Beware the God Killer in Yoku's Island Express

4min read

Time stood still as a new kind of old evil ravages the world as we know it, freezing us in time and space, while we clutch our crosses in fear. Sadly, God is dead and we killed him. In a time of unprecedented irrationality, ignorance and stupidity, it’s been difficult for me to stay sane in these trying times.

It may or may not be too late for our world. Only time will tell. In the meantime, I plan to stay sane by escaping (responsibly) into worlds that are less fractured and absurd than our own.

Now that I’ve hooked you with an edgy introduction, let me talk to you about a goofy, fun and happy game.

In Yoku’s Island Express, you play as a dung beetle named Yoku. You and your boulder land on Mokumana Island, where you’ve been given a job as the island’s new Postmaster. You start your adventure by delivering mail but you soon become responsible for caring for the island’s inhabitants. Along the way, you become the hero that saves the island from an ancient evil known as the God Killer.

What makes Yoku’s Island Express special is how you control Yoku (and his boulder) and how the island is built. You have control over two things: Yoku’s boulder and the pinball-esque paddles that are scattered all across the landscape. By moving Yoku’s boulder and flinging it around with the paddles, you can explore the interconnected world of Mokumana Island, meet its people and uncover its many secrets. As you explore the island, you acquire new abilities that allow you to explore more of the island and so on and so forth.

Moving Yoku and his boulder around while discovering the beautiful island made me happy. The quirky characters I met always managed to make me smile with their goofy dialogue and expressive animations. The many pinball table-esque arenas provided enough of a challenge to keep things interesting without becoming frustrating.

These arenas reminded me of the many hours I spent playing 3D Pinball on my family’s first computer. This might explain why Yoku’s Island Express resonated with me so deeply. During my time with the game, on more than one occasion, I felt a sense of calm and oneness wash over me as I rolled my boulder around. I felt a sense of purpose that has been hard for me to find in my day to day life, especially this past year in lockdown. The creatures living on Mokumana Island needed me and, it seems as though, I needed them.

I’ve played video games my entire life, at school I made small games, I spent a few years making “real” games as a job, and in recent years I’ve intentionally distanced myself from video games, at least professionally. I’ve always loved video games but, as I’ve grown older, I’ve become more jaded. It’s been harder and harder for me to find games that really click with me.

I’m glad I took a chance on Yoku’s Island Express because it was able to, temporarily, reawaken a childlike sense of wonder in me. It turned back the clock, and made me feel as though I was still the wide-eyed child, sitting cross-legged in front of the CRT TV in my family’s basement for hours on end. It reminded me of a simpler time, when all of us had much less to worry about.

Yoku’s Island Express is much more than the sum of its parts. I loved moving around the island, I loved discovering its secrets, I loved talking to the beings living there, and I loved helping them. A lot of love was poured into every nook and cranny of the game, and I felt that love reflected back onto me as I played it.

More than anything, right now, I crave meaningful connection. Through playing Yoku’s Island Express, I felt deeply connected to the developers of the game. Through my writing this past year or so, I’ve tried to reconnect on a meaningful level with video games and rekindle my passion for them.

I hope that by sharing my love of this game, and others, with you, I’ve been able to connect with you in some way too, however small and fleeting that connection may be.

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