parcels by strapping yourself to a ball and catapulting, ricocheting and bouncing around the world. At first I figured the balls were the packages, but, no, there's little Yoku attached to the ball, launching himself toward the addressees, letter in hand, like a champ.

Villa Gorilla say the setting was inspired by Studio Ghibli, among other things:

"Yoku's Island Express is inspired by the joy of exploration of a young child, having just found the entrance to a secret garden, or unlocked the door to an attic full of wonderful and interesting things to discover. It takes some of its direction from Studio Ghibli films, where nature is infused with spirit and life, but combined with a strong focus on painterly, hand-made visuals where all the locations are unique and hand-made."

Release is a long way off, late in the year at the earliest, but I'm hoping to try out a demo at GDC next week.

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About the Author

Adam Smith


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