Yoshi’s Woolly World is the latest instalment in the Yoshi series stemming all the way back to Yoshi’s Island on the SNES. The first game was universally praised and often ranks among gamer’s all-time favourites. Since the however, the series has struggled to reach anywhere near the same heights. Attempts to recreate the glory of Yoshi’s Island often just fell to mediocrity and the series has been shifted from developer to developer from Artoon to their successor, Arzest, even Nintendo’s internal development teams struggled to make a great Yoshi game. The latest studio to be handed the series’ reins is Good-Feel, famous for developing the well-received Kirby’s Epic Yarn.
After seven mainline instalments, have they managed to make a great Yoshi game since the first one? The answer is undoubtedly yes. Get the pitchforks and torches on standby people because… I think it’s the best Yoshi game yet.
As with their work on Kirby, Good-Feel have gone with a yarn art-style and it’s absolutely wonderful. It suits Yoshi down the ground. Everything is made from fabric and looks completely handmade. It’s like visiting a hobbyist crocheter’s house. Everything feels real and tangible, made with love. Along with Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, it’s one of the best looking games on the console thanks to the art-style.
The story of Woolly World is rather very simple. You and your woolly Yoshi friends are just hanging around having fun. That is until that troublesome Kamek shows up to cause mayhem, taking all the yarn out of your friends and taking them away. It’s your job, of course, to go and rescue them.
The gameplay closely follows the usual Yoshi 2D side scrolling routine. So how can I say it’s better than the original? Well, unlike the other sequels it’s takes the usual mechanics and just smooth’s them out. There are 5 worlds each with a handful of stages to conquer. In each stage Yoshi is expected to collect various items hidden around and then reach the goal, having all of the items at the end of the stage counts as 100%ing it.
- The first requirement is to complete the stage with full health. You begin with 10 health points but you can collect more along the way for a total of 20.
- The next are the Yoshi-standard flowers hidden around, of which there are five to collect. Collecting all five in every stage of a world and you are rewarded with an extra level for that said world.
- There are also five bundles of yarn hanging around. If you collect all five in one level you are rewarded with a cute new wool pattern for your Yoshi.
- The final collectables are Miiverse stamp coins hidden within beads spread across the stage. There are 20 in one level and if you collect enough of these you will receive new Miiverse stamps at certain milestones. These are the new equivalent of red coins.
Most of these items are hidden out of sight, in secret areas, doors and just about anywhere they can squeeze them. Like its predecessors it’s a game that rewards exploration and curiosity and it is what sets the series apart from its Nintendo platforming peers.
Unlike previous Yoshi iterations once you complete a stage, the stage remembers what you have already collected. So now you don’t have to do a perfect run of a level in order to collect everything. This is a huge step up for me personally. It doesn’t feel like a chore, makes the game less frustrating than before and gave me much more motivation to actually go back and collect everything.
As per usual Yoshi traverses the stages with his flutter jump, ground pound and his egg throwing mastery. Wait… no. Eggs are gone now! In their place we have yarn balls to launch into Shy Guy faces. These balls are actually a little more useful than eggs. They come in two sizes, which vary in endurance, and they can entangle enemies up as well as creating new woolly platforms for Yoshi to stand upon in certain areas.
Oh, there’s also no baby Mario. Nintendo have spared us.
The structure is pretty typical; there are 6 worlds with a generous 8 levels in each. Worlds follow fairly clichéd themes: grassland, desert, water etc. and each world contains two bosses to defeat. The bosses offer a standard Nintendo-special: 3 hits and they’re out. The bosses themselves are just gigantic versions of standard enemies through the use of Kamek’s magic. It’s a little lazy, but the Yoshi series has always been that way unfortunately. Some bosses are also repeated, and even if they have different attacks/characteristics, I would have preferred them to use completely different enemies. Fighting a giant Parakooper three times is too much.
The game isn’t particularly difficult to begin with. The first few worlds will be pretty much a breeze even for inexperienced players as long as they can grasp the basic controls. The game, however, can get much more difficult around the last two worlds, especially trying to snag some of the collectables. This is where the real challenge comes in for those wanting a test of their skills.
Following Nintendo’s recent trend of making their games accessible to gamers of all ages and skill, Woolly World offers various options for changing the difficulty on the fly. For a start there are two modes to switch between: “classic” (which is the standard gameplay) and “mellow” which practically makes Yoshi invincible and able to fly through the stage. This is obviously aimed at smaller children who can’t make their way through the game. However if you want a bit more of a nuanced approach to difficulty, the game offers the ability to buy “power badges” which can be bought using the gems you can pick up in the stages. These allow you to change an aspect of the game for one stage. There are numerous varieties available from always giving you large wool balls to giving you a higher defence. I didn’t use any of these on my first play through, but I found them extremely helpful for quickly hoovering up the collectables I missed previously.
Once the main game is completed you are given the opportunity to retest your skills against the bosses. This time however they are much more difficult. It seems Kamek has given them an extra strong espresso or two because now they are almost unfairly fast and ruthless. Defeating these foes gives you even more woolly skins for Yoshi and these ones are extra cool. Although I must say even I haven’t managed to conquer the last two coffee-injected bosses yet to get that last Yoshi skin.
The game’s soundtrack is fantastic. It’s so chilled out, relaxed and fits the mood perfectly. I found it particularly memorable due to how different it seemed from the usual video game music. It uses a nice range of genres within its central motifs and although they seem to use the same songs a few times too many (always an issue for me), it’s still a joy to listen to. I especially enjoy the instrumentation. It feels like real music. The twangy bass, the steel blues guitar; it has a rawness to it that I can’t help but admire.
Amiibo support is here in full force. As mentioned before, Yoshi can acquire new skin patterns. Amiibo offer EVEN MORE of these. Stick your amiibo on the gamepad and watch that character be brought to life Yoshi-style. Yoshi will now wear a skin reminiscent of your amiibo, so for example, Mario will make Yoshi have red overalls and a rather unnerving moustache. I have to say I was rather partial to my Marth Yoshi. Just be warned, Pokemon amiibo are not compatible.
One last thing to mention is the co-op option. Yoshi’s Woolly World allows two Yoshi’s to take on the stage together. At first glance it might seem like a superfluous addition, but generally it is fun and offers many laughs. You can actually eat your fellow Yoshi and use them as a weapon or, like my other half seemed to enjoy doing to me, spit them out over a bottomless pit to their inevitable doom. It’s a troll’s paradise.
Overall, Yoshi’s Woolly World is a joy to play. It’s bright, colourful, cheerful and generally just a happy place to be. It irons out most of the faults its predecessors possessed and presents itself (at least to me, anyways) as the best Yoshi game we’ve had so far.
- Brilliant visuals
- Memorable soundtrack
- Removes many of the series’ faults
- No baby Mario *throws confetti*
- Repeated bosses
- Structure is a little too standard