Year released: 1994
Company: Bullet Proof Software
Thank God that Nintendo had Mario; otherwise, they'd never be able to sell any video games. Of course, as many of us savvy NES players know, putting a franchise tag on a game can only do so much. If anything, it can augment the quality of a game that was already a promising prospect (like, say, Super Mario Kart), but if the game stunk to begin with, making it a Mario game isn't going to save it (Mario is Missing! leaps into mind). Yoshi's Cookie certainly falls into the first category, as it's an intriguing puzzle concept that becomes extremely playable with the plumber on the label.
The way the game works is this: There are up to five different varieties of cookies on the playfield. You move a cursor around and rearrange the cookies in one of four directions. When you align the same kind of cookie along an entire row or column, they leave the playfield and the rest of the cookies compact. More cookies come in at various intervals from the right and top of the board, and the ultimate goal is to get rid of all the cookies before they reach either edge of the playfield.
I often say that a puzzle game doesn't need a whole lot of visual and audio quality to succeed as a game, because going overboard with the frills distracts the gameplay. Yoshi's Cookie manages to walk the tightrope between looking and sounding nice and overstepping its boundaries. Crisp and colorful graphics help give the game a vibrant and lively feel, unlike many puzzle games which tend to use dark and foreboding colors. The use of the Super Mario World template for backdrops and sprites help give the atmopshere a famliar feel, although Mario looks like he's aged about 10 years when he helms the Puzzle mode.
Musically, there is one theme in this game that lifts the rating to a 6 rating: the C-Music in the Vs. game is a track I could listen to for half an hour at a time, even though it only lasts about half a minute. It encapsulates all the excitement and fun of the game into 16 measures of music. The other themes, like the background to the interludes between Action mode levels, are also quite nice, which helps because you're often exposed to the same theme for long stretches of time, but if the entire soundtrack consisted of the Vs. mode C-music, I wouldn't mind at all.
There's not a whole lot to say about the play control, since it's only really dictated by the directional pad and two buttons. Obviously, since the game was also released on the NES, that forced the controls to be as simplistic as possible. There is a little response trouble, as I wish the cursor would move a little more quickly. I like the use of the B button to speed up the rate of cookies entering the playfield, as it doesn't do more than speed up the game; you won't be using it if you're scrambling to align a row of five cookies before a sixth column comes on and puts the kibosh on your plans.
The challenge rating is helped out by the fact that in both the Action and Puzzle modes, you have 10 levels, each of which have 10 boards. This means you'll have 100 chances to get the swing of things and find a sufficient challenge for you. Later on, you'll find yourself biting your lip as you race to shrink the playfield before too many cookies come in. However, there are many times when you'll be left with a 2x2 square of cookies, left only to wait for the next batch to come in and hope they match up with the ones you already have.
As I've mentioned above, this game has a 2-player mode, in which the competitors race to make 25 lines of cookies, complete with all the inherent moves of sabotage. This is where the real fun comes in. I honestly can't think of another game where I've had more fun challenging another player, since the gameplay is so fast-paced. You could be ready to nail your opponent with a Blind move, only for him to complete a line of Yoshi Cookies (which act as wild cards in the Action mode) and put a Panic on you, leaving you to watch your cookies dance around the playfield while your opponent works on another crushing attack. But the best part of all is, it actually has a 1-player setting, and it doesn't lose a whole lot to play by yourself. The AI in the Vs. mode is actually quite good, with the computer players employing many of the same strategies you'll want to use against human adversaries.
As for the other two modes, the Action game comes in second for enjoyability. It really doesn't get going until midway through the game when the cookies start coming in more quickly and you have more of them to worry about at the start, but it can get very intense, with each cleared board meriting a sigh of relief and a wipe of the brow. The Puzzle mode is also an interesting diversion, although it doesn't have quite the frenetic pace of the other two games, emphasizing strategy and planning ahead over blinding speed. There's little reward for beating the Puzzle mode, as well, while the Action mode actually has a viable ending complete with credit roll. The concept itself is a relatively fresh one; with all of the puzzle games that came out during this time, all of which seemingly having been cloned from the same sheep, it's refreshing to see that this isn't just a game of Cookietris.
When it comes right down to it, the use of the Mario trademark serves to add to the atmosphere of Yoshi's Cookie, making an already fun and nerve-wracking game even more enjoyable.
|Play Control: ||
|Technical Score: 16
|Aesthetic Score: 16
|Overall Score: 89%|