I’ll just come right out and say it: Yoshi’s Island is probably the finest 2D game in the Mario universe that has yet been devised.
The story goes that while The Stork is on its way to deliver baby Mario and Luigi he gets accosted by the Forces of Evil. Luigi is captured and Mario is dropped onto an island inhabited by Yoshis. The Yoshis decide to try and get Mario to his destination using a baby bucket brigade system. Which is one Yoshi will carry Mario to the end of the level, pass him on to the next one, and the cycle repeats. With a few boss fights thrown in, of course.
Your Yoshis are nigh-invulnerable, but if they get hit Baby Mario will fly off its back and start wailing. His crying, incidentally, might be the most annoying sound ever put into a video game. If he cries too long (i.e. you run out of Stars) then he’ll get kidnapped too.
But you’re not totally defenseless. Yoshis have the super amazing ability to eat just about anything and turn it into an egg. So as long as you have a steady stream of enemies lumbering around you have plenty ammunition to dispatch them with.
Probably one of the first things you’re going to notice when you play this game is that it’s simultaneously gorgeous and adorable. Everything in the game is well detailed, fluidly animated, and extremely colorful. It really does look a lot like you’re playing an interactive cartoon.
There is really a lot crammed into the cartridge. The Yoshis can transform into a variety of vehicles to make progress through the levels, and that’s fun enough. But this game also uses (more or less) the same chip that allowed the Super NES to push 3D graphics for all kinds of interesting effects. Like blocks that squash and stretch, and enemies that grow to fill nearly the whole screen. Really, the whole game is a visual treat.
I really can’t understate how fun this game is. I got it one Winter and a friend and I spent a good portion of Christmas weekend alternating playing each level. Then we discovered the hidden levels and spent yet more days trying to unlock them all.
And if some of the music sounds like it came from a 1930s era cartoon show? Eh, doesn’t bother me in the slightest.