Sunday, November 2, 2014

Yoshi's Cookie (SNES) Review

Received: January 21st, 2014 / Written: October 31st-November 2nd, 2014
Year: 1992, 1993 | Developed and Published by: Bullet-Proof Software
Licensed by: Nintendo
Hello everyone, StarBoy91 here; passionate about video games, big retrophile, and fan of all things 16-bit.  Having grown up playing the NTSC SNES console I've always had fun playing the games on there, but there was always something I noticed on the carts which for awhile I didn't come to realize (at least until early 2010 when I was about nineteen): the significance of the colored bars on the labels.
If you've noticed there were NTSC SNES games which have had labels at the top of the cartridge (like the preceding NES before it), usually accompanied by a small colored bar near the title, as you see here.  Eventually I put two and two and figured it all out: if an SNES cart had a red bar then regardless of who developed it the game was published and released by Nintendo.
The majority of the NTSC SNES library, however, had labels with short violet colored bars at the top of the cart next to the title.  If the bars were violet then it means that the games in question were published by a company other than Nintendo.  Some might argue that this trivia was a bit obvious to some, but I figured that was worth bringing up all the same for those who may not have been aware.  =)
Top Left: Jerry Boy | Top Center: Super Morph | Top Right: Shōnen Ashibe
Center Left: Ys IV: Mask of the Sun | Center Right: TwinBee: Rainbow Bell Adventure
Bottom Left: Tenchi Sōzō | Bottom Center: Astérix | Bottom Right: Wagyan Paradise
This only applied to American carts as the Japanese Super Famicom and PAL SNES carts did not have top labels (unless they were custom-made) and were designed different than the NTSC versions.  The two non-American carts shared the same design,... just like the Super Famicom and European Super Nintendo consoles,... right down to the multi-colored button controllers,... while the American SNES console design was altered and had controllers with two different hues of purple for buttons......  All this does is further prove my theory that Japan has got a secret nepotism with Europe (or however the proper phrase goes).
Not terrible, but not great either
Anyway, you must be wondering what all this has got to do with today's game?  Oh, plenty I assure you.  When Nintendo released GameFreak's puzzler Yoshi for the NES and Game Boy it was deemed a failure by many that played it, right down to its false advertisement of then newcomer Yoshi having big involvement in the game when all he does is count the eggs that you collected while Mario basically did all the work (in Yoshi's own spinoff, no less).  I didn't personally think it was as bad as many clamored it to be, but I do concede that it would've been far more better had there been more involving strategy and more versatile chain reactions.  Still, it's okay to play in very short bursts but it's not something I'll go back to every now and then.
After that series of events work was being started on a new Yoshi spinoff, another puzzler (initially "Hermetica" wasn't to be related to the character, but after Nintendo obtained some of its rights that's what it would become).  But this time it was being developed by Bullet-Proof Software, a company known for titles such as The Black Onyx, the Nintendo versions of Faceball 2000, and even responsible for porting Obitus for the SNES.  In 1992 and 1993 this game was released by Nintendo for the Famicom and NES consoles respectively, as well as the original Game Boy.  Unlike Yoshi, however, Yoshi's Cookie also received the SNES treatment in 1993, only this time it was published by Bullet-Proof Software as well (with Nintendo's consent).  And what better force to help make the game than the very maker of Tetris himself, Alexey Pajitnov?  Those are quite high standards right there, but does it make up for the disappointment which was Yoshi?
Can you match all the cookies?
Yoshi's Cookie is another puzzler made in the vein of Tetris, but circumstances are very different this time around.  There are three different game modes: Action, Vs, and Puzzle.  In Action Mario and Yoshi (hey, Yoshi's actually contributing in his own spinoff, yay) must move and organize the various cookies so that they would line up with the proper ones.  And here's where I might stumble a bit: the gameplay is a little hard to describe, but it's easier done than said, so try to bear with me.  Basically you control a crosshair in front of the cookies that are already set up, and you can control where it goes until you want to move a specific cookie.  Once you selected the cookie that you want to move you simply hold down the button and move it up or down (Mario) or left or right (Yoshi), and if you want to speed up the process you hold down another of the buttons as Yoshi pushes the button making things happen quicker.
Rows 2 and 4: Neutralized!
The specifics of the controls are as follows: if a row or column has got all matching cookies (say a row of hearts or a column of flowers, for instance) then said rows or columns will be scored and vanish from the square playing field.  If you should get all the cookies cleared out then you'll proceed to the next stage of the round.  There are ten stages in each of the ten rounds, with each setup being different (and bigger) than the last.  Sounds manageable, right?  I neglected to mention how if you dawdle more rows or columns of cookies will emanate from the top or the right of the square, which makes things a little more difficult (particularly on the highest speed).  Quick thinking and strategizing will be your keys to salvation if you wish to survive longer, but if the whole square is filled up you'll have to pick up from the round's stage where you left off.  *phew*  I had an easier time discussing Yoshi's controls than this.  =(  It's rather complicated put into words.
Connecting cookies is fun!  =D
But it's Yoshi's Cookie's very own complexity which makes it more addicting and enjoyable.  Better yet: if you manage to form up a certain solution it may cause a chain combo which will not only get more room cleared but also earn you a lot of points.  If the last move results in solely rows or columns, then they will all be cleared one by one.  There's no progress saving for this game (unless you want to start from the beginning of any of the ten rounds) but if you get a game over you'll be allowed infinite continues to resume where you last left off.  When the left or top side is about to be full it makes things exhilarating as you quickly try to think up a way to make more room.  =)  There are three speeds: Low (which is the easiest and slowest of the three), Med (medium speed and difficulty), and Hi (where progress goes faster and adds more difficulty).  Unlike Yoshi, this game actually has an ending, and after beating the tenth stage of each round you'll be treated to a charming and humorous cutscene.
It begins the same way, as one of the cookies from the sign jumps out and tries to roll itself away as Mario has it in pursuit.
With each round there is always a different scenario and resolution, which makes it all the more fresh and appealing to watch.  =)  It's fun to see how the cookie outsmarts, chase away, or stays clear of Mario.  It's cute!
Say, doesn't that Yoshi sprite look familiar to you?  Why I believe it is!  In the years of development that led up to Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island, Nintendo had in-game Yoshi look like this, but it wouldn't be until that aforementioned platformer would be released in 1995 until we would see Yoshi in all his glory and wondrous animation.  But as far as brief glimpses are concerned at the end of Rounds 5 and 10, not bad.  =)

"Well, it'sa me, myself, and I this-a time!"
The Puzzle portion of the game makes things a lot more interesting.  Like in Action there are ten rounds each comprised of ten stages, but the similarities end there.  There are no other sets of cookies trying to bombard you from off-square, but the objective is to clear out every cookie that's already been positioned at the start of each stage.  The catch is that Mario (well, at least Yoshi showed up and helped in his own game this time, so I'll let that slide) must clear out the square in the allotted set of moves that you're granted.  To undo one move you can press the L shoulder button, but to undo all your moves you press the R shoulder button.  You have an unlimited time to find the foolproof solution (the timer doesn't affect you in any way).  If you fail to solve the stage's solution in the allotted amount of steps you'll be given a password to continue your progress and also an unlimited array of continues.  Which means that if you want to properly solve the puzzle you should wisely consider which moveset is the right one to execute and whether it will cause subsequent chain combos or not.

In Puzzle if you finish the tenth stage of each round you'll fill in a section of a picture, and once you're done you'll see the full congratulatory picture in full.  It starts out with simple and easy solutions but the farther you progress in this mode the more complex and difficult the solutions will become.  There are some throwaway stages later on that are around if you feel that it becomes difficult, but aside from those moments the difficulty gradually rises.  Some stages have puzzles which are hard to successfully figure out at first (sometimes it even applies to a smaller set of cookies), making for lots of trial-and-error in the highly difficult ones.  There's only one difficulty setting in this mode, so you don't have to worry about redoing it all in different settings.  One time's enough here.

Blindness, nooooooo
Finally there's Vs mode, which you can decide to play against either another gamer or against the computer; there's even the option to adjust either sides' handicap or difficulty.  You can decide to play as either Mario, Yoshi, Princess Toadstool, or Bowser; but the rules are the same.  You must essentially compete with your adversary by filling up rows and columns, and depending on how either side is doing it will have an effect on the opposing side.  When that happens it will either help or hurt the other side.  Be mindful of the wick that slowly gets eaten by the fire; the more combos you make the more the wick's span will last.  Each character has got up to three chances to win, and whoever gets the most wins is the victor.  Pretty challenging stuff, as  squares do not get cleared in this mode for more cookies will come no matter how many times you make a row or a column.

Lots to think about and consider
The visuals are colorfully vibrant, and Bullet-Proof did a faithful job at replicating the look and feel of each world from Nintendo's Super Mario World=)  In fact I could even go on a limb and say that each round's location looks even better than the ones in the aforementioned 1990 hit.  Despite the fact that the rounds are just stationary screens, they've still got a lot of charm in their simple designs, and some of them even exhibit a bit of animation (like the wavy seaweed underwater and the twinkling stars at night).  Special mention should be pointed at Mario and Yoshi's designs: they are spot-on and their colors and poses are just right (though Yoshi seems to be lacking fingers).  The only sprites that were directly lifted from Super Mario World were those of Mario himself during the cutscenes (albeit with a fixed color palette), but the central cutscenes which closely shows what happens really shine (like Mario being chased by a giant cookie or Mario running so fast that he just misses the slowly rolling cookie).  =)

Like Yoshi you have the option to either listen to one of three songs in the game (in Action), all of it (Vs and Puzzle), or choose not to listen to it depending on your mood.  The sound samples are interesting and make for some unique (and sometimes foreign-sounding) composition.  The first song (in Action) is soft and lightweight, the second song is bombastic-sounding, while the third song is energetic yet quick.  The thing about Action is that once you pick (or not) a song it will stick until you pick up from your last progress.  In the Vs and Puzzle modes, on the other hand, you won't hear the same song play over and over for it constantly shifts to a different song the further you get; some of the ones you don't hear in Action range from impending to energetic to calm.  The songs are good by themselves, but the thing about them is that they are short, which makes it all the more easy to get stuck in your head due to how repetitive it would sound after a long time of listening to it.  You could decide to play Yosih's Cookie without the music, but then you would only hear the rubbery sounds of the cookies shifting position as you play.  As for the other sound effects they're decent, though I did find it curious when Mario yelled "Oh, no!" in such a squeaky high-pitched soundbyte, among two other soundbytes in the game.

Yoshi's Cookie is a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyably addicting puzzler from beginning to end, and its different game modes offer plenty of replay value.  There's plenty of challenge in each mode, the differing cutscenes in Action mode were really fun to watch, and it was cool to slowly unravel the picture at the end of each of Puzzle mode's rounds.  =)  After having caught up with Yoshi this January I decided to give this game a chance, except for the SNES (to the extent of my knowledge Puzzle was only implemented in this version).  Many of the solutions to Puzzle I found on my own, but I will admit that some were so mindboggling that after several attempts at trying I consulted YouTube.  At one point the NES version of Yoshi's Cookie was available on the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console, but it was pulled from the download shop last October; which means that nowadays in order to play it you must either find a copy for the NES, Game Boy, or SNES consoles, or import the 2003 Japan-exclusive Nintendo Puzzle Collection for the GameCube.  Which is a shame, really, because this is one of the best puzzlers I've played in awhile (right up there with Puzzle Bobble and Puzzle Bobble 2).  <=)

Not only did Bullet-Proof Software create a more superior puzzling experience than GameFreak did, but they also did the series a great service by faithfully capturing Nintendo's style and feel as well as crafting a fun and thoroughly complex game.  =)  It takes a bit to come to grips with Yoshi's Cookie's gameplay but after awhile it becomes second nature with lots to look forward to.  It's fun to see how fast you can try to clear the square out before it gets crowded up, and for that it's quickly become one of my favorites.  If you're in the mood for a game in the puzzler genre, I recommend you give this one a shot.  If you're a Mario or a Yoshi [series] fan then I still believe you will get a kick out of it.  With so much joy and charm, what more could you ask for?  =)

<(^o^)^TO EACH THEIR OWN^(^o^)>
P.S. I've gotta say though: Princess Toadstool and Bowser have looked better.  =|
P.S. 2 This game is so great that it seriously makes me want to play Super Mario World=)
P.S. 3 The SNES version originally had a title sequence similar to the NES original, but it was altered sometime in development.  Check it out at The Cutting Room Floor.
Hmmm.  What should I review next?  What other Yoshi-relevant game was made after Yoshi's Cookie?
There's Yoshi's Safari on the SNES which Nintendo themselves have made, but I can't be able to talk about it since that game requires a Super Scope which I don't own and which would only work on SDTVs, and even if I did have one I still don't think it would be a good idea.  Have you seen the size of that thing???  So that's out of the question.
There's GameFreak's Japan-exclusive Super Famicom game Mario & Wario where Yoshi's one of the characters you could choose from aside from Mario and Princess Toadstool,... whiiich I would love to play but can't since an SNES mouse is mandatory in order to play it, and I don't have one presently speaking.  =(
Yoshi did make an appearance in the localized SNES version of the puzzler Panel de Pon, Tetris Attack by Intelligent Systems, but I didn't experience that game.  Although, I did enjoy Yoshi's Cookie a lot, and it's not very expensive on eBay; so maybe...
*sigh* But what other Yoshi title could I review in the meantime?
Image from Wikipedia
Next Review: Yoshi's New Island
It's going to hurt!  X(
11/29/14 UPDATE: I provided the link to that review and appropriated the phrase underneath the last image so as to make the outburst accessible and inoffensive.
Thank you for reading my review.  Please leave me a comment and let me know what you thought.  I hope you have a great day.  Take care!  =D

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