The Kirby and Yoshi games have had a lot in common over the years. Both tend to experiment with unique art styles. Both have similar overarching gameplay philosophies whereby the games aren’t usually too difficult to beat, but to truly conquer them and see everything takes skill. They have both dabbled with real world aesthetics, like yarn, to switch up the level design. And both have had games developed by Good-Feel, who now have a proven track record of designing fun and unique titles that delight with surprises and stimulate the imagination. While both Kirby’s Epic Yarn on the Wii and Yoshi’s Woolly World on the Wii U were fresh and exciting takes on the veteran 2D action/platform series, Yoshi’s Crafted World feels a bit more “been there, done that” in execution. That’s not to say there’s not a good game underneath all of the plush and circumstance. It’s just not as impactful as previous releases.
As you can probably tell from the game’s title, Yoshi’s Crafted World takes place in a world made of crafty objects. Yoshi and many of the characters are made out of what appears to be felt or plush. The courses are created with all sorts of real world objects, including things like clothespins, paper plates, cardboard, milk cartons, string, bottle caps, and a bunch of other “oh that’s cool” items scattered about. Half the fun of exploring the levels is discovering how the environment has come together to form a cohesive world. At the start of every stage is a perforated piece of cardboard that rips across the screen to reveal the new area. It’s a cool effect (think opening a Fed Ex envelope) that never gets old. However, when all is said and done, the actual gameplay mechanics are very similar to what you’re used to. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially for those who love the Yoshi series, but for all of the innovative creative energy that went into designing the worlds, little has been done in the gameplay department to truly surprise the player.
I bring this up because we all know that Nintendo is completely capable of offering up surprising game mechanics in their other games. Titles like Super Mario Galaxy, Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Super Mario Odyssey are prime examples of the developers introducing new and fun idea throughout the adventure. With Yoshi’s Crafted World, you pretty much know exactly how it’s going to play before you throw the first egg. That’s not to say there’s nothing new here, because the game does introduce the ability to throw eggs into and out of the screen in a 3D space instead of strictly right or left. This does add depth the playfield and did have an impact on how I played, as I was constantly scouring the background and foreground for items that I could hit with an egg to collect secret coins and flowers. That’s really the biggest part of this game’s gimmick – knocking objects over to reveal hidden things behind them. As in prior installments, you’ll be searching each level for a set amount of flowers, red coins, and hearts. If you beat the level with all of them in tow you will have perfected the stage.
Flowers are required to open up new worlds, so you’ll want to find as many as you can. Coins are spent on new costumes made out of cardboard that Yoshi can wear. These are purely cosmetic, which is a bit disappointing because the original Yoshi’s Island on the Super NES allowed for vehicle transformations, which brought surprise and delight to many of the areas of the game. One of the game’s selling points is the ability to play each level regularly and then also on the flip side. The developers really want you to play each level several times through, because each one has a normal way, a flip side path where you try to find the Poochies as quickly as possible, and then they ask you to go on a scavenger hunt to find specific items in the level. That means you’ll be playing each course three times (at least) if you want to complete all of the objectives. What initially seemed like a fun and unique gameplay twist began to feel like more of a way to extend the game’s longevity due to a lower course count than normal.
As you’d expect from any Nintendo game, the controls work well here. However, I couldn’t quite get comfortable with the analog stick and d-pad setup. This being a primarily 2D game my first instinct was to use the d-pad (or separated buttons on the Joy-Con controller) to move Yoshi around. This works pretty well, but the problem came when aiming the eggs in a 3D space. I found the analog stick worked better for aiming so I’d often change over to that. Then I’d forget to move back to the d-pad to move and would be using the stick for 2D platforming, which to be honest is less accurate than I’d have liked. The bottom line is I never found a happy middle ground and thus always felt like I was using the wrong control input. Others may not have this same issue, but it’s one that I felt all the way to the end of the game.
Perhaps my biggest surprise came with the presentation for the game. I absolutely loved the graphics and music in Yoshi’s Woolly World. I figured the same would be the case for this new entry, but unfortunately the aesthetic and music didn’t resonate with me in the same way. While it’s really cool to see real world objects integrated into the levels, they never truly coalesced into something great. Some areas feature garish colors that clash with the backgrounds and foregrounds, and honestly some areas literally looked like trash had built up. The game has way too much brown and maroon throughout and the perspective blur in the backgrounds didn’t do the game any favors. Some effects, like the water and ice, and a few other areas really stood out as stunning, but so many pieces of the environment failed to impress and there were even some low resolution textures that just seemed out of place. I do give props to the haunted house level, which features zombie Shy Guys and other exciting visual props.
I also wasn’t as big of a fan of the soundtrack this time around. For reference, I absolutely loved Yoshi’s Island’s music, but hated Yoshi’s Story‘s. This seems like a sort of middle ground with some irritating instruments being used throughout. So many levels repeat the same beginning level’s soundtrack, and yet others use a similar song, just slowed down or given a different instrument set. There are a few levels that featured some variety, but for the most part I wasn’t impressed. I appreciated the piano tracks of Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Yoshi’s Woolly World much more.
In the end, Yoshi’s Crafted World is still a fun and joyous game to play through. I don’t think veteran gamers will have any issues seeing the end credits. However, I must admit collecting all of the items on each stage can be rather difficult and does require some expert platforming skills. The game supports two-player co-op, which can be a fun time with a friend – although I found the difficulty increased in this mode as we constantly ended up eating one another on accident. Still, parents might find this a good one for younger kids. This is a good effort from Good Feel and Nintendo, but lacks the polish and greatness I’ve come to expect from them.
Yoshi's Crafted World Review
- Graphics - 7.5/107.5/10
- Sound - 6/106/10
- Gameplay - 7.5/107.5/10
- Lasting Appeal - 7/107/10
Final Thoughts: GOOD
Yoshi’s Crafted World is creative in its set designs, but could have used some fresh ideas in the gameplay department. The game is still really fun to play, although it seems a little on the short side, unless you’re OK with playing the levels three times through to find all of the collectibles. A solid effort from Good-Feel and Nintendo, but I was hoping for more.