Chunky colorful scribbles of crayon, the magical discoveries of pop-up picture books, and cuddly plushies made from yarn. All timeless creative mediums that weave into childhood to stimulate the imagination of young minds. It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly 25 years since Yoshi first set out on his own grand adventure. Yet, over that period, Nintendo’s famous hungry dinosaur has embraced all three of these youthful pastimes. In Yoshi’s Crafted World, the character once again burrows into the land of creativity. By taking us back to the early school days of defacing soggy egg boxes with tissue paper and pipe cleaners, to the memory of rolling sticky balls of dried PVA glue in between our small, stubby fingers.
Yoshi’s Crafted World is a stunning and visually creative display of art and design. Every creasy fold of colored paper, lollipop stick, and sticky-back plastic is placed beautifully in a way where the stages could literally be recreated out in the real world. Each little moment is an Easter bonnet idea, a rainy day activity, or a clever box frame display sold on Etsy waiting to happen. The attention to detail is superb, with scissor-cut paper pathways almost boasting of their imperfect edges and cardboard-crafted transformations sewn through a wonderful overworld.
To say that Yoshi’s Crafted World is a pretty game is an understatement, seeing as it is one of the most beautiful looking titles to utilize Unreal Engine 4 on the Nintendo Switch. However, there are some small visual sacrifices when playing in Handheld mode. The shine and shimmer of resin Koopa Shells and the gloss of paper mache fish become slightly lost in translation due to a thin veil of fuzziness. While it takes very little away from the personality of this adorable game, playing it on the big screen certainly delivers the more optimal visual experience.
That’s not to say that there isn’t any benefit to playing on the go. With tons of stuff to collect that’s hidden throughout every level, Yoshi’s Crafted World does happen to be great for those shorter bite-sized gaming sessions. Pretty much everything you find and collect contributes to earning Smiley Flowers – a reward that must be used to unlock the next area. From the tradition of collecting 100 coins to going on souvenir errands for the cardboard robots that have just fleeced you from your hard-earned flora, one of the more advertised treasures are the cardboard costumes. These protect Yoshi from taking damage and are collected either by scanning compatible amiibo or enthusiastically chucking coins into gumball machine contraptions. These costumes seem like a throwback to being a child playing with the box instead of the toy at Christmas, except they help soften the blow from tinfoil spikes and can see you crawl across the finish line dressed as a Mouser.
How you feel about ‘collectathon’ conundrums may decide on how much mileage you will get out of Yoshi’s Crafted World. In any case, it is in carrying out the smaller tasks that can really open up the sheer quality of the game’s charm even more. The standard stages themselves are certainly alluring enough for multiple playthroughs. But when hunting down Poochy Pups concealed within them, we also get to see all the clever engineering hidden behind the curtain. These Flip Side stages see the camera turn 180 degrees to uncover partially covered milk cartons, cereal boxes, and the wires of fairy lights poking through thin sheets of plywood. For the adult gamer, its therapeutic busy work to relieve the stresses of life. But for the younger player, it’s a glorious wonderland of discovery and achievement.
Unsurprisingly, Yoshi’s Crafted World is not a difficult game to play through. Yet to see such polish on what essentially could be snubbed as a “kids title” is refreshing to see in this modern, more adult-orientated world of big-budget gaming. While I usually do love a good challenge, sometimes it’s nice to just kick back, relax, and enjoy the hunt for secrets and hidden pathways without having to overcome some kind of devilish obstacle. This is especially so when the stages are as different and diverse as they are here. One minute the game is like a digital world of Nintendo Labo set in feudal Japan. The next, you are venturing through giant garden puddles and hopping across plant pots surrounded by handmade contraptions made from broken twigs.
What makes this a more enjoyable adventure than its predecessor, is not only the advantage of having a wider source of materials for the level designers to play with but the many different ways the creators have actually used them. As gorgeous as it was, I did find Yoshi’s Woolly World to be a bit samey in both gameplay and design because of its familiarity and overuse in a dedicated theme of ideas. The team down at Good-Feel have certainly taken what they have learned in the past and coined up a much more interesting experience as a result. The wider range of materials on show help balance out the lack of difficulty with sheer surprise and a wonderful field of depth. Even the controls have been improved with the ever-unchanged Egg Throw rocker now becoming a bit more freeform to strike targets around the 3D diorama environment – whether in the foreground or background.
Seeing my five-year-old daughter with wide eyes fire up her own profile and interact with Yoshi’s Crafted World by herself is a joy to behold. However, teaming up in two-player co-op can become a bit of a nightmare. The deviousness of stealing a partner’s eggs by eating their Yoshi can bring with it the mischievous antics continues to deliver that local multiplayer magic. But, unfortunately, having the chance to ride on the back of another Yoshi isn’t always quite as wonderful as it sounds. The idea is that the Yoshi hitching a ride can concentrate on hurling Eggs while the other looks after movement, enforcing a sense of teamwork. As adorable as it may look, in practice, it doesn’t work out quite as well unless both players happen to be well in sync with one another.
Since there is no dedicated control input to actually mount or even kick off a mounted Yoshi, the constant accidental piggybacking can get rather frustrating – especially when trying to line up a clean Egg Throw. It’s also hard for both players to explore more independently as the camera refuses to ever pan out in multiplayer. This essentially makes the constant hopping onto each other seem even more inconvenient. Such restrictions lead me to want the developer to patch in the option to not to have the Yoshi interact at all or at least add a dedicated motion gesture (or button input) when you want it to happen.
Another gripe I had was with the game’s soundtrack. Despite feeling that the main theme works perfectly for the adventure early on, I didn’t enjoy it enough to want to hear it play out countless times over and over again. The handful of variations (for what is essentially the same melody) are a nice and somewhat welcoming touch, but it became so repetitive that I genuinely felt like I was being trolled.
While the music may lack variety, the rest of Yoshi’s Crafted World more than makes up for it in delivering a wonderful joy-packed adventure. The many types of Shy Guy alone is a fitting example of how much the game is just brimming with diversity and personality. Whether bouncing on pink balloons, playing hide and seek or gormlessly staring at paper butterflies taped to strips of wire, they enjoy existing in a world made from plastic cups and corrugated cardboard. That is until they have to defend themselves from a hoard of fuzzy-felt Yoshi that want nothing more than to gulp them up and turn them into Eggs.
With Yoshi’s Crafted World, Good-Feel should be very proud of themselves for what they have achieved with this heartwarming adventure. Not only have they created a Yoshi game that convincingly pulls the series out from under the ever-widening shadow of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, but they have also managed to prop it securely on its own aspirational eye-candy pedestal as a result. This Nintendo Switch exclusive is a stunning visual brainstorm of imagination, color, and creativity. With so much to see and do long after the credits roll, you’d be hard pressed to find anything quite as ingeniously charming or damn right adorable.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Nintendo