This game here continues the series of Mario-themed puzzle games that started with Dr. Mario. After the success of that title, Nintendo decided to follow it up with another puzzle game in he early 90s, this time centered around Mario's dino buddy Yoshi who had recently made his debut in the SNES launch title Super Mario World. But while most of the puzzle games featuring Mario and pals are enjoyable contests, sadly Yohsi's first starring role would not be one of them.
The gameplay is pretty simple to understand. You take control of Mario who sits at the bottom of the screen holding up a set of four plates, while falling down the screen from the ceiling are four of Mario's famous foes (Goombas, Bloopers, Boo Didleys or Piranha plants). Unlike other puzzle games you don't actually manipulate the falling enemies; instead you have Mario shift around the plates to catch the creatures then move them around as they settle in place. The object is to match up vertical pairs of characters, which will eliminate them both from the screen and keep the stack from breaching the top of the playing field. In addition to the enemies, the two halves of Yoshi's egg also come down from the top of the screen. Basically you place the bottom half then try to stack as many creatures as you can on it before capping off the stack with the top half. If you do that the egg will devour all the creatures sanwiched between the two halves and Yoshi will hatch, giving you bonus points. You keep playing as long as you keep making matches, but if any stack reaches the top of the screen, the game ends.
The single-player mode has two game options. Game A is where you go as long as you can trying to score as many points as possible. As you reach certain plateaus you advance levels where the pieces come down faster. In Game B, you start with some creatures already on the trays and you must clear out the screen to move to the next level. If you're successful you get a nice interlude of Yoshi gobbling up something before starting the next screen. You can also select the game speed, background music and staring level in both modes before you begin. Like other Nintendo puzzlers, there's also a Versus mode where two players control Mario and Luigi and go head-to-head in a best-of-five competition. The object is to either clear your screen first or outlast your opponent by making him fill up his screen. You can attack your opponent by sandwiching foes in-between Yoshi's egg halves, which will dump them on the other player's screen.
There's not much to say about the graphics. All you really see is the single gameplay screen and everything on it, though the different characters are nicely drawn and animated. As far as the sound goes, you get three types of background music but they all get obnoxious before too long. You do have the option to turn the music off, leaving you with just the somewhat-decent sound effects.
Naturally the important thing in a puzzle game is the gameplay but this is where Yoshi fails to measure up. While the game can be fun at times, it's just too repetitive and gets boring quickly. All you do is make vertical pairs and not much else plus there's none of the strategy found in other Nintendo puzzlers; you can't make matches in any other directions or set up chain reactions and the like. Plus while the controls are very responsive and easy to use, it can be cumbersome at times to move stacks around to make matches, especially when you need to move a stack clear across the screen to catch a falling piece. Also the challenge level doesn't really change much as you go from level to level so you could end up playing for a long time before getting a real workout, even on the High speed setting. In addition Game B can be frustrating when you just have a few enemies to eliminate but the CPU won't give you the right pieces, making the round last longer than it should. The two-player mode does add some life to it but even that doesn't hold your interest for long.
So overall Yoshi winds up being one of the weakest entries in Nintendo's puzzle line. It's not a totally bad game, though; there is some enjoyment to be found if you give it a try and it's a nice title for younger players, plus it does have a certain charm to it. Nevertheless its one-dimensional gameplay reduces it to lower-tier status especially in the face of better Mario-themed puzzlers like Dr. Mario, Wario's Woods or even Yoshi's Cookie. Yoshi tries, but just doesn't succeed.
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