Cute. Adorable. Awooshawooshawoo. These are three words I’d probably use to describe a Yoshi while gleefully tickling his stomach and feeding him fruits. Mario’s loyal dinosaur friend hit the N64 in a blaze of colour, eggs and Shy Guys in possibly the most endearing side scrolling platformer I have ever seen. The idyllic little islands of the Yoshis has been turned into a storybook by the spiteful Baby Bowser, not to mention he’s gone and stolen the Super Happy Tree that makes the Yoshis so nauseatingly cheerful. Six lone eggs remain, and they hatch into the six Yoshis you will guide through the story in order to retrieve the Super Happy Tree.
In each level, you must locate and consume 30 fruits before being allowed to progress further – and the difficulty of the next level you encounter depends on how many hearts you can retrieve. There are four unlockable levels of difficulty on each page, with level one unlockable if you found one heart, level two if you found two hearts, and so on. The Yoshis each have a favourite fruit which will max out their health bar, a little dog to show them hidden goodies, and they can throw eggs at the enemy Shy Guys or, if preferred, they can just eat them. There’s plenty here to keep a player occupied.
It’s all cutesy good fun until you realise that Yoshi’s Story houses a gamer’s greatest fear: permadeath. Beneath its sugar-sweet coating lies a game of devilish difficulty if you strive to unlock the harder levels, and when it’s game over, it’s game over. Your save data is wiped, and you’re forced to start again from the very beginning. If your health depletes entirely or you fall into a pit, one of your Yoshis is kidnapped. You have six Yoshis, and so six chances before the big G-O, so tread carefully. You can locate White Shy Guys if you look hard enough, and successfully leading one to a chapter’s conclusion will allow you to retrieve one kidnapped Yoshi. This dynamic adds an extra layer of depth to a deceptively simplistic game.
If you’ve got an N64, try and grab a copy of Yoshi’s Story from a second hand store or online, or if you have a Wii you can download it from the virtual console.
I have finished Pokemon Snap five times.
This isn’t that impressive a feat, seeing as the game is definitely aimed at the under 10s and only feature 53 of the 151 original Pokemon, but it says a lot about the game’s utter addictiveness and surprisingly good quality. You play Todd, a Pokemon photographer who’s set about on a variety of on-the-rails courses – a volcano, the beach, a river, and so on – taking photographs of different Pokemon, enticing them into special moves and tricks using items that you can gather along the way. At the end of each course, Professor Oak grades your photos as part of his research, marking you on the size, position and pose of the Pokemon, with bonus points if you got other Pokemon of the same species in the shot.
There’s a huge amount to be done in Pokemon Snap. You can hypnotise a clan of Charmanders by luring them over with apples before playing the Pokeflute to send them into a rather disturbing trance-state, or you can throw Pesterballs (balls of an irritating substance which distresses Pokemon into certain actions) at Charmeleon to make him fall into a lava pit and evolve into a Charizard. You can rescue Jigglypuff from bullying Koffings by throwing Pesterballs at them, and then annoy the crap out of dear old Jiggly by playing the Pokeflute while it tries to sing you a thank you song. At the end of the game, you are given a chance to photograph the elusive Mew on the Rainbow Cloud, which leads the game to a rather haunting conclusion with its sombre, minimalist music.
Pokemon Snap is my favourite Pokemon spin off, with the only close competitor being Pokemon Puzzle League. It’s a charming and extremely inventive little world, that feels alive with real creatures that won’t always play nice when you try to get the shot. In fact, I’m still struggling with the elusively shy Lapras to this very day.