HUMBLE BUT ADDICTIVE
Released late in the NES’s life, Yoshi is a simple, addictive, yet complex action puzzle game for one or two players that grows in its intensity as time goes on. It’s a game about cleaning Mario’s plates of food while sandwiching blocks between egg halves.
After making a debut on the SNES, Mario’s mountable dinosaur Yoshi quickly got its own game. There was a second Yoshi themed action puzzle game titled Yoshi’s Cookie released around the same era to make things even more confusing, but this is simply Yoshi.
You play as Mario at the bottom of the screen, forced to twist four plates that stack objects on them. Two objects fall from the top of the screen at a time and they stay in their lane or column. So it’s the bottom that’s moving to match up columns. Once objects are stacked, Mario can twist his body to flip these columns. You can make him move among the four. Think of a waitress collecting falling food onto four plates.
There are six falling objects of two types. The first type are simple blocks marked with piranha plants, boo ghosts, little goombas and bloopers. Then there are egg shells that consist of bottoms and tops. Your goal is to match the lower half of egg shells to the top half. Any cubes in between get digested by the egg and a baby Yoshi will hatch out. Proving that Yoshi must be some sort of mutant hybrid of several foes.
The game keeps going, until you lose by letting any of the four columns stack beyond the top. It’s not all about squeezing enemies into eggs, you can also match two enemy blocks on top of one another to make them both disappear. This is more of a way to clear out some blocks since the only way to sandwich enemies between eggs.
AN ELEMENT OF STRATEGY
There is quite a bit of strategy to this. You can see the next falling objects as you tangle with objects currently falling. Combining a top and bottom egg will drive the top of the egg down to seal it, while any other falling objects remain where they are. So if you have a tall egg that’s sealed, you can quickly rotate that lane over to be beneath of the object that is still falling. If Mario rotates while an object is falling into a short column that’s next to a tall column, the object will remain in the short column.
The setup screen is straight forward. You have two modes to chose from. Then choose a level 1 – 5 to substitute for a stage select. Next you have the speed, I always prefer low, because I’m not crazy. Last, there are three songs to select or turn off the music.
MODE A VS MODE B
There are two modes, the continuous mode A that has you going infinitely until you lose. Hatching baby Yoshis will eventually increase your level. When your level goes up, the drop speed increases. In time two objects falling at a time will increase to three objects for either a few drops or permanently depending on the level.
Mode B offers some variety as your goal is to clear everything off the four plates. Each level stars with a line of blocks approrpiate to that level. So level 1 has 1 row of blocks while level 4 has 4 rows of blocks. Between each level you’ll see your final score, time and a brief intermission with Mario riding Yoshi. It’s about the only time you see Yoshi in action.
Once you’ve lost the game will present you with your score or time depending on the mode. You’ll also be presented with your top three scores and times. This adds a reason to replay, but the catch is the scores are wiped out when you stop playing.
MUSIC AND SOUND
You have a mere three songs to chose from and your selected track is the only thing you’ll be listening to throughout the game until you lose. There’s also a setting to turn it off. The songs are simple and do the job, but a more dynamic offering would have been appreciated. What is here sounds like it could have matched the Game Boy at the time.
A HIDDEN GEM
Yoshi is such a simple game that you’re either addicted to it or you play it once and forget that it exists. It makes for a much better portable game that feels at home on the Game Boy or even the Switch. Even in its heyday it would have been tough to recommend the NES version to play on a television when the portable Game Boy version is the same and so much cheaper. With the game on the Switch’s Online service, it feels like a perfect home for anyone on the go or looking to play on their big screen.