I’ve been in love with Yoshi’s Woolly World for quite some time, but I’ve had to admire it from afar. Nintendo and developer Good-Feel haven’t shown much of their second yarn-themed title since it was officially revealed at E3 last year, so I’ve just been making googly eyes at it via the screenshots and short videos the companies have released, and now that I’ve played through the game, I can say that my adoration for Yoshi’s Woolly World doesn’t fade with an up-close look. It’s obvious that, at a glance, the game is a cute factory, pumping out adorability in large amounts, but what’s truly amazing about the platformer is that it brings so much more than sweetness to the table.
Yoshi’s Woolly World starts out on the creatively named Craft Island, where yarnified Yoshis freely roam. The evil wizard Kamek pays them a visit, breaking down all but two of the dinos into bundles of wool and fleeing to an ominous crocheted castle. It’s up to the two brave Yoshis, who trade in the series staple of weaponized eggs for balls of yarn, to rescue their pals from certain extinction. The stakes are much higher than the usual “save the princess” fare, and since you’ll be piecing your buddies back together by gathering optional yarn collectibles, it really feels like you’re gaining headway in the fight against Kamek as you best each level.
And the besting doesn’t come easy in Yoshi’s Woolly World. While it doesn’t even come close to being NES hard, I was surprised at how difficult the game could be—especially compared to Woolly World’s spiritual predecessor, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, in which death wasn’t even possible. I found myself swearing over knitted lava or enemy-filled screens more than one time, and my failure was my fault in every instance. Woolly World offers a precision in its mechanics, which can only be expected of Nintendo, and demands more of players than I was expecting from a title with such a kid-friendly facade.
But that isn’t to say that the game is unapproachable. As you complete levels, you’ll unlock power-up badges which can be paid for using gems, which are similar to coins from Mario titles. There were a few obstacles that I’m not ashamed to say I couldn’t quite get past without the help of a badge to either boost my defense or speed myself up. Yoshi’s Woolly World even features a super casual “mellow mode,” allowing less-experienced players to fly through levels with ease (in addition to adding a few new sounds to Yoshi’s already totes adorbs vocabulary of noises).
There are plenty of bits for completionists to hunt down hidden among the threads of Yoshi’s Woolly World. Collecting all 40 daisies in each world opens up an extremely well-designed level that will have you constantly on the hunt for flowers. There are also 20 stamp-stickers—which unlock stamps for Nintendo’s social hub, the Miiverse—hidden behind what look like common gems. And, as mentioned, you can collect balls of wool to piece together your disassembled friends. Seeing what creative designs the variety of playable Yoshi skins offer as well as getting more invested in the quest to reclaim your pals’ parts adds a lot of flavor to what would otherwise just be senseless collecting. These secrets are all hidden so devilishly well that you’ll almost certainly have to return to each level multiple times in order to snatch up everything they have to offer.
The imagination behind the game’s design goes far beyond Yoshi skins. Many of the standard enemies you’ve seen in past Yoshi-centric titles suddenly feel purposely built to be knitting themed when they appear in Yoshi’s Woolly World. Shy Guys threaten you with crochet hooks, Koopa Troopas have hard buttons instead of shells, and the mice that you might remember taking your eggs in Yoshi’s Island have somehow gotten even cuter by stealing your balls of yarn. Perhaps the most remarkable example design triumph is the Chain Chomp, which turns to a yarn-adorned version of the rolling chomp rocks first featured in Yoshi’s Island after being wrapped up in wool. Every time I thought that Good-Feel had exhausted every implement of the knitting world, I would be amazed by auto-scrollers featuring drapes or flowing waterfalls made of lace. This game is unprecedentedly ingenious in its design execution, paying attention to every tiny detail in order to ensure that players believe in this embroidered ecosystem.
However, for a game that is so inventive, boss fights are just so unimpressive. Yoshi’s Woolly World turns almost all of the Yoshi-franchise’s tropes on its head, but for some reason maintains that bosses are just a super-sized version of some creature you see earlier in the level. The structure of each fight boils down to knocking them off balance during an obvious point of weakness and ground-pounding their weak point. I understand that it’s common to other games and that maintaining a consistent language across boss fights makes them more accessible for casual fans, but Yoshi’s Woolly World takes the concept much too far with its overly simple battles. Even so, the only reason that the underwhelming final fights in each world stand out like a sore thumb is due to the astonishing amount of polish presented by the rest of the game.
Good-Feel’s greatest success with Woolly World is that it fluently speaks a language that is all its own. Instead of shaking the same old tree and seeing what falls out, which is what we’ve seen Nintendo do far too often with its flagship franchises, this cute world builds a sturdy branch to a tree that I wouldn’t mind seeing the company bark up in the future.
Yoshi’s Woolly World brings an astounding amount of features to an aesthetically impressive title. It stands as one of the best Wii U titles this season, constantly delivering creative twists on what the platformer genre that Nintendo has been tapping for so long. It’s an absolute must buy for fans of the Yoshi series.
E – Everyone
|Yoshi’s Woolly World is available on Wii U. Primary version played was for Wii U. Product was provided by Nintendo for the benefit of this coverage. EGM reviews on a scale of one to five stars.|