Yoshi’s Woolly World joins the multitude of platformers on the Wii U, but how does it compare to the other titans of the genre that are already available, and is it really special enough to warrant a purchase? Yoshi games as a brand have always struggled to reach Nintendo’s own highs, but have always yielded good, if not spectacular games. The SNES release, Yoshi’s Island, set a benchmark with its wonderfully unique visuals, great level designs and its rather sturdy level of challenge. The Nintendo DS has also seen a few attempts to recapture the magic of the SNES masterpiece but failed on many levels, and whilst they’re certainly not bad games, they never really lived up to the expectations of the original SNES game. Then, however, there’s also a little Nintendo 64 title called Yoshi’s Story which boots the transport Baby Mario mechanic and just lets the Yoshis have their own platformer. Yoshi’s Story on the N64 used pre rendered textures and environments based on textiles and had some great which was only art let down by the hardware restrictions at the time. This game was all about high scores and collecting, so in many ways, Yoshi’s Woolly World feels rather akin to its Nintendo 64 brethren rather than the other games on the SNES or DS.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn on the Nintendo Wii might seem at a glance very similar as the environments are all based around wool, but the ideas and mechanics here still feel very fresh and utterly unique to Yoshi which itself is quite an achievement, and the idea works well without ever becoming stale. Yoshi’s Woolly World offers a far greater challenge than Kirby’s Epic Yarn but at the same time offers accessibility to all levels of gamers, providing a mellow mode which gives Yoshi wings and the ability to float through the level while still providing some basic challenge, but all be it, it’s a very easy way indeed to play the game. Overall, it’s a bit of a collecta-thon and this is often where it manages to increase its difficulty. The six worlds each have eight levels, including a bonus level, in tackling each of these the player is tasked with collecting five flowers, five Yarns of wool, finishing the level with full health and collecting the twenty hidden stamps contained in the many jewels scattered around each area. This is where Yoshi offers its real challenge as, although some of the later levels will offer a great test to any seasoned gamer, the game’s greatest challenge is in completing the side objectives to 100% on every level, which extends the experience and increases the satisfaction for gamers. The five wool yarns to collect offer up new designs for Yoshi and some of these are absolutely fantastic, such as Cow Yoshi or Hot Chocolate Yoshi.
That’s not to say the game is perfect, however, it sticks rigidly to some very familiar Nintendo traits, such as its mid-world and end of level bosses that take three hits to defeat, with the final boss taking the now obligatory five. This for many may seem to be a bit stale now, but bosses are definitely fun, if a bit of sideshow rather than doing their job as guardians. Some level designs are clearly a lot better than others with some levels feeling like little more than filler, though there are some that are absolutely stunning. The framerate also dips here and there, which is quite unusual for a Nintendo developed title, but it never once becomes annoying or game breaking. Yoshi’s Woolly World also hides items and collectables requiring you to pass by that specific place or to fire a yarn ball (egg) randomly to uncover the item, obviously this forces the player to search every inch of a level which can be more than a bit frustrating at times.
The controls are fluid and responsive with co-op available so that you and a friend can explore together, this encourages teamwork and even allows both players the opportunity to use one another as a weapon. This can make for some interesting and fun counter co-op antics as it is possible to eat each other and force the other player into enemies, or to simply be an anti-social tube because it’s fun.
Graphically the game is genuinely lovely, and the art design is fantastic with such tremendous attention to detail in every aspect of the game’s design. Everything here is made from wool, and it really is amazing how clouds, water and lava somehow look right at home with this material’s texture. It all looks unique and never once does it get stale or not really work, and in HD, it looks stunning. The audio in Yoshi games is often full of straining noises and sounds that can grind on you a little bit, and these sound effects are still present. Grinding ever so slightly, but never enough upset anyone. The music on the other hand is also a bit of a mixed bag. Some tracks used in the game are absolutely amazing and Nintendo’s soundtracks very rarely disappoint, especially of late where they have been truly stunning. Yoshi has some really nice music, some fantastic music and some that feels a little out of place. The big problem here is Nintendo keep raising the bar in terms of its soundtracks, and Yoshi is just a little confused, but regardless, even if some of the music does grate a little bit, when it does hit the spot, you’ll no doubt be grinning from ear to ear.
Amiibo, oh amiibo (sighs)..amiibo. I have a problem with collecting, and of course Nintendo is offering amiibo support here in the form of three special Yoshi amiibo made out of wool in green, light blue and pink. These offer the ability to give the player an AI controlled Yoshi much like a Double Cherry in Mario 3D World, with you companion following you and copying your every action on screen, but much like the co-op mode, it can also be used as extra ammo. It is not very useful or exciting but oh God do the amiibo look cute, and it’s actually made from wool which I can cuddle, cuddle and keep it safe…God, I hate you Nintendo, why not just set up a Direct Debit to my credit card or dress me in a gimp suit. So err…yeah, back to the game and one of the nicer amiibo features here is that every single figure I have scanned into Yoshi’s Woolly World has given me a special Yoshi design based on that specific character, which is great and helps those who also have an amiibo addiction to feel a little bit more satisfied with their purchases, and besides, about ninety-nine of them work too!
It is worth saying that Yoshi is not the best the platformer on the Wii U, but it is very good and generally inexpensive, though the cool transformation sections where Yoshi is changed into an umbrella, Moto Yoshi and so on, just don’t happen often enough, which was a real missed opportunity I think. However, it will offer a fun and solid platformer that might not be the best in its class, though this is a very tough class with so many great platformers available on the Wii U, but still, it will provide a game that the whole family can enjoy and besides, it really does look stunning.