'Yoshi's New Island'
Who's it for: Platform game fans seeking a new challenge
Console: Nintendo 3DS
Sometimes it's difficult to imagine our heroes as babies, a time when they were small and vulnerable rather than the formidable forces they are destined to become.
But everyone starts out as a baby, even an icon that looms as large as Nintendo's mascot, Mario.
In "Yoshi's New Island," Baby Mario lacks his trademark skills, though he does a fine job holding on to Yoshi, who takes center stage here.
The third game in the "Yoshi's Island" series, this platform game has a lot in common with its "Super Mario" brethren. Players will scroll through various worlds and levels, running, jumping, bopping enemies and searching high and low for secrets.
As it is when you ride Yoshi in the "Super Mario" games, the dinosaur can flick his tongue and swallow enemies, spitting them out or swallowing some and turning them into eggs. The eggs, in turn, can be aimed and used as weapons or to collect otherwise unreachable items.
Unlike the "Super Mario" games, Baby Mario cannot act on his own. If Yoshi gets hit, Mario starts to float away in a bubble. You then have a limited time to catch him, or you will lose a life.
The story here is cute to the point of cloying. The stork delivers the freshly minted Mario Bros. (it appears Mario and Luigi are actually twins) to the wrong parents. Luigi gets captured by the baddies, so it is up to Yoshi to help Mario find his brother.
Along the way, you'll find yourself navigating the wonders of Egg Island, which looks as if it was beautifully drawn in crayon.
Even though it's not the Mushroom Kingdom, plenty of familiar foes abound. You'll face Goombas, turtles (including the flying variety), Boos, Shy Guys and more. Even Baby Bowser makes an appearance, proof that sometimes it's nature, not nurture that makes a villain bad.
To help navigate Egg Island's challenging environs, Yoshi can slurp up even the biggest characters. Logically, swallow a big baddie, make a big egg. Colossal in fact.
Giant eggs crush most everything in their path, while their metal variant (made by swallowing large metal enemies) roll like Indiana Jones' boulder, only pulverizing everything on the ground.
For trickier levels, Yoshi can actually transform into some very useful tools, such as a helicopter and a submarine. These transformations add excellent variety to what would otherwise be a standard run-and-jump platform game.
Every level includes collectibles such as flowers and red coins, and finding them all will take exploration and sometimes mad skills. Collecting everything adds a nice layer of challenge to the game and should encourage replayability.
While "Yoshi's New Island" provides plenty of great moments for players, the game overall just doesn't quite flow as well as Nintendo's "Super Mario" series. It's not clear what that missing component is, but overall it's minor.
"Yoshi's New Island" should please platform game fans and hold them over at until a new portable "Super Mario" game pops out of the pipeline.
Drawing on fantasy
At the end of 2013 a small platform game was quietly released for the Xbox One.
'Max and the Curse of Brotherhood'
Rated: E 10+
Who's it for: Xbox One owners looking for a charming little platformer
Console: Xbox One
"Max and the Curse of Brotherhood" (the sequel to "Max and the Magic Marker") is a charming little game that is perfect for younger players.
"Brotherhood" begins one fine day when Max comes home to find his brother, Felix, messing around in his room and breaking his stuff.
Max looks on the Internet for a way to get rid of his brother and ends up reciting a curse that pops up on the screen. Suddenly a portal opens and a creature grabs Felix, pulling him into another world.
Max jumps in after, barely making it.
The adventure that follows has Max, who regains his magical magic marker, trying to retrieve his brother. He uses the magic marker to draw and erase objects, helping him solve puzzles in this wondrous, but very dangerous, dimension.
"Max and the Curse of Brotherhood," features great graphics and clever gameplay and is a welcome addition to a system that has few choices for younger players.