Yoshi’s Cookie

I generally consider myself to be of average intelligence. At the very least, I am certain that I can outsmart most 6-year-olds. However, this little puzzle for the Super Nintendo about matching rows of cookies has me doubting if, maybe, I should go back and try primary school again.

Yoshi’s Cookie is a cutesy puzzle game starring Mario’s green friend Yoshi, known for his limitless appetite and players’ willingness to sacrifice his life to extend their jumps. This puzzle game focuses on that first quality and is a fairly standard tile-matching puzzle game.

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Players click on a tile and can then shift all tiles in either a horizontal or vertical line around with the D-pad, rearranging them until they can create a row or column consisting of nothing but that type of cookie. The titular Yoshi Cookies are special tiles that can match with anything. Once a row or column is created, it disappears and all the cookies around it drop and shift to fill up the space, allowing you to create combos if even more matches are created by this movement.

The game features 2 singleplayer modes and 1 multiplayer feature. Battle mode has a lone player try to clear the board as new pieces continually move in from the sides and drop down from above, whereas Puzzle mode gives players a set board that they must clear in as few moves as possible. These modes feature 10 “rounds” with 10 stages each, interspersed with little cutscenes that recycle assets from Super Mario World. A password system is in place, but players can also manually select what round to start from.

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I find “SLAVE” a strange naming choice for a power-up.

The real star is the multiplayer VS mode that can also be played against bots. Two contestants are given a board each and must fill up a bar on the side by making matches faster than their opponent. It’s a high-speed game once you get into it and I had a lot of fun training myself to notice potential matches as fast as possible.

However, I found myself constantly losing to the AI opponents, oftentimes with a score of 0-3. The AI is really good at its own game and poses a healthy challenge, but I found particular issue with the game’s mechanics for messing with the other player. By matching up a row of Yoshi Cookies, you have a chance at triggering an attack on the other player, like randomizing their board, controlling their cursor, or obscuring part of the board. However, whether this actually happens or not depends on two hints in your HUD: whether your character has a X or a O and whether there is an attack listed in the display at all.

These indicators can change literally any time, even as your row of Yoshi cookies vanishes. This depends partly on the character you play and their statistics, but it’s frustrating when you think you are about to score a big hit, only for the O to turn into a X, meaning it backfires instead. These effects can last a long time and can also be chained, keeping you out of control for long stretches of time while the other player (or AI) pushes their lead. This might sound like it takes a lot of skill and planning to do, but the bots were pulling these shenanigans constantly.

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I am not a big fan of competitive puzzle-gaming and become less of a fan the more my opponent is permitted to harass me whilst puzzling. Puzzle games are my zen space, I don’t need some other jerk or a robot shaking my puzzle around because they put in a special piece. Or, indeed, shake my puzzle around because I put in the special piece, but the rules changed just a moment before I did.

The VS mode is definitely the mode I found myself getting back to the most. Battle and Puzzle are fine for short stretches of time, but I feel VS really gets the most out of the mechanics and offers the most entertaining gameplay. The bots are also not unbeatable and I could score some victories after a bit of a practice; it just feels like they are way too optimized for the original target audience. Nostalgic nerds should be able to overcome the steep hurdles at the start of the game, after which they can enjoy fun puzzles and the charming presentation.

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With that said, the lack of a real story mode or overarching goal do harm the game’s long-term appeal. You can beat all 100 stages of Puzzle and Battle mode if you want and there are extra playable character to unlock if you beat Mario, Peach, Yoshi, and Bowser in the VS mode, but it doesn’t hold much water compared to Tetris Attack, which had more of a structured campaign to work through and was more polished overall. Yoshi’s Cookie is a different game mechanically and still worth checking out, but between the two Yoshi-themed puzzle games on the Super Nintendo, I’d always recommend Tetris Attack.

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