Yoshi's Crafted World Review
Following on from Kirby’s Epic Yarn, the fairly woeful stick-a-thon Paper Mario: Sticker Star and Yoshi’s own Woolly World comes Yoshi’s Crafted World: the latest Nintendo franchise to be given the handmade makeover treatment. Rather than reinvent the wheel, Nintendo has simply remade the wheel out of an old bottle cap, sticky-backed plastic and plenty of corrugated cardboard. It makes for a charming Blue Peter-esque platformer that is chock-a-block with smart Nintendo level design and set pieces that genuinely surprise and delight.
There are no progress trees, no unlockable skills here to master, instead, Yoshi’s moveset is present and correct from the outset: his desperate flutter at the height of his jump, the ground pound, his yum plumb noise when he swallows Shy Guys and the whirring sounds of his wind-up as he launches them as eggs. This simplicity in how Yoshi moves means he is quick to master and understand, with the forgiving flutter jump allowing for easy correction of a mistimed leap. This and the generous checkpoints and health gives Nintendo the freedom to do what it does best: iterate on level designs.
You’ll come for the cutesy hand-made aesthetic, but stay for the clever, innovative levels. In classic Nintendo style, new elements are introduced at the beginning of a level in a safe environment, a new enemy type or moving platform, say, which then build in complexity, adding in new combinations and required skills as the level progresses. So, Yoshi will go from bouncing off blocks that open and close above relatively safe ground to running over several at once, dodging enemies until the final trial of one long spinning, shifting block that must be navigated while enemies fly at the player and collectables whizz by. There are set pieces and moments too for surprise: an ice-themed level sees a ball rolled into a rubber-ring to become a temporary boat for Yoshi to power. On another level, shooting an egg at a hidden latch opens the mouth of a whale to collect an all important Smiley Flower, before playfully ejecting Yoshi with a spurt of water up through the whale’s blowhole. Pirate ships and trains must be assembled from hidden parts and once ridden shift the player suddenly into an on-rails shooter. One level sees Yoshi thrown into a giant cardboard mech of himself to punch down cardboard houses and leap up to hit Shy Guys floating lazily on balloons, while another has Yoshi control a solar-powered race-car. The impetus to keep playing is not the gameplay itself which rarely changes from run, jump, flutter, throw eggs, collect coins, but in wanting to progress through the level to see what it will offer up next to see what new thing Nintendo has crafted out of pure ingenuity.
The delight is in the details. The way that Shy Guys blow into straws to lift up ping pong balls to create floating platforms, or how cut-off bottle tops become rocket ships and ninja stars are made of tinfoil. How each individual quilled plant is unique and each background design just the right amount of wonky to be believable. Nintendo has a long history of mixing in the real objects with the handmade (think of Pikmin’s collectable giant objects scattered in the garden or Paper Mario: Sticker Star’s ‘Thing Stickers’ which brought ‘real’ hairdryers and scissors into the game). There is a welcome levity and playfulness in these objects, in spotting a mundane tin can transformed into a magnetised drawbridge that must be clambered over by Yoshi to be released. Even after a level is complete, Nintendo is not done, with each course having the option to play on the ‘flip’ side, running left to right, and offers up another style of gameplay with Yoshi tasked with tracking down three hidden Poochies with an extra prize for beating the course in a set amount of time.
It’s not just Poochies that Yoshi has to collect: there are of course Smiley Flowers required to open up new levels on the overworld, and ultimately reach the gems to rebuild the Sundream Stone, the main goal of the game. We’ve said little about the story and for good reason, it’s the same as any other: Baby Bowser is after gems, Yoshi needs to get there first. Then there are coins to be exchanged for costumes, souvenirs in each level to find (often hidden in the background requiring a well-placed egg shot), red coins to collect, hearts to max out and finally a hidden cardboard robot who scatters himself throughout each level after the main game is complete. The costumes form a large part of the collectability and replayability and they are all universally adorable; it took all of JDR’s restraint to not make this review solely about Yoshi’s costumes and the way his little hands hold up the sides and how he can duck down too so that the player looks just like a paper T-Rex or cake or popcorn stand and so on. The costumes don’t just add a ridiculous new level of cuteness they also act as a kind of armour making it easier to finish levels with max health. It’s a welcome buffer for new or younger players who might want a helping hand on some of the more challenging later levels.
The co-op mode is similarly aimed at younger or less experienced players allowing one Yoshi to carry another on his back to navigate any trickier platforming sections. A “mellow” mode also grants Yoshi a pair of wings giving him an infinite hover and a hand-up to anyone frustrated by the more precision platforming. The focus here is on accessibility and fun and provides a more active role for the second player than in some of Nintendo’s other Switch outings like Captain Toad Treasure Tracker and Super Mario Odyssey, where the second player was essentially relegated to a glorified pointer. While there aren’t any specific co-op levels there’s enough scope and enjoyable here to accommodate two players of any skill level.
Seasoned players will breeze through the main story in seven to eight hours and will find plenty to keep them entertained along the way. The difficulty only really ramps up in the last few courses, with stealth elements and one quite scary enemy type that require more precise navigation. Likewise, the final boss fight mixes up the rather standard three hits of the previous bosses with enough of a crafted twist to feel like a worthy opponent. The endgame consists of more collectables which will satisfy keen completionists and a trio of extra levels which pile on the difficulty and might actually pose a challenge to skilled platform fans. But simply playing through the levels again to relive the set-pieces and take in each handmade detail is a worthwhile endeavour. Yoshi’s Crafted World is Nintendo playing it safe, but playing to their strengths: innovative platforming, tight controls and perfectly thought through world design, plus the cutest costumes you’ll see outside of a five-year-old’s Halloween party. There’s nothing revolutionary to be found here. Instead, Nintendo delivers a solid, enjoyable experience with plenty to hook in new players and completionists alike making every step a pure delight.
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