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Mini-Review: Yoshi Topsy-Turvy

YoshiIt's no secret that I love Super Mario games, so when Nintendo spun Yoshi off into his own series of games I happily followed.  Then the overly cute and simple Yoshi's Story left a sugary taste in my mouth as the developers behind the little green eating machine decided to skew Yoshi into a platformer apparently geared for younger audiences.  When this latest game to feature Yoshi as the star debuted with its motion tilt sensor shenanigans I was hesitant to dive into the adventure, and now after completing Yoshi Topsy-Turvy I see that my hesitation was justified.  It's a platformer game, yes, but it's lacking that certain something: that trademark Nintendo magic.  The game comes off as either a very detailed technical demo or a half-assed platformer game.

Stop me if you've heard this one before.  When a mischievous spirit transforms Yoshi's Island into a pop-up book, it's up to Yoshi to travel from page to page all the way to the end of the book to face Bowser and restore the island to its former glory.  This time the spirit is Hongo, and his spirit buddies maintain order over each world of the game.  The only way to progress is by earning medals from these spirits, and the only way to earn medals is to complete whatever objective the spirits lay before Yoshi.  For instance, one spirit demands Yoshi collect X amount of coins in one level, while another orders Yoshi to defeat Y amount of enemies.  Other spirits call for Yoshi to eat a certain number of apples, to not harm no more than a quantity of enemies, to reach the end of a level before time runs out, or to complete a level without being crunched by a sharp hazard object that chases Yoshi from start to finish.

The gimmick behind Yoshi Topsy-Turvy is that the game pak contains a motion sensor (last seen in WarioWare: Twisted! and Kirby Tilt N' Tumble) that changes the flow of the game with the Game Boy Advance is tilted from side to side.  Tilting controls gravity.  For instance, tilting to the right causes a large metal ball to roll across a xylophone or causes a rolled-up carpet to unfurl.  This also influences the direction of falling objects and even allows Yoshi to walk up certain walls.  Then there are pendulums that must be swung back and forth in order to break nearby blocks.  It's an interesting idea, but the implementation leaves something to be desired.  Learning to tilt the GBA in one direction while moving Yoshi is the opposite direction takes some time, and an airborne Yoshi falls in unexpected directions while tilting.

Yoshi Topsy-TurvyThe levels themselves are not the large open areas of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, but are instead small self-contained rooms similar to the areas of Kirby's Dream Land.  Each room holds a few coins, an apple, and some enemies and the idea is to perform whatever specific objective has been assigned and then proceed to the next room.  Each level contains anywhere from five to seven rooms.  If Yoshi has met the objective when he reaches the end of a level, he wins a medal.  If not, he receives nothing.  Each world is made up of anywhere from three to twelve levels and a certain number of medals is required to open up the next world.  Players don't have to complete every level of the game, but instead only need to complete enough levels to earn the required amount of medals.

Yoshi Topsy-Turvy is cute.  Damn cute, in fact.  Yoshi and his world look similar to the graphical style of Yoshi's Story, complete with dino whines and chirps.  Yoshi himself retains his familiar flutter jump and tongue attack, although digested enemies do not produce eggs.  There are no eggs at all, in fact.  Eating enemies is just another way of dispatching them.  Speaking of enemies, the rogue's gallery includes familiar Shy Guys and Boos as well as a few new creatures.  On the whole there isn't that much new to see here, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

Yoshi Topsy-TurvyThen there are the famous transformations.  Yoshi's Island allowed Yoshi to transform into a train, a helicopter, and other such things in order to progress.  Topsy-Turvy retains that idea, although now the transformations occur in specific levels and only last until the end of a room.  Now Yoshi can turn into a bouncing ball, a sailboat, a paddleboat, a hot air balloon, and other modes of transportation that can be controlled by tilting.  These sections are more frustration than fun, unfortunately, and are just another section to complete rather than something to gladly anticipate.

On the whole there are better games to play than Yoshi Topsy-Turvy, but it's worth a few minutes of your time just for the sake of trying the tilt sensor.  The game is far too short to be a serious challenge (I completed all of the levels one day after starting the game) and the replay bonuses are mini-games that reuse sections of the main game.  There's no real incentive to try and earn every single gold medal in the game.  Yoshi Topsy-Turvy is an ambitious idea, but in the end this tilting game falls quite flat.