Two news items about local search and Google My Business broke on April 1 - none were April Fools' pranks. At least as far as I know!
And you don't need to go through some crazy, complicated process to get to the reviews either. There's an interface right in SERPs now. I imagine they did this because...the old model was complete rubbish.
It used to talk only about "relevance, distance, and prominence," but now they've added more information about keeping accurate business hours, verification, photos, and reviews. The original three categories were expanded as well.
And that's about it. These are definitely two changes that needed to happen. Especially that abominable Google Plus log in thing for leaving local reviews. Who thought that was a good idea? Maybe it seemed like one when Google Plus wasn't the world's punching bag.