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Super Mario World 2: Yoshi`s Island

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Reviewed by Paul Tasker It's 1998 and there's never been a better time to own a SNES, no really. I mean, consider the facts. If you buy stuff that's been 'previously-enjoyed', you can build a library of titles that puts an average Saturn, Playstation or even 64 owners collection to shame on a next-to-nothing budget. I mean, once you had the machine, if you bought "Super Mario Kart" you'd have possibly the best racer you can buy (not to mention the best two-player mode), "Super Street-Fighter 2" could satisfy even the most blood-thirsty beat-em-up fan and of course, the original SNES game, the one game that no Nintendo fan is without, I`m talking, naturally, of Super Mario World. The cream of all games. "But wait. Didn't they do a sequel? Yeah, Yoshi's World I think it was called, came out about '94, maybe '95. I saw a screen shot once, kinda weird. All this messy hand-drawn style of stuff, and the goofiest oddball main character you ever saw. I never bought it, I was waiting for the 64 Mario game, you ever played that?" You see that was the trouble. What with the launch of the new Nintendo looming, the new three-dimensional Mario game, and flagship "killer-app" for the new machine, cast a 64-bit shadow not only over this game but just about everything else for quite some time. Find a SNES (real cheap), buy this game and enjoy. Simple. You see Yoshi's Island is far more than just an update or a sequel, it's a whole new type of platform. Don't believe me? Well, I'd argue that this, along with the Saturn's Clockwork Knight, were the first 2.5 dimensional platforms. Now, not only will you have to look out for obstacles and foes in front and behind you, but you`ll have to run quickly past that drawbridge that falls upon you from what you thought was just the backdrop. Behold the way that platform you're standing on spins right round in glorious 3-D. Excuse me, 3-D, on the SNES? At last someone has made a decent use of the FX chip that spiced up the lives of Star Fox, Super Stunt FX, Doom and all those others you`ve forgotten about. Yoshi's Island sees you, rather than in control of a baby Mario, control of the dinosaur himself with the plumber-to-be firmly fastened to the green-one's back. Firmly fastened that is until you touch something hazardous and soon enough baby Mario will come flying off his back and floating about in a strange bubble all over the show. It`s then up to Yoshi to get the baby back on board by simply touching the bubble. If he fails to do this before the player's timer expires, evil flying birds wearing goggles will come and snatch the baby away and a life will be lost. So what else is new? Well now, after playing Super Mario All-Stars, it's become plainly obvious to see that the original Super Mario World was nothing more than a NES game with a few more colors and a couple of nifty SNES surprises. Yoshi's Island grabs it by the throat, sprinkles on a bit of FX magic and smooths out all the nasty blockiness that is now the curse of the ageing original. The previously finely-crafted visuals have been transformed with a new hand-drawn style which, despite initial reservations, are as finely crafted as the original graphics ever were with some great light effects in the backdrop and an excellent use of parallax. Now smooth slopes replace the steps of old, beautiful contours line every level. This really is a Super Mario World to be in. The levels, aside from their 1995 loveliness, play pretty much as before. The key difference comes in the way Yoshi chooses to dispose of the evil wizard Kamek's nasty henchmen. Like before, Yoshi can swallow enemies with the use of his lengthy tongue, which has so often come in useful around the clubs and bars of Mushroom World on a Saturday night. This time however, a simple down on the controller will magically transform the swallowed enemies into, obviously, little green eggs. Then, by the use of a target cursor, Yoshi can launch these eggs at nasties, walls, coins (it wouldn't be a Mario game without them) or whatever it is that blocks his path to the end of the level. If all that sounds a little complicated compared to the simple 'jump-on-the-head' days of old then well you'd be wrong. The game provides two settings on which way Yoshi wishes to fire the eggs, Patient and Hasty. In playing, both are similar, it just comes down to personal preference. Thankfully, the battery-back up on the game is much improved over the original. Once you complete a level, should you not wish to set eyes upon it again, the game will record your achievement and you can cast it aside forever. The only reason you should want to play it again would be to improve your 'score', a number up to 100 which is formed on how much of the level you discovered. For instance, on each level are 5 big smiley flowers, 20 special red coins (hidden as normal bog-standard golden ones) and the resources to bump your timer up to a maximum 30 seconds. Should you complete the level with all these collected, you`ll receive a maximum score. Do this for every of the eight levels in any of the six worlds and you`ll be rewarded with a tricky bonus level and a chance to play a bonus game where, upon victory against the Bandit, you`ll receive items to help you on your way. While younger players can concentrate on just negotiating each level in turn, the more experienced players will find a challenge waiting them somewhere in the game too. 2-D, 3-D, 2.5-D, call it what you want, Yoshi`s Island is quite possibly the finest example of platforms action you`ll find. The graphics, the control system, the level design, to name but three, all show a level of ingenuity you thought you`d only see on a more powerful machine. It seems Nintendo have not resented the constraints of the simple platform, but embraced them. So when you buy that cheap second-hand SNES, get Yoshi's Island and remind yourself exactly why Nintendo make the finest video game entertainment anywhere in the world.

10 out of 10

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