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Review: Yoshi's Woolly WorldYoshis Woolly World Yoshis Island Good Feel Kirbys Epic Yarn Yoshi Yarn Yarn Yoshi
Platform: Nintendo Wii U
Release Date: October 16th, 2015
ESRB: E for Everyone
Good-Feel have helped Nintendo to create a handful of memorable experiences. But the game I think they’re most known for is Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Many a Nintendo fan hailed that game’s charm, but most believe the game was all style and no substance. I’m not sure if I agree with the majority’s opinion here, but... now that I’ve done everything there is to do in Yoshi’s Woolly World, I have a myriad of things to say.
For starters: If you have children or a significant other who collectively squeal at adorable things, you’ll have a very happy household if you add Woolly World into the mix. It’s fun to play, but it’s honestly just as fun to watch. There’s no easy way for me to tell you how long I’ve spent completing everything. This is one of the few games I own where my lady has joined in on the fun! And she’s been playing for just as long as I have -- when I looked at my Daily Log to attempt to answer the “How long is this?” question, it showed we’d collectively been playing for over forty hours. Nintendo and Good-Feel have definitely created something that will reel in everyone who takes a look at it.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn established the kinds of things you can do by making a world based around materials and fabrics. Yoshi’s Woolly World evolves that formula and takes things the extra mile. If you’ve ever played Yoshi’s Island or spiritual successors to it like Yoshi’s Story, you know all about how Yoshi can throw eggs. In this game, those eggs are balls of yarn that come in many colors. As just one way of articulating the level of polish this game has, check out the windmills below.
There are plenty of objects that start out as outlines, which Yoshi must fill in by throwing a yarn-egg at them. Platforms, pieces of windmills like what you see above, and even enemies like a Chain Chomp, become whatever color the yarn ball was that hit them. What’s more, the game has at least one puzzle that requires you to find or create yarn balls of specific colors to make color-based switches fill in. The developers didn’t just add this layer of polish for creating a visually cohesive effect -- they actually use it as a mechanism for progress! The way the visuals and level design actually work together with one another in Woolly World will truly captivate anyone who gets their hands on it.
Here’s where things truly start to unravel in my review though, and where I need to establish a point of reference. To me, the original Yoshi’s Island on Super Nintendo is a masterpiece. Yoshi’s Story, Yoshi’s Island DS and Yoshi’s New Island all have things that make them unique, but... I put the original on a pedestal. Nothing that followed it up quite matched its ability to mix charm and challenge…. until now.
If you take nothing else away from what I say about Woolly World: this is the first Yoshi game I’ve played in twenty years that I honestly feel can stand on the same level as the SNES game, and it is -- by far -- the most refreshing, cohesive and fun “Mario game” that Nintendo have released since Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel.
There are about forty-eight levels to play through before you see the credits roll, and one or two more that unlock after the game ends (depending on how vigilant you’ve been about collecting things). Like many a Yoshi’s Island game, these levels are short in duration at first, but you’ll spend a lot more time with them if you try to collect everything inside. There are also five flowers to find in each level: collecting all the flowers in each world unlocks a “Secret” level. More on those in just a moment.
In addition to the flowers, the game keeps track of how much health you have at the end of a stage, and 20 stamps hidden in beads (read: coins). If you’ve played any game with “Yoshi’s Island” in the title, you knew what to expect here.
The most attractive aspect to collectors though, are the five skeins (read: tufts of yarn) hidden in each level though. Collecting all five skeins in a stage unlocks a playable Yoshi character to add to one’s Yoshi Hut (seen above). There are over fifty adorable Yoshis to play as in Woolly World, even without amiibos (which unlock an additional forty-something playable Yoshis depending on what amiibos you own). Seeing what one unlocks will melt even the iciest heart; it’s like chicken soup for the gamer’s soul. There’s a cow Yoshi, lava Yoshi, a Yoshi for almost every boss or enemy character in the game...I could really go on and on. It’s hard to pick a favorite!
As you make progress collecting things in levels, the game keeps track. If you missed the third flower in a level, you won’t have to go back and collect all five to 100% it -- just the one you missed. If you collected every flower, skein and stamp, but you couldn’t manage to finish the stage with 20 health -- just focus on that aspect during your next playthrough, and you’ll get your gold star on the World Map. Getting 100% on Woolly World isn’t nearly as intimidating as Yoshi games past. Oh: and did I mention Badges?
At the start of every stage in the game, you can choose to complete the level with one of fourteen bonus effects that unlock over time. As you can see, these effects include everything from making yarn balls huge (the bigger ones pack more of a punch when tossed) and having Yoshi’s companion Poochy join you for almost every playable stage in the game... to complete immunity to fire and lava, or making yourself a magnet to collectibles and health. The game does not punish you in any way for using these badges, so if you’re having trouble with any levels, use and abuse them as you see fit, in exchange for the beads you’ve collected. As you can see, beads are plentiful -- especially if you replay stages a lot.
Speaking of the game not punishing you: folks who choose to complete the game in Mellow Mode (give Yoshi wings, full health at the start of each stage, and a chance at invulnerability if there’s a struggle) can still achieve 100% completion, just as I have in Classic Mode. Woolly World is the first title I’ve seen that does not take anything away from players who want to have an easier time with the game.
(Fun Fact: This isn't normally how the fight against this boss begins! In a clever allusion to the original Yoshi's Island, you can actually hit the small Piranha Plant with an egg before Kamek enlarges it!)
The whole experience is paced reasonably. There are a few levels in the game’s final world that make things really tough on the player, but there was nothing excessively frustrating or excessively easy about my journey. I guess the one flaw I’ve found is how some bosses feel recycled. But even facing the same giant foe multiple times mixes up how they’re defeated, often adding things you’ve learned from the world they’re in.
One last bit of praise I’ll offer about the experience is in regards to its secret levels. These levels are Woolly World at its most challenging; they have no checkpoints and offer puzzle solving that will perplex even veteran platformers. One secret world has you guiding a Monty Mole across some incredibly tricky platforming segments so that it helps you reach a switch to grab a key. Another has you being chased by a giant Piranha Plant all in one go, with no chance to stop and catch your breath. But hey: all or some of that challenge can be negated with the help of badges! There’s something to be said when mechanics of a game can make a level just as accepting of hardened “Yoshi Warriors” as it is of casual players who want to see and complete everything the game has to offer.
Yoshi’s Woolly World is something truly special, to me. There were so many moments throughout my journey where I was genuinely touched by a design element, genuinely excited to keep playing. A Mario game hasn’t effected me like this since Galaxy 2 -- and a Yoshi game hasn’t made me feel this way in almost two decades. The latest from Nintendo and Good-Feel won’t be forgettable or deemed all style, no substance. Looking back, I think this game will be one of the most substantive things released by Nintendo this year.
+ Level design works with the game's visual effects, creating situations that will captivate everyone
+ So many collectibles increases replay value; many unlockables add to or influence the experience, like Badges
+ Truly the best implementation of adjustable difficulty. No one's punished for taking it easy!
- Hearing the same sounds from Yoshi's Story can get a little annoying, but it's a better alternative than screaming Baby Mario
- Some bosses feel less memorable than other Yoshi adventures
Overall Score: 9.5 (out of 10)
Yoshi's Woolly World is the most refreshing, visually cohesive and fun "Mario game" that Nintendo have released since Super Mario Galaxy and its sequel.
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