The Yoshi’s Island series has been one of the most beloved Mario spin-off franchises to come from Nintendo. The games have had varying amounts of success, as my review of Yoshi’s New Island shows. Now we have Yoshi’s Woolly World for Wii U, and I’m going to start the review with these words: you’ll want this game.
Unlike New Island, which was developed by Arzest, Woolly World is developed by FEEL-GOOD, and these guys actually understand how a Yoshi game is supposed to work. There are almost none of the troubles that plagued New Island, and the game is an absolute pleasure to play. Plus, it’s made of literal cute. I swear, this is the cutest game on the planet, and I’ve never so badly wanted to learn to crochet just to make some of the items from the game for myself. But let’s go back to the start.
All Yoshi’s Island games work on similar principles: you play as Yoshi, and you go through the levels collecting…well, all sorts of things. In this case, it’s acrylic gems instead of coins; the usual flowers; and skeins of yarn. Some of the gems also have Miiverse stamps hidden inside them. There are five flowers and five skeins per level. Collecting every skein of wool in a level knits together a new Yoshi pattern to play as, and collecting every flower in a world unlocks a bonus level to play. If you’ve not played a Yoshi game before, you’re in for a brilliant time. Whereas in older games when Yoshi consumes foes he produced eggs, this time around he produces balls of yarn, which he uses to throw at things, tie some enemies up, and even yarn-bomb certain items. Yoshi’s Woolly World eschews the use of Mario as a health device, and the adventure this time is pure Yoshi and his fellow Yoshis.
The story takes place on Craft Island where the various Yoshis are happily playing and living their hedonistic lives, when suddenly Kamek, the evil Koopa Mage, shows up, and turns all the Yoshis into their component yarn skeins. Only two Yoshis escapes this horrific fate, and they set out on a journey to recover their Yoshi brethren (or sistren—there’s no indication of which Yoshis are which gender; I’m not sure at this point if it’s only female Yoshis that produce eggs or also the male ones, and by now I’m too scared to ask).
Everything in the game has been handmade with various fabrics, from wool to denim to felt to batting to cotton to satin to lace. You’ll also see numerous apparel-related items such as buttons, charms, and so forth. It’s really clear that everything had been made with lots of love and attention to detail, and it’s this amazing attention to detail that makes the game look so stunning. That, and the fact that the objects in the game aren’t just rough textures but highly-detailed scans of the actual fabrics.
Of course, a beautiful game isn’t anything if the gameplay isn’t up to scratch. This is the problem that New Island faced—it was pretty, but the gameplay is where things failed in a terrible way. Thankfully, FEEL-GOOD seem to understand what makes a great Yoshi game, and it shows. There are a number of new elements to the game that make it a joy to play whether you’re a veteran or a completely inexperienced player. The first and most important of these is Mellow Mode, which endows Yoshi with a pair of wings, enabling him to hover and fly around the level. It’s not that simple, of course, once airborne, he can’t gain height, so there’s still some challenge to gameplay, but obviously not as much as in Classic Mode. The other addition to the game is Power Badges, which are unlocked at certain intervals or whenever a specific set of conditions have been met. I’ve yet to figure this out, I’m afraid, so I can’t give more information than that. Power Badges are some of the best things I’ve seen in a Yoshi game so far, and this is one of the reasons I’m loving this game so much. The Badges have various effects from allowing Poochy the dog to play with, to increasing the size of yarn balls, to ensuring that Yoshi takes no damage from falling or from fire and lava. My favourite badge is the “Show Hidden Items” badge that highlights invisible items or traversable walls. Of course, you can’t just use the badges at will…you have to buy each use with the gems, and the more powerful a badge, the more it costs. It’s a brilliant pay-off between letting the player choose how to play, and enabling them with extra abilities. You don’t HAVE to use a badge, but it makes it easier to find the hidden collectibles.
If all that wasn’t enough, Yoshi’s Woolly World also supports two player co-op and Amiibo. Use of Amiibo differs depending on which ones you use. The regular Amiibo unlock different pattern Yoshis for most Amiibo. There’s a list of which Amiibo will work over at the official Amiibo site, but the game support around 40 of the figurines. There are three special, knitted Yoshi Amiibos made specifically for this game that will enable a second, AI player, emulating the two player co-op mode. These are not yet available, so sadly, does not form part of this review. Speaking of co-op, the game supports just about all Wii U controllers, from the GamePad to Wii Remotes to the Pro Controller. In co-op mode, each player can buy their own badge, doubling the abilities of the Yoshis. Furthermore, you’re never truly out of yarn balls to throw, since you can consume and use the other player for yarn should you be out of stock. I played co-op with my sons, and like Super Mario Bros. U, your players can both help or hinder matters.
Since starting the game and playing with a critical eye, I’ve been hunting high and low for flaws in the game, and I must admit that I’m a bit stumped here because there is no part of the game that I didn’t outright fall in love with. Maybe it’s a bit easy? Well, yes and no, since you can disable badges and Mellow Mode to make the game harder. Short? Hmm..perhaps. There are eight levels per world, and an initial five worlds, with more opening up after that, and that’s not counting the bonus level after collecting all the flowers in a world. It’s just about the perfect game, actually. It’s beautiful, the music is adorable, the platforming is fun, there’s co-op, there’s enough collectibles to keep you coming back to each level, and there’s enough challenge to make it fun, yet not so much that it becomes an infuriating experience. I’m at a loss, dear readers. I think I’ve found one of the rare instances of a game that actually deserves higher than perfect score. This game is finally…FINALLY the sequel to Yoshi’s Island that we’ve been waiting for.
Final Score: 11 crocheted prawns out of 10
Distributor: Nintendo South Africa
Platform: Nintendo Wii U
Age Rating: 7