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Community Article: Indie Insights - Yoku's Island Express

Written by John Edwards

Some things go together quite naturally, strawberries and cream, fish and chips, Ant and Dec. Other combinations can be less immediately obvious but still fit together snugly like well placed jigsaw pieces, like metroidvania and pinball.

That's not to say Metroid Prime Pinball, which was excellent but ditched the Metroid backtracking elements to just fling Samus around in her morph ball on regular pinball tables. But for pinball action coupled with upgrades that determine where you can go in an ever expanding map you need to turn to a dung beetle postman.

In Yoku's Island Express you take over the job of the island's resident postie from the outgoing pterodactyl who is presumably retiring after several million years in the job. Your immediate tasks start off fairly straightforwardly but soon escalate to solving most of the island's problems for the residents who presumably don't do it themselves because getting around typically requires pinging off bumpers and flippers.

Yoku pushes a ball around which he's also attached to. Fortunately the geography of the island also happens to mimic the rails, gutters and general accoutrements of pinball tables. Sometimes they're just pathways through to the next village, other times you get set pieces which feel like full on pinball tables. The larger boards are usually reserved for new areas or even boss battles and are typically more convoluted than the elements that are used for navigation.

You do have some control over Yoku, to go left or right, but no jump, so you rely on little bumpers to fling him up even the smallest steps. You can unlock some by spending fruit that you'll collect around the island. Along the way you pick up new abilities, vacuum up explosive slugs to break boulders, go for a dive in pools of water, these are the metroidvania elements which are used for your progression and driving the story forward as you try to save the island.

The island is huge, there's a system that you can use to cut down on travel time, but even then there's a lot to navigate your way through. Fortunately the island is lovely to look at, it has a Rayman Legends kinda style to it, that embellished hand drawn style which is still quite clear to read the elements within it.

Until Nintendo sees sense and finally resurrects Metroid Prime Pinball or Pokémon Pinball or Kirby's Pinball Land or Mario Pinball Land, treat yourself to this wonderful dung beetle based pinball metroidvania that mashes two things together as successfully as the Switch and indie games go together.