With Yoshi’s Woolly World finally releasing in the US, we’re repeating this review from Ars Technica UK from June.
Don’t be fooled by the cute images: Yoshi’s woolIy World is as challenging a platform game as anything coming from Nintendo. This is a game that unashamedly plays on nostalgia and almost makes you think that maybe, just maybe, there isn’t much new to see or do in its wonderfully bright and fuzzy world. And sure, some sometimes obtuse level designs and frustrating checkpoints mean it doesn’t quite reach the glorious heights of its genre-defining ancestors. But even with its troubles, Yoshi’s woolIy World is so cute and so mechanically refined – in that way only Nintendo platformers can be – that it’s so hard not to fall under the spell of its charms.
And hey, who wouldn’t be charmed by a little green dinosaur that squeaks like a puppy and eats and poops balls of wool? Yes, Yoshi’s woolIy World is what the kids call “totes adorbs,” a striking mass of billowing fabric and fuzzy wool sewn together to create a bright and colorful world. This aesthetic isn’t new to Nintendo, which debuts in the Wii platform game Kirby’s Epic Yarn, but here it is refined, the HD power of the Wii U renders every intricate thread with surprising clarity. It’s an absolute joy to watch, and the Yoshis themselves (yes, there are more than one) are unbearably cute, leaping across the screen with a shriek and a flutter of their little woolly legs.
But there’s more to the game than just beautiful graphics, even if that’s the first draw. cloudy world is your quintessential Nintendo platformer, a ton of puzzles, platforming challenges and hidden collectibles spread across a number of neatly designed levels. There’s even something of a story, albeit – in that classic Nintendo fashion – a wafer-thin one. Craft Island, home of the woolly Yoshis, is attacked by the evil villain Kamek, who turns the Yoshis into bundles of wool. Unfortunately for Kamek, two of them escape and quickly begin to unravel his evil plans.
Happy, cloudy world doesn’t rely on the story to get you through the 48 levels. Instead, you gradually become acquainted with cloudy world‘s 2.5D platform charms. Early levels are simple platforming where you jump around and gobble up enemies with Yoshi’s long tongue, using them to lay balls of wool that you can shoot back at other enemies to clear a path. You can also stomp on their heads in a satisfyingly Mario-esque manner, which you’ll need to do in the case of flying enemies to get over some particularly tricky jumps in later levels, but you don’t get any woolly balls in return.
There are baskets you can stock up on to free up more wool – should you run out – carefully placed in areas where you’re most likely to need them. Unfinished platforms and pipes can be knitted back together to access secret areas, while some enemies, such as the ever-present Lakitu that hovers above the ground and fires projectiles from a cloud, can only be taken down with a well-timed dose of wool. A simple automated aiming mechanism, where a dotted line automatically moves back and forth to indicate the angle of your shot, makes getting those shots a breeze, even if you’re jumping around like crazy to get that next critical jump to make.
Soon the challenges roll in thick and fast, forcing you to make increasingly difficult jumps, defeat enemies who can protect themselves from Yoshi’s sticky tongue, and ride the disappearing smoke trails of a speeding Bullet Bill. Later on, you are asked to solve simple puzzles such as freeing giant woolly balls to roll and break through difficult barriers and navigate complex arrangements of springs and traps to find the right path. The difficulty ramps up slightly from world three, but it never feels unfair or unbalanced – the mechanics are just too refined and the levels are too well designed for that.
However, what feels unfair is the checkpoint system, which is too strict. Huge tricky sections of a level are often served by just one checkpoint, with an ill-timed jump sending you back to replay all those sections. Even worse is that there is rarely a checkpoint for a boss, and it gets very old very quickly to replay half the level just to take out a boss one more time.
Thankfully, the bosses themselves are great stuff, a classic three-hit battle to win mixed with some Yoshi-centric powers and beautiful character designs. A bird boss is a particular highlight, requiring Yoshi to dodge his egg-shaped bombs and pull a loose thread on his pants before stomping on the little yellow chick inside.
There are also other nice touches. A level with a little woolly dog named Poochy (no, not Which Poochie) is beautifully designed, using the pup to solve puzzles and reach areas where Yoshi is too chubby to squeeze. It’s a shame Poochy isn’t used more often though. The bonus levels are another highlight, in which Yoshi transforms into a speeding motorbike that harks back to the Nintendo classic Leave the bike, as well as one that transforms him into a starship that fires glowing woolly missiles for classic side-scrolling shoot-em-up action. Sure, these are hardly new ideas, and cloudy world rarely blazes its own unique path, but it’s no less entertaining for it.
The same goes for playing the local co-op mode, which is a rather basic affair, but the fact that you can gobble up your co-op buddy and spit him or her back out opens up the game to all sorts of hilarious trolls. If you were friends before you started playing, chances are you won’t be when you’re done.
Luckily, if your friend storms out in a pinch, you can use one of Nintendo’s beautifully fluffy (and rarer than chicken teeth) yarn Yoshi Amiibo to bring a computer-controlled co-op friend into the action. He may not help much in actually completing the level, but you can at least gobble him up and spit it out at an enemy in an emergency. A selection of other Amiibo will also work, but they only add a new character-themed Yoshi costume, rather than an AI partner.
No, Yoshi’s Wooly World doesn’t reinvent the platform wheel, but it offers an entertaining piece of nostalgia wrapped in some irresistibly cute visuals and the tightest mechanics. There are also plenty of secrets to discover on each level, and a slew of collectibles that – while often so frustratingly placed that it’s more dumb luck than skill to find them – unlock even cuter and more colorful Yoshis for you to use. play as. For some that will be enough. But rest assured, even if you are not swayed by the cute design, Yoshi’s Wooly World is a fun, skillful platformer that is a triumph of the imagination.
- Bright, colorful and thoroughly adorable images
- Tight, refined platforming action
- Fun and challenging boss battles
- Later on, increase the difficulty without feeling cheap
- You’re more likely to find collectibles through dumb luck rather than skill
- Thin Amiibo functionality
The ugly one
- A small number of checkpoints will drive you crazy on more difficult levels
Verdict: This isn’t Nintendo at the height of its powers, but it’s hard not to fall in love with it Yoshi’s Wooly World‘s beautiful visuals and thoroughly entertaining platforming action.