The original Yoshi's Island on SNES reimagined what a side-scrolling platform could be. However, Yoshi's New Island is unable to do the same. Not only does Nintendo play the series' 3DS debut overly safe, but it actually feels like a step back for the franchise, leading to its stalest iteration to date.
Yoshi's New Island takes us back to the ending of the original game, in which the stork drops off Baby Mario and Luigi at the doorstep of their parents. But in an absurdly wacky twist, it turns out that the stork delivered them to the wrong house. As he scrambles to find the right house, Kamek abducts Baby Luigi again, requiring the Yoshi clan to jump in and help Baby Mario traverse through a new island.
While the story emphasizes that this is a new island, it turns out to be new in name only. Anyone that has played a Yoshi's Island game knows exactly what to expect. Six worlds with eight levels each? Check. Chomp rocks? Check. Gargantua Blarggs hiding in lava? Check. Poochie sequences? Check. Monkey stages in World 3? Check-a-roonie. Nearly every piece of the Yoshi's Island template can be found in this game, with hardly any attempt to move the formula forward or introduce any sort of new twist.
Just as in previous games, each world contains two boss battles, in which Kamek makes a standard enemy into a colossal giant. At least that's supposed to be the idea, but apparently, Nintendo has already run through every one of the series' minor enemies, requiring Kamek, himself, to step in as the mid-tier boss battle for every world. It'd be one thing if these sequences were interesting, but each one of the Kamek fights proved overly simplistic and downright easy.
One of the few new mechanics of Yoshi's New Island involves gigantic Shy Guys that allow Yoshi to add giant eggs to his arsenal. This was a cool idea, as I got a kick out of destroying entire chunks of levels by chucking the giant egg. Likewise, I liked using a giant metal egg to bulldoze through enemies. Unfortunately, there wasn't much else to do with these sequences and they quickly became dull. I had hoped to see more creative uses of this mechanic as the game progressed, but they sadly never came.
When there's so much of Yoshi's New Island that feels recycled, it becomes easier to observe all that's been left out. Stages feel noticeably shorter, reducing many of the exploration elements and the challenging platforming sequences that helped make the first games so great. The items and post-level mini-games from the original Yoshi's Island, the branching paths of the Nintendo 64's Yoshi's Story, and the multiple-baby and dual-screen format of Yoshi's Island DS have all been left behind and replaced with nothing new to take their place. Aside from the aforementioned super-sized Shy Guys, there's nothing that makes Yoshi's New Island stand out from its predecessors.
What's truly frustrating is that Yoshi's New Island isn't a terrible game. The series formula still works, and Yoshi's flutter jump and ground pound still just as fun to use as ever. But it's all bogged down by some truly uninspired level design and some strange design choices. Not only are many of Yoshi's transformations all hidden behind bonus doors and away from the main level paths, but they all require use of tilt controls through the 3DS gyroscope. Being Helicopter Yoshi used to be a fun new way to explore a level, but here, I'm kept on a small, linear path, where I'm constantly crashing into walls, because I'm not holding my 3DS at the right angle.
Worse design choices can be found when attempting to 100% all of the game's levels, which will likely prove to be impossible for many... and not in the fun kind of way. For example, each time Yoshi picks up an invincibility star, he'll sprint forward at incredibly high-speeds. At the end of each of these sequences, he'll fly forward as fast as a comet and players must struggle to control him, as he crashes through walls and pipes. Controls quickly become unresponsive during these sequences, making it particularly brutal that there are red coins and flowers scattered throughout these areas.
The Yoshi's Island series is one of my favorite gaming series ever, which is why it's so painful to see Yoshi's New Island fall short in so many ways. It's not a bad game and certainly a serviceable one for younger audiences and new players. Unfortunately, for those that have followed Yoshi since his first starring role nearly 20 years ago, this game is a tremendous disappointment. 
This review is based on downloadable 3DS code provided by the publisher. Yoshi's New Island will be available on March 14 for $39.99. The game is rated E.