Yoshi’s Woolly World: Well-Crafted

Games Reviews
Yoshi’s Woolly World: Well-Crafted

Yoshi’s Woolly World isn’t the first videogame to look like an arts and crafts project, but it might be the most adorable. Mario’s dinosaur pals are already almost panderingly cute, and now they’re little stuffed animal versions of themselves. Somehow they’ve made Yoshi even more adorable, and that actually feels kind of dangerous. You’ll be so busy oohing and ahhing you might forget you’re playing a game.

If that style makes you think of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, well, it’s made by the same people. Woolly World looks even crisper and more lifelike because it’s in HD, and it’s also a better game than Epic Yarn. That’s good, because Epic Yarn was pretty great in its own right.

Everything looks like it’s made of yarn. When Yoshi latches on to his enemies with his tongue and swallows them up, he actually untangles them and turns them into a ball of yarn that can be used as a projectile. Those balls can take out other enemies, unlock secrets or, in one of the game’s most clever touches, reknit platforms or other environmental objects that have disappeared. Yoshi should always have a few balls of yarn at his disposal, as you’ll never know when you’ll need them. There are also loose threads throughout the game that, when tugged on, reveal hidden areas or collectibles. Unlike Little Bit Planet, which is excellent but uses its real-life crafts aesthetic for primarily cosmetic impact, Woolly World leans heavily into the concept.

Yoshi doesn’t always remain a dinosaur. Throughout the game are timed set-pieces where Yoshi will turn into some new kind of yarn-based object with unique ways to move. Some times Yoshi will turn into an umbrella and have to ride air currents through a level. Other times he’ll turn into a massive Yoshi who plows through everything in his path. The game regularly introduces these moments, and along with the regularly changing environment they keep the action from becoming too similar or repetitive.

Woolly World can be deceptively hard. The adorable art and the fact that it’s an old-fashioned sidescroller might lull you into thinking it’ll be a breeze, but keep in mind how hard those sidescrollers could be back in the day. It’s never quite as challenging as the late stages of a Super Mario game, and between Yoshi’s strong constitution and frequent health refills it’s rare to actually die through enemy contact. Yoshi’s unique, fluttery jump and the instant death of the open pit will conspire to send you to your end more than you’ll expect. (You should probably buy the special power badge that lets you survive pit falls on a level as often as you can afford it.) I sat down thinking I could blast through the game in an afternoon, but there were a few moments where I had to turn the Wii U off and collect my bearings after repeated failures.

yoshis woolly world screen.jpg

It follows the structure you expect from a Mario-adjacent Nintendo game: there are multiple worlds made up of various levels, and every world has a miniboss about halfway through and a final stage that might as well be one of Bowser’s castles. There are three different kinds of collectibles to keep an eye on, including stamps that are easily found within clusters of coins, and five flowers per stage that are a bit more hidden. Those flowers act like stars in a Mario game, unlocking more levels and secrets down the way. You also can find bundles of yarn, and if you grab all five on a stage it rescues another Yoshi that can be swapped out for your playable character. Yes, you rescue your dismembered friends and put them back together again. Kind of dark for the cutesy yarn dinosaur game.

Like almost all recent Nintendo games, Woolly World supports Amiibos. It even has its own unique Amiibos, tiny stuffed Yoshis that my dogs mistook for chew toys. When used they unlock a Yoshi doppelganger that appears on screen alongside your main character. The clone does everything that your main Yoshi does. Although that makes it even harder to die, it’s still a distraction—the clone Yoshi will get stuck behind walls or pipes as you jump, regularly winding up out of position, and forcing you to hit a button that zaps him back to your main Yoshi. I avoided this after a few rounds. Non-Yoshi Amiibos create new Yoshi skins patterned after those characters. Mario and Luigi Yoshis have big mustaches on their nose, the Olimar Yoshi has Pikmin for a ridge, the Samus Yoshi has a blue right arm and Samus’s helmet design on his nose. Again: this game is almost irresponsibly adorable.

Woolly World looks old fashioned. At first it’s deeply familiar, recalling Epic Yarn specifically and countless other Nintendo games more broadly, but it has its own specific rhythms and techniques. It doesn’t feel like any of the games you might want to compare it to while you’re playing it, even as it openly lifts various aspects of the Super Mario universe. It pulls in these familiar strands and spins it into something new and exciting.

You’re probably thinking this isn’t cut out for anybody past a certain age, that it’s just for kids. If you feel that way about games, well, bless your heart. This is a medium where the most acclaimed and best selling games feel like the idle doodles of a middle-school boy. I’ll take my light-hearted joy where and when I can when dealing with videogames, and few games are as joyous or adorable as this one.

Yoshi’s Woolly World was developed by Good-Feel and published by Nintendo. It is available for the Wii U.

Garrett Martin edits Paste’s games and comedy sections. You can follow him on Twitter, if you’re into that.

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