What at first appears to be a childish and silly game reveals itself to be one of the greatest platformers of all time.
Super Mario World 2: yoshi's island is the follow up to the very popular Super Mario World game. When I first got my hands on this game I was expecting something along the lines of the first game, but this one is completely different. In fact, it's usually considered to be the first game in the Yoshi series, and is a different part of the Mario franchise.
The story is nothing spectacular, as with all Mario titles: This game actually takes place before the other Mario games: Baby Mario and Baby Luigi are being taken by a stork to their parents. However, the evil Magikoopa Kamek, leader of the Koopa Troop (as Bowser is still too young to lead the army) foresees that these two babies will give endless problems to the koopas if they aren't taken care of. Thus, Kamek sends some of his Toadies minions to intercept the stork and capture the two babies. Unfortunately for him (and fortunately for us), the toadies only manage to capture baby luigi, while baby Mario falls in middle of the ocean, on an island. Upon reaching the island, Mario falls right on top of one of the Yoshis, friendly inhabitants of the island. The Yoshis realize Mario wants to go to Kamek's Castle to save his brother, and Kamek proceeds to flood yoshi's island with koopa troops to prevent them from reaching his hideout.
Gameplay: As mentioned, the gameplay in this game is very different from its predecessor. Instead of controlling Mario you actually control Yoshi who has already appeared as a "mount" in the first Super Mario World game. Yoshi has many moves and powerups that he can use, and when he gets hit, instead of dying he loses the baby Mario he has on his top: there is then a set timer for him to rescue Mario before a band of toadies appear out of nowhere and kidnap him, leading to the game over screen. Yoshi may however still be instantly killed by some hazards, such as lava or spikes, without losing baby Mario at all. (Ironic, as Yoshi was invulnerable to spikes in SMW). Yoshi's main abilities include swallowing enemies with his tongue, which can be either spit at other enemies, or turned into eggs, projectiles that yoshi may fire in all directions and that bounce on walls. Eggs are often a vital part in the various puzzles of the levels, and using them isn't so hard. They also come in various types although I have never figured out their difference. Other abilities include stomping enemies (as opposed to jumping over them, stomping is a "charged" jump that will damage otherwise invulnerable enemies), watermelons that have various powers (normal ones that allow Yoshi to spit seeds, and fire/ice ones that are a flamethrower and an ice-statue-maker respectively).
All levels are full of coins and various hidden items and powerups that are either used to access secret levels or to gain new abilities. A lot of the enemies in this game are brand-new, having never appeared in any Mario game before, however the most common enemies in this game are Shy Guys from SMB2 who appear on almost every level. Koopa troopas are rarer but still somewhat common, while Goombas only appear in one level. Items include Flowers that act almost exactly like the dragon coins in the first SMW game, red coins and stars. Flowers and red coins are required to get a 100% score at the end of the level (do this in each level and you'll get to a secret one), and while stars also are, their mechanic is a bit different: As I mentioned, whenever Yoshi gets hit by an enemy or a projectile, Yoshi gets temporarily stunned and loses Baby Mario and has to rescue him by either touching him or throwing an egg/enemy at him. Whenever Yoshi loses Mario a countdown starts before Toadies can get him, with said countdown being usually 10 seconds. However, it can be increased by collecting the aforementioned stars found in the levels. In order to get 100% score on a level you need to exit it with the Mario countdown set to 30.
All levels are varied enough, with caves, valleys, gardens, mountains, clouds, castles, ghost houses, and so on. There are more puzzles in this game than in SMW, and there are even more secret areas, and in some of them you even get to control Mario himself. There are also various minigames accessible if you find a key in a level and find the respective door, and they only help make the game even more enjoyable.
Graphics: The graphics are beautiful, although they look significantly different than previous games. About nothing feels out of place and every level you visit will be interesting and visually appealing (and of course fun to play). The only issue with the graphics is that at times they appear to be excessively childish, with smiling flowers everywhere especially on the first levels. However this is mostly toned down in later levels, and it's just a matter of getting used to them anyway.
Sounds: The music is pretty nice (I absolutely love the cave theme). The only track I really don't like is the mid-boss one, which is way too... "happy" for a boss theme. The castle theme is excellent, however I liked SMW's way more.
So far I only mentioned good things about this game yet there are just a few small problems. The biggest of them is that I hate being forced to find every single special item in a level to be able to access the secret ones. Sometimes I just didn't have enough motivation to look for them and even when I did I couldn't find all of them (sometimes they're placed in ridiculous spots). I still have no idea where some of the red coins are located in one of the lakitu levels. :(
The Bottom Line
Overall, this is a great game that is also actually pretty longer than many other platformers I've played. You can see that it's a lot more refined than the original Super Mario World (but that game was, after all, a launch title.) There is a lot to do in this game so it's hard to get bored, and even if you're skeptical regarding Yoshi's Island's different feel at first, you'll soon relax and enjoy a beautiful trip to Yoshi's Island, a trip that is unlike any other.