Nintendo games don’t conform to the norm. Even with the Wii U struggling to capture the world with it’s unprecedented games, they’re still willing to push the boundaries in game design, visual appeal and unadulterated fun. Yoshi’s Woolly World not only meets all these expectations, but sets a new benchmark covered in yarn.
It all starts on Craft Island. A tiny little island in the middle of a knitted ocean. Life is good for all the various coloured Yoshi’s, but not for long. Kamek the wizard appears out of nowhere and turns all the Yoshi’s into packs of Wonder Wool. It’s up to you to save all the Yoshi’s and knit them back to their former state. Yes, it’s a very cliché story, in terms of ‘saving something’, but this game is not about winning narrative-based awards. What follows is nothing less than spectacular.
The very first thing that stands out is the graphical style. Like Kirby’s Epic Yarn the world is made out of wool and other soft materials from head to toe. You can’t help but fall in love with the style as Yoshi little feet sinks into the very soft floor. Everything from the hud to the title menu is a yarn wonder world. Yarn, buttons and other forms of fabric makes up each level with smaller details, right down to hidden paths, marked by knots, brings the world to life. Zap a knot with your tongue, by pressing the B button, and your Yoshi will gobble up the yarn to reveal a hidden path or items to help you complete a level. Yoshi has many other tricks up his woolly sleeve.
Once Yoshi has gobbled up an enemy press down on the D-Pad to poop out a yarn ball. It seems the Yoshi’s in this particular game have a very interesting digestive system. Munch on a knot and you’ll poop out a gigantic yarn ball. Press the ZR trigger and a cursor will move in an up and down motion. You can then either time your throw of a yarn ball by waiting for the right angle before pressing the ZR trigger again, or you can stop the cursor at a particular angle by pressing the ZL trigger. This helps in tough situations where the various enemies are overwhelming, especially towards the last few levels. Think of this ‘yarn throwing ability’ as the bread and butter of the game.
You throw it to destroy enemies, or to trap certain enemies (like the Piranha Plant), followed by a jump on their head. Press and hold the jump button in and Yoshi will perform his signature jump move that gives him that last-second boost to get to out-of-reach areas. The yarn balls can also make platforms appear by throwing the balls at dotted shapes or winged clouds. Once you grasp that concept it’ll make your life all the easier to hunt for treasures. Oh boy, are there some fantastic treasures to look our for.
Each level, of which there our 5 worlds and 8 levels in each (oh, and perhaps a secret or two) will host particular items, which are more often than not hidden. The most exciting of the lot are the Wonder Wool sets. Five of these colourful items are hidden in each course. Collect all five and, once the course is complete, you’ll be granted a new Yoshi to play with. It’s not just a general coloured Yoshi. Think along the lines of Yoshimelon, Burt the Yoshi and Skeleton Yoshi for a taste of what’s to come. Be warned, you’ll become quite obsessive in collecting them all. Collect beads to find hidden Stamp Patches (this adds stamps to be used in Miiverse) and then you’ll be on the lookout for Smiley Flowers. Each course comes with five Smiley Flowers. Collect all 5 Flowers in each of the 8 levels of a world and you’ll be rewarded a special level. Another reason for obtaining these flowers is that you’ll increase your chance, 5-fold, of playing a bonus game when crossing the Goal Ring at the end of a level. You’ll be rewarded with beads in these bonus games that acts as a currency in Yoshi’s Woolly World.
Stuck? You might need a badge. Buying a badge will help you through a level. Buy Poochy, Yoshi’s furry best friend, to help you bounce to areas that’s out of reach or purchase a magnetic field badge that has all items pulling towards you. You also get elemental fire and ice weapon badges (and more), but I found that I only used a few badges for some of the harder levels towards the end.
Yoshi’s Woolly World is tailored for gamers of all skill levels. Play it in Classic mode by yourself and you’re in for an extremely tough time, no matter how good a gamer you think you might be. Have a friend join you in co-op mode (it can’t exceed two players, and that’s a good thing as there are yarn balls all over the show) and your experience will be a bit easier. Should you die you’ll float in a winged egg towards the other player and re-appear, once touched, to continue the adventure. Also, should you run out of yarn balls you can swallow your co-op buddy and transform his or her Yoshi into a yarn ball, which is more handy than you might think. Mellow mode will have Yoshi flying about the level with a pair of wings, you’ll receive double the hearts to replenish health, boss fights are easier (along with an instant rematch option, instead of starting a checkpoint again) and, if you’re serious a n00b gamer, there’s a badge that’ll let you instantly clear a course. It’s quite a variety of options. Why? Great level design.
Words can not describe just how amazing the level design is. Each and every level will throw something new at you. Right up to the very last level there was a new element that had my crying with tears of joy. Some stages are literally mazes, others will test your puzzle solving techniques, then you’re tested with gravity challenges and so forth. Each and every level has a theme that’ll test something new you never expected. Find hidden doors and Yoshi will transform into a Bike, Dolphin, Umbrella, Mole or whatever the situation requires. The game is just so versatile and because of the ‘yarn factor’ it can adapt to any situation. It’s level design perfection. There is however one thing that could have been improved.
The boss fights all feel very similar. Find a ‘weak spot’, throw a yarn, ground pound, rinse repeat two more times. It’s still enjoyable, but when the level design is so good the MEH boss fights do stand out. Thankfully it’s not a very short game. Yoshi’s Woolly World will last you roughly 18 hours, which is lengthy for a platformer and then there’s the inclusion of the best amiibo integration to date. Scan just about any amiibo you own into the game and it’ll turn into a custom-designed Yoshi. In my opinion Kirby, MetaKnight and Megaman looked the most spectacular out the lot.
For those who are ‘too hardcore’ for Nintendo games, don’t let the cutesy graphics pull the wool over your eyes. The only person you’re spiting is yourself. It’s highly unlikely that we’ll see another game in 2015 with this much charm and incredible level design. The bright colourful adventure will light up your day and you’ll hum the theme song in the shower in the morning as the after effects stretches past the game itself. Yoshi’s Woolly World is Nintendo’s Wind Waker of this generation.