Yoshi’s Woolly World is Nintendo’s most heartwarmingly-crafted adventure to date. When it had seemed that they weren’t quite sure how to move forward with the solo escapades of Mario’s dinosaur companion, cares surrounding the frankly forgettable Yoshi’s New Island are soon forgotten when this Wii U exclusive’s wondrous aesthetic lovingly beams at you.
With Good-Feel by their side, it has been a welcome chance for the developer to return to the handicraft worlds that they once constructed in Wii’s Kirby’s Epic Yarn. More elaborate than ever before, Yoshi’s woollen character design is easily his best and it’s clearly evident that there’s been a painstaking thought process behind every one of the carefully woven pixels in Yoshi’s Woolly World. So much so that, if challenged, I’m sure that they could easily be recreated in the real world if armed with the necessary assortment of yarn, felt, and fabric.
The aesthetic in Yoshi’s Woolly World may easily enchant, but it serves a far higher cause than to be merely pleasing on the eye. Whether running along beaches where strands of string and yellow rugs are used to represent the sea and sandy shores, or wearily bounding through snowy climbs where soft cotton wool perfectly encapsulates fluffy snow, Good-Feel has ensured that everything serves a purpose in making Yoshi’s adventure look and, more importantly, feel believable. (At least in a Toy Story kind of way.)
That mostly comes from being able to interact with the world around you, seen in untying knots to unearth hidden items and secret passageways, throwing yarn balls to knit platforms and Warp Pipes together, bouncing along bubbles, or crawling along velcro conveyor belts to climb your surroundings.
Yoshi’s Woolly World readily delights in execution and the different ways in which the player is challenged to progress through each of the six Worlds. Whether that be simply overcoming whichever enemies and traps cross your path, more grandiose challenges that see you setting off in multiple directions to secure keys to unlock a central door, or wandering through a Transformation Door to turn Yoshi into a roaring motorbike, carefree umbrella or soaring plane as you blaze through a timed-challenge. And then there’s Poochy, an effortlessly cute canine companion who wiggles his tail at you as he crawls through tighter spots or can give you a boost jump to out of reach platforms.
Bosses come midway through and at the close of each World, and are among the more imaginative encounters that Nintendo has conjured in recent years. There are some familiar faces such as Burt the Bashful, re-imagined to exist within this newly knitted world, with each posing their own challenges for Yoshi to overcome. That can be by burrowing beneath knitted wool to spring a surprise, breathing fire made from paper tissue at you, or other devious means of using the handicraft surroundings against you. They’re a clear highlight to the adventure, even if mini-boss characters sometimes repeat although in new ways.
Yoshi is as delightfully responsive as you’d have come to expect from a genre in which Nintendo so readily excel. There is two control schemes – A Style and B Style – for you to choose between, with differentiated button layouts. Whereas, for moments when you’re lobbing yarn balls, you can choose whichever Throw Style that best suits you: Patient, where one button press will start an on-screen cursor and the next will throw; or Hasty, where you hold the button to trigger the on-screen cursor and throw upon release. Otherwise, everything’s as normal, with Yoshi deploying his usual abilities in the trademark Flutter Jump and Ground Pound, or flicking out his tongue to gobble up enemies.
While Yoshi’s Woolly World doesn’t make any notable use of the Wii U GamePad aside from letting you enjoy Off-TV Play, it’s probably better for it. This decision instead allows you to become enraptured by the game’s tantalising visuals in all their HD glory on your TV screen, playing with either the Wii U Pro Controller, Wii Remote + Classic Controller Pro or Wii Remote-only.
This opens up the chance for a second player to join in the fun, allowing you to help one another out to complete each course. If a player meets a grizzly end, they’ll return in a Winged Egg with the surviving friend required to tap it to break them free. However, if you both fail it’s back to the start of the stage or your most recent checkpoint.
The difficulty in Yoshi’s Woolly World does ramp up in the later Worlds, and if it begins to prove too hard there are two options for you to turn to. While most will tackle the game in Classic Mode, a separate Mellow Mode is present that sees Yoshi sprout wings and granted the ability to fly. This will allow you to bypass most of the game’s more taxing challenges, with the mode also providing players with double the number of hearts and letting you have an instant rematch if you lose a boss fight. If you repeatedly fail a level in Mellow Mode, an Invincibility Egg will also appear that will prevent you from taking any damage from enemies.
If that doesn’t help, Yoshi’s Woolly World also presents you with purchasable Power Badges – bought with beads that you collect in every course. Only one can be used at a time, but the effect lasts until you clear or exit the course that you chose to use it on. These effects range from having Poochy join you in a course and an all-you-can-eat fire watermelon, through to being immune to fire and lava or automatically seeing hidden items.
That leads nicely on to collectables, which, for those looking for longevity, are going to keep you occupied for a fairly long while. Each course has five Smiley Flowers, 20 Stamp Patches and five pieces of Wonder Wool to collect, while you’re also challenged to complete them with a full 20 Hearts. The Stamp Patches are accumulative across all courses, and, as their name suggests, will periodically reward you with Stamps to use in Miiverse. Whereas gathering all five Wonder Wool will let you unlock a new patterned-Yoshi design. With a lack of a time limit, you can spend as long as necessary collecting all of these, even if it does sometimes require aimless jumping around trying to uncover hidden Winged Clouds.
Special Nintendo-related patterns are also available by simply scanning an amiibo at any point, although, for some reason, unfortunately, this doesn’t apply to any of the Pokémon amiibo. Yoshi will instantly transform into the pattern, with Ness, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mega Man and Wario being my personal favourites. Meanwhile, any of the three Yarn Yoshi amiibo will add an extra Yarn Yoshi for you to control, copying any attacks and actions that you make.
It’s attention to detail, and the unparalleled passion behind creating it, that makes Yoshi’s Woolly World such a memorable adventure. And while it may be the cuddly exterior that captivates you at first, this playful tale is one that will be forever remembered as one of the best that Yoshi’s fluttered his way through.
Version Tested: Wii U
Review copy provided by Nintendo