Yoshi’s Wooly World is a Wii U game that I never played. At the time, I was kind of frustrated with Nintendo’s Wii U offerings, and was burnt out of 2D side-scrollers from Nintendo, even if Wooly World‘s art style was absolutely gorgeous. I’m glad Nintendo chose to have the game ported to the 3DS, since I got the chance to go back and play this version of the game. Especially so, since this game is a true joy, and is easily the best Yoshi game since Yoshi’s Island on the Super Nintendo.
The original Yoshi’s Island on the SNES was a masterclass in platforming. It eschewed the structure of the typical Mario game, where the levels behave like obstacle courses, and instead gave us levels that felt more like fun playgrounds that you can explore. The mechanics of “eating” enemies to create eggs and to then use them as weapons was a ton of fun. And then, there’s the visual art style. Yoshi’s Island was, and still is, a visual feast, employing a hand-drawn art-style that pushed what was possible with a 2D game.
But ever since then, the following games to bear the green dinosaur’s name have not even come close to the same level of quality. In many ways, it seemed Nintendo was happy to use Yoshi as a guinea pig franchise for testing out their new features and consoles. Yoshi Topsy-Turvy used a built-in tilt-sensor, which gave us some of Nintendo’s earliest motion-controlled games on the GBA. Yoshi Touch & Go was fully controlled through the Nintendo DS’s touch screen, to mixed results. A more recent game, Yoshi’s New Island, was happy to re-tread the ground of the original game on a mission to recreate made it special, but ultimately, it felt like a soulless reboot despite being somewhat fun (Not unlike the New Super Mario Bros. series).
This is where Yoshi’s Woolly World comes in. Developer Good-Feel, who started off developing educational titles on the Nintendo DS, eventually crossed over into making delicious platformers. Starting with Wario Land: Shake It!, they eventually developed Kirby’s Epic Yarn, their first yarn-themed adventure. Both of their Wii platformers were great, and they eventually took on the Yoshi licence to create Woolly World.
Enter the Yarn
Well, that’s more than enough history, let’s talk about the game. Let’s get the most obvious thing out of the way first. The game’s visuals are adorable, even when shrunk down to the 3DS. Compared to videos and shots of the original, there is definitely a loss of definition when comparing this to the gorgeous original, but the 3D effect makes up for it somewhat, making it feel like you can almost reach out and grab these adorable plushies.
The game is surprisingly faithful to its theme, and everything–I mean everything— is made out of yarn, cotton, and other related items. They take no shortcuts with the representation of anything, and the game is all the better for it. The visuals are so brilliant because of the way that the concept bleeds into the gameplay, and seriously opens up new possibilities that you would never have thought of without the yarn concept, such as strips of velcro that your yarn Yoshi sticks to, or replacing snow with fluffy cotton balls.
Yoshi’s New Island, had some… um… interesting musical choices, so it’s refreshing to see that Woolly World actually has a really good soundtrack. A lot of it leans towards the more relaxing side of things, but it really fits the game’s “chill” nature. As far as visuals and sound, Woolly World definitely hits the mark.
Threading the Needle
As far as gameplay is concerned, Woolly World sticks pretty close to the template laid out by Yoshi’s Island. Your Yoshi can eat enemies and turn them into yarn balls that behave like the eggs of that game. He (Or she?) can use these balls as projectiles to hit enemies, or to find hidden secrets. There is a lessened focus on the actual platforming here, though. The difficulty is kept on the low end throughout this adventure, and that is without taking advantage of the plethora of options provided by the game to make things easier.
For example, you can use “badges” throughout the game that kind of work like perks, giving you bonuses to improve your Yoshi, such as invincibility or a speed boost, Alternatively, you can also just enable the game’s “Mellow Mode,” which lets Yoshi literally fly through the level. Even without taking advantage of these options, the game was still very easy.
The main challenge for the majority of people will be in finding the game’s various collectibles, which are cleverly hidden in every stage. Hell, I’d consider Woolly World to be a collectathon game more than anything else. The most satisfying to find are the little bundles of yarn, of which there are five in each level. Finding all of these will unlock a new Yoshi for you to play as, and I always looked forward to seeing what new yarn pattern I could unlock. There’s also the familiar flower collectible, which let you unlock a special level in each world once you’ve collected enough of them. Finally, there’s gems, which are your main currency for purchasing badges.
As the game went on though, I found that the drive to find these collectibles just isn’t there. Sure, it’s fun, but finding collectibles is never as compelling as the actual moment to moment gameplay that accompanies it. I found that I pretty much stopped caring about collecting things part way through, since the rewards just aren’t really worth the trouble.
Knit to Perfection
Thankfully, the thing that keeps Woolly World from falling into monotony, despite the above, is its strongest aspect: the level design. The levels in this game are extremely inventive and original, and keep introducing one new idea after another without looking back or repeating itself. One level has you using special projectiles that create temporary platforms. Another requires you to cling to scarves to traverse through the level. Others use Poochy, Yoshi’s dog sidekick. There’s a ton of variety, and although they aren’t all perfect, these are by far the best levels in a Yoshi game since the SNES original.
While I’ve been treating this mostly as a review of Woolly World as a whole, since I never played the original Wii U version, the 3DS version does have a couple of neat additions. This version adds a variety of auto-run style levels featuring the titular Poochy, and they’re pretty decent. Not mind-blowing by any means, but it’s a fun diversion from the main meat of the game. You can also design your own Yoshis now, and in turn share them via StreetPass, which is also neat, but won’t blow your socks off. Unfortunately, the game lost its multiplayer feature in this port, but I found that this game is an excellent single-player game, and I’m not sure if these levels would have really benefited from having another player around.
A Warm and Fuzzy Game
Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World is a great platformer, putting a unique spin on the Yoshi’s Island formula, while never losing itself in its wacky concept. While it can’t hold a candle to the gorgeous graphics of the original Wii U version, the 3DS version of this game is still one of the coolest-looking 3DS games, thanks to the sense of depth in these levels. If you are someone who liked Yoshi’s Island in any way, this game is a must.
I am so happy to hear that this won’t be a one-off, since developer Good-Feel is hard at work towards making a follow-up Yoshi game on the Nintendo Switch. The Yoshi series spent a long time doing some soul searching, trying to find something to make it relevant again. With this developer leading these games now, I don’t doubt we’re in for more awesome Yoshi games in our future.
- The developers went all-out with the yarn concept, which is visually appealing, and also allows for some truly unique gameplay mechanics.
- The game looks great, especially when compared to other 3DS platformers.
- The soundtrack is lovely and mellow. It is very fitting for this laid-back adventure.
- The level design is varied, and the majority of the levels are a ton of fun.
- Seriously? This game is SO damn cute. Just playing it makes you feel warm and fuzzy.
- On the whole, this is an extremely easy game. If you’re looking for a challenge, you won’t find one here.
- The collectathon aspect of the game is not terribly compelling, and can really be ignored. This is sad, since it detracts from some of the levels.
- Even despite its very low difficulty, the game constantly advertises your options to make the game even easier, such as Mellow Mode, which just feels really unnecessary.