Nintendo has a way with creating wonderful settings with its characters. In the past few years, the company has enabled some of their franchises to change things up with new styles and art directions. Kirby’s Epic Yarn was one of those experimental titles, but suffered from harsh criticism for its lack of challenge. Good-Feel, the same developers of Epic Yarn, took its knack for handmade adventures and brought it into its newest title, Yoshi’s Woolly World.
From the onset, there is a clear difference visually between Woolly World and Epic Yarn. The Wii U’s high definition capabilities make every single asset stand out in Woolly World’s handmade style. The yarn-spun creatures and backdrops look tangible, with every fiber clearly visible, giving Yoshi’s environment a fuzzy feel. It’s hard not to smile while playing; even watching gameplay is a delightful experience as crocheted waterfalls and cotton ball clouds set the stage for Yoshi’s rescue mission. Yoshi must travel to each world to put together the other Yoshis, who have been unraveled by Kamek, all before Bowser Jr takes over the island. A simple story, but one that feels like a wonderful bedtime tale.
Those expecting a casual experience should keep an open mind. There are over 2000 items to collect in the game and these items are well hidden from the beginning. Back on the SNES in Yoshi’s Island, I could usually snag all five flowers on the first run through, but in Woolly World, I’ve only managed to get all five flowers on a couple levels after two worlds. Players truly have to search each level thoroughly to succeed, but the drive to do so is built into the game’s premise. The main collectibles are bundles of yarn that, when collected, knit together a unique Yoshi that’s usually themed with the level. Players can then use these patterned friends as playable characters, including some that show off Nintendo’s legacy.
Woolly World can be described as an updated Yoshi’s Island in the best ways. The game challenges players to learn how the mechanics work, similarly to Yoshi’s Island, but the yarn-made aesthetics change up the way challenges are presented and approached. For instance, Yoshi now unravels his enemies and throws balls of yarn, which can bounce off of water to reach items that can’t be reached by swimming. Chain Chomps are now wire frames that chase the player, but can be covered in yarn to use as a boulder to reach new heights, crush enemies, and press weighted switches. The yarn-based physics creates new ways of thinking.
Yoshi retains his strange ability to transform into various vehicles, but the forms make much more sense in this setting. In one level, Yoshi grows massive, stomping around like a Toho Kaiju. In another, Yoshi becomes a motorcycle for a high speed race across water spouts that look like blue, cozy blankets. Each form is used to break up the standard platforming gameplay in interesting, albeit brief, ways.
Good-Feel has gone above and beyond with Woolly World. The entire game offers unique visuals and mechanics that are inspired by Yoshi’s Island, but add new layers of depth. Yoshi will forever hold his spot as a hero of one of the best Wii U titles in its sparse library. It’s a delightful experience for all ages, including veterans looking for a solid platforming game. Hopefully, Woolly Wold’s success will lead to more experimentation from Nintendo.