Remember dat? It was a - ha ha ha... ha ha ha - "spin-off" of the Sonic The Hedgehog franchise, which took that series' Casino Night Zone pinball-y bits, and built a whole game around them. At least, that's what it did in theory.
As ideas go; that's brilliant. A platformer that's also a pinball game. Except, Sonic Spinball wasn't terribly good. It was achingly mediocre, more pinball than platformer, and failed to live up to the expectations I'd built for it in my guilelessly optimistic mind.
23 years later... the game that I'd wanted Sonic Spinball to be has finally arrived, in the form of Yoku's Island Express. By way of a commentary on Sega's historic mismanagement of an open goal, it stars - rather appropriately - a dung beetle.
You know: a disgusting little creature that pushes poo around, and doesn't seemingly understand why nobody wants to eat it.
So, Yoku the dung beetle has arrived on an island for his first day as the new post master.
He must travel around the maze-like island delivering letters and packages, rolling his massive ball of turds in front of him - just like a real postal worker!
It's one huge, seamless environment, with a Metroid-like structure. In short; previously inaccessible areas become open to you as you acquire new abilities and solve puzzles.
Yoku's unique form of travel around this world is through the use of pinball flippers. It's a world full of chutes, and rails, and things you rebound off. Hitting bumpers will disgorge fruit or other items which Yoku finds useful. As he progresses, he gets access to a grappling hook, and can use a limited fast-travel network. Other areas are locked away until you complete a pinball-based puzzle.
While that would've been enough to sell me on the concept, the cherry on the tart was its sense of the island being a real place - albeit in a very video-game-y way.
It reminded me of the Dizzy series and Jet Set Willy - a place full of secrets, and named locations, and quirky characters. Coupled to the gorgeous, painted graphics, it's somewhere that I wanted to spend time, and it was that which kept me playing.
There are a few frustrations here; travelling back and forth around the island can verge on the time-consuming and tedious, especially as you're relying on your pinballing skills to get you where you want to go. It's also somewhat labyrinthine, and while you can see where you need to be on the map, getting there is another matter.
Overall though, all the elements of this genre mash-up work both in their own right, and - thanks to the quality of the presentation, the disarmingly charming storytelling and world, and the thoughtful design - as a whole. I wanted to explore the world, and discover its locations, in spite of any frustrations I might've had with the structure. It was always nice to play.
Yoku's Island is a rare game. It feels both ancient and new at the same time. It makes good on an idea that's almost a quarter of a century old, while demonstrating how games can - and should - be a sum of their parts... even if those parts don't feel like they should fit together.
In fact, here's how much I liked it; I was given a free review copy for the PS4, but elected to spend actual money of my own to play it on the Switch.
SCORE: 65p for a 1st Class Stamp out of 70p for a 1st Class Stamp!?!?