Yoku’s Island Express is the pinball platforming hybrid that you never knew you needed. A charming title that blends genres seamlessly while still managing to be charming and colourful, it takes the rules of pinball and has you battling bosses, solving puzzles and traversing a large open-world style environment, all while being super cute.
The titular Yoku is a small beetle pushing around a marble ball, and while you can move around, it’s using the left and right triggers and shooting the little dude all around the map that allows for a real flow of movement that feels wonderful. Taking on the position of postmaster on the island, you must deliver letters, help out its citizens and find all kinds of hidden goodies that will help you on your quest.
While I was sceptical about the pinball mechanics at first, it’s amazing how quickly they make sense to the point of asking the question of “how come nobody has thought of this before?”. Pinball is such a known entity and past-time for a lot of us who grew up in the arcades or playing them in the back of the pub while our parents had dinner or chilled at the bar. The rules are simple – flick a ball around and aim for certain elements to get a high score and prevent it from dropping.
This is where the trickier moments come into play, like activating certain switches to move to the next area. But Yoku’s Island Express never penalises you too heavily for failure. Which is good, because I was never really good at pinball to begin with. This can make some of these sections a little bit frustrating and repetitive, but your mileage on this will vary depending on your patience and skill level. Even with the parts I got stuck on for several minutes, I still had that feeling of elation and relief when I got through them.
It’s made all the more enticing as the island itself is such a joy to explore. It’s full of friendly characters with witty dialogue, fun side-quests and a large map to explore. Given it’s an open world style there is a little backtracking, but as you progress and more shortcuts open up to you this never feels like a drag. There are collectibles to find and hints at more secrets I’ve yet to uncover in my time with the game, but it will keep me coming back to explore – especially on the Switch where I can carry it with me.
Here in Australia it’s a tad pricey at the $49-59 mark for a physical copy (get it digitally instead for half that price), but the overall style and surprising substance really rounds out Yoku’s Island Express as a delightful, light-hearted experience that’s easy to recommend. Villa Gorilla might be a new development studio but the craft and care they have put into this brilliant little adventure makes me excited for their future.
Yoku’s Island Express is out now PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Steam.