Yoshi and his adventures have been a divisive issue in Nintendo’s catalogue ever since Yoshi’s Story. Some argue that the games have become the casual gamer’s Super Mario titles, whilst others believe Yoshi is a way for Nintendo to experiment without risking their main money maker in the platforming space. In that regard, personally, I believe if Nintendo never had Mario return as a 2D platformer, Yoshi would be something unique, but perhaps he’d lack that marketing magic. All that aside, in this Yoshi’s Woolly World Review you’ll see this game is quite the experience.
To set up the review, let’s cover the very simple plot: the Yoshis are enjoying each other’s company when the evil wizard Kamek appears and transforms several Yoshi’s in to bundles of yarn. Yoshi attempts to rescue them, and his friends are scattered to different lands in the process. You’re then on a vital mission to rescue your friends and stop Kamek from completing his home-made sweater collection. Except for that last part. That part was a fabric…ation. I’m done.
Look and Feel
Woolly World isn’t just a name, it’s a lifestyle. All kidding aside, the aesthetic is the first thing you notice. Everything in Yoshi’s Woolly World is made of yarn. The Yoshis, the enemies, the stages themselves; they’re all a beautiful craft-work that is positively adorable. Nintendo have a way of helping their art styles overcome their graphical limitations, and Woolly World is absolutely a testament to that. That said, it’s no Mario Kart 8. It’s not pushing the limits of the Wii U’s fidelity, but it’s pleasant to behold and unique all the same.
You can play as many different Yoshi the more you unlock on your adventure. They’re a mere palette swap, but it’s sometimes refreshing to play as Shy-Guy Yoshi instead of Classic Green.
My favourite touch is the way that Yoshi transforms in to different things as you play. A hammer when he ground-pounds, and his feet morph in to a propeller when he Flutter Jumps, but the best by far is that when Yoshi reaches top speed on the ground, his feet become wheels. It’s all just heart-warming and happens organically within the game. Whilst it doesn’t impact the game, it shows the level of care that went in to the designing this world.
If you’re familiar with the mechanics of the Yoshi games prior to this one, there isn’t much new, but the challenge is greater than it has been in a while. A welcome change, at that.
Levels mainly consist of 2D-style platforming in a 3D aesthetic (think ” NEW Super Mario Bros.”). Your aim is to journey through the level and reach the goal. Whether or not you put in the effort to attain the collectibles is entirely your own choice. Upon completion of the level, your results are displayed on a billboard detailing what you’ve managed to collect on the way and you’re awarded a bunch of gems to spend on Yoshi power-ups for one-time use in any level.
There are two modes in Yoshi’s Woolly World: “Classic Mode” and “Mellow Mode”. Classic Mode is just like the name implies; the Yoshi style you’ll be used to if you’ve ever played a Yoshi game before. Mellow Mode provides an easier experience for those that have trouble with the jumping mechanics, as Yoshi has a unique jump that we’ll cover momentarily, and gives the Yoshi wings in order to stabilise him. It doesn’t allow you to fly, but takes the effort out of jumping so that easily-frustrated people, baring in mind the intended audience is 3+, can continue without issue. As far as I can tell, there’s no penalty or bonus for either choice of mode, it’s just a marginally different experience. I decided to play on Classic Mode, but I allowed Mellow Mode a chance for the sake of review.
Yoshi’s controls are different to that of what you might be used to if you’ve never controlled Yoshi before. The most obvious of which is the jump. Jumping is the main mechanic of platforming games, and ordinarily you’ll have a jump, a double-jump and perhaps a long/triple jump. There have been many variations of the style, but the classic variation is by far and away Yoshi’s own “Flutter Jump”.
When Yoshi jumps, if you hold the A button on the Wii U Gamepad, he’ll make an endearing “hurrrrrgh” sound and struggle himself in to a hover-like state for a moment. This hover can be utilised to remain in the air, breezing over enemies and enabling a by-pass of some platforming obstacles if timed correctly with each attempt. It’s not necessary to pull off, but a skilled player can definitely use it to their advantage to “break” the intended progression of a level, though not to the extent of cheating. The Flutter Jump’s intention is to enable players to reach platforms seemingly beyond reach and is often only required for areas that hold collectibles above anything else.
Yoshi’s other talents involve a ground-pound, that transforms him in to a hammer to hit the ground with, the classic ability to eat enemies and transform them in to yarn balls this time around instead of the usual eggs, the ability to throw the aforementioned yarn balls at targets and a few surprise “breath” abilities later on involving the consumption of watermelons.
The level design is the star of the show here, though the feeling takes a while to kick in. There are a total of six worlds and eight levels in each, with numerous special levels unlockable via collecting collectibles. You’re not short on content, but the game spends a little too long introducing you to its mechanics before it throws some really interesting platforming your way. A particular highlight is the “Curtain Rail” level, which has Yoshi riding the rails and leaping from curtain to curtain in order to survive and reach the end.
If you are a completionist, there’s a lot for you in here in true Nintendo tradition. There are flowers that can enable a bonus game at the end of the level to earn more gems. There are yarn bundles that combine to release kidnapped Yoshis with various designs as mentioned before. You are rated on how much health you have left at the end of the level, and there are stamps hidden within gems in the game at a grand 20 per level that stack over the game and unlock stamp designs at certain milestones to use with your Miiverse messages.
You’ll find yourself collecting many gems, and as you progress through the game, you’ll unlock Power Badges. These Power Badges enable a special ability for Yoshi in exchange for some gems for that one level. They can be purchased as many times as requested on any of the levels available, but only one can be active at a time. The most effective badge in my opinion is the magnet. 5000 gems will net you the ability to attract collectibles to your from much further away. It takes some of the precision out of it, but I was more than willing to throw my 5000 down for it. The completionists will want to unlock the ability to see hidden items automatically without having to hover across them. There are many more, but those were the most valuable to me in my playthrough.
The collectibles can be hard to find, and that’s where the challenging aspect of Yoshi’s Woolly World resides. It’d be relatively simple to traverse the levels and just progress, but uncovering the hidden sections of the game takes a while and will extend your playtime exponentially. You’ll almost certainly be replaying a wealth of levels if 100% is your end-game goal.
For those that aren’t planning on going so in-depth, the boss fights can sometimes take you by surprise. It’s touching on getting a little tired now with the whole “hit it three times” mechanic, even if it is mixed in with some occasional alternatives, it is prevalent throughout. The final boss does a good job of providing a surprise, but the rest of the bosses could have been a little more varied. None are bad, and many are well-designed, but I did find myself getting a little bit bored towards the end.
The general platforming of Yoshi is solid, though I feel the aiming arc of the throwing mechanic needs to be switched to a manual system. As it stands, the Yoshi throw mechanic upon the pressing of X brings up an arc-line that moves up and down in-front of Yoshi to indicate where you’ll throw. I’d prefer to aim this myself as this current methodology restricts me somewhat and is in contrast to the jumping mechanics, that offer a huge amount of freedom depending on your skill.
The multiplayer is pleasant enough. You can take two Yoshis in to a level and complete it. It’s no different to the single-player experience, but the equality between players means no fighting over player 1. The nature of the game also prevents either character being too far from the main screen they share. This is a understandable choice as being able to break away from each other would break a load of the later levels.
In order to break up the slight monotony of the game as a whole, there are levels within levels that give you a different Yoshi experience. Some will make Yoshi a giant monster smashing everything in his way, whilst others will turn you in to a Mermaid-Yoshi, demanding you speedily swim through the time-attack based special stages. These were the highlight of my experience and I genuinely feel some of these special stages could have been implemented as larger levels to provide wider variety in the gameplay, but instead they were relegated to momentary breaks from the norm, and that’s a real shame.
Ultimately, Yoshi’s Woolly World is a fantastic idea that does what it does flawlessly. The issue stands in that it relies upon its tried-and-true style too much, and whilst it does give the occasional bit of breathing room with some truly marvelous levels, a great deal of it feels too similar to the point of boredom.
For its intended audience, however, Yoshi’s Woolly World will provide hours upon hours of joy, and older gamers such as myself will have a mostly enjoyable time too with special moments that make you wonder why they didn’t utilise these parts more often. More Mermaid Yoshi in the future please, Good Feel.
Yoshi’s Woolly World
Review Format: Wii U