Review: Yoshi’s Crafted World (Switch)

The titular dinosaur’s latest game is a stunning, delightful platformer that shouldn’t be missed.

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 05/07/2019 12:30 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
A master class in visual design; handmade environments meld beautifully with the experimental soundtrack; new layered environs and ability to throw eggs into the background and foreground spices up the traditional Yoshi formula; Shy Guys. 'Nuff Said
Poison Mushroom for...
Some of the textures are hard to differentiate which detracts somewhat from the visuals; the soundtrack is the best in years, but also feels more subdued than it perhaps should be given the bold graphics

Yoshi has always had a creative bent to his adventures. As far back as 1995’s Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, Nintendo has utilized the diminutive dino’s games as a place to experiment. Yoshi’s Island has scratchy, hand drawn visuals. Yoshi’s Story looks like a pop-up book. Yoshi’s Woolly World was made to appear as though everything was built from yarn. With Yoshi’s Crafted World, developer Good Feel has introduced a new style in the form of environments that are constructed from wood, cardboard, and paper (among other things).

It’s an astounding aesthetic that manages to outshine PlayStation’s Little Big Planet games, which set the standard for hodgepodge, arts and crafts-themed worlds. The synthesis of a child’s diorama with the familiar trappings of warp pipes, coins, and Shy Guys is a winning combination. Yoshi’s Crafted World is a visual feast that is wildly detailed and inventive. Whole chunks of the game world can be smacked with the toss of an egg, while familiar faces and locales are recreated with the aforementioned piecemeal materials. One particularly impressive moment early on features an enormous, motorized Yoshi with giant boxing gloves!

Pumping at the heart of the whole experience is the series’ largely traditional egg-throwing mechanic, but for Yoshi’s Crafted World, there’s a twist. Besides being able to throw eggs any direction to the left, right, and above, players can now also lob the projectiles towards the foreground and background. It’s a small but very fun tweak that adds a new layer to world exploration. Yoshi is also able to move into and out of the screen in a manner slightly reminiscent of the PSOne-era Crash Bandicoot trilogy. This makes it much trickier to uncover every secret and path that a given stage has to offer.

Players will have to find all of those hidden goodies if they want to get a perfect score within each level. There are red coins and flowers to discover, as ever, along with new blue coins, too. Perhaps most interesting is that every stage can be played in reverse. When this happens, the entire layout is flipped and suddenly players can see the seams and tape and strings and everything else that’s holding these makeshift worlds together. It’s a brilliant touch that makes it rewarding to re-explore and locate all three tucked away Poochy Pups in this transformed perspective.

Perhaps most surprising is that the traditional nursery rhyme-infused tones are largely absent or softened in Yoshi’s Crafted World. The score here doesn’t reach the dizzying heights of Yoshi’s Island, but the set of tunes here really does a wonderful job of complementing the on-screen action. At the same time, with such a bold visual style, it does seem somewhat strange to not have a bubblier, energetic soundtrack to go with it. Considering how blasé recent Yoshi scores have been, though, this is a definite improvement.

While the design work in Yoshi’s Crafted World is undeniably lush and vibrant, there is something about its scope that Switch seems to struggle with. It’s hard to put a finger on whether it’s the textures, the lighting, or maybe a mixture of the two, but it isn’t always one hundred percent clear what materials are being used at a given juncture. It’s hard to distinguish paper from other surfaces sometimes, for instance. There are also a handful of substances that stand out because they’re so much more realistic than everything else around them, with the shining metal coins and the gelatinous Gargantua Blarggs being a couple of the more prominent examples. It’s nothing horrendous, but slightly distracting nonetheless.

Honestly, that’s some legitimate nitpicking considering how fabulous everything looks as a whole. Part of the thrill of this game is simply staring slack-jawed at the ingenuity on display. Yoshi’s Crafted World seemed to have somewhere new to take me every time I booted it up to play. I crossed oceans, rode trains, and a thousand things in between and loved it all. There’s an argument to be made that the Yoshi series has sort of plateaued when it comes to these types of homemade, practical-style visuals, but I’m not one of the people making it. If Nintendo designated this as Yoshi’s permanent aesthetic moving forward, it would take a long time before it started to wear thin.

Difficulty level is bound to come up when talking about Yoshi’s Crafted World and not everyone is going to be happy with it. Kotaku put out an article not too long ago talking about difficulty in video games and treated it as a matter of accessibility. With titles like From Software’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Kotaku writer Joshua Rivera asserted that “an easy mode has never ruined a game” and that devs do gamers a disservice by setting the bar too high for the average player to ever reach. I’m all for inclusion and accessibility, but I likened saying a game should be required to have an easy mode to someone going back in time and telling novelist James Joyce that he needs to write an easier to understand version of Finnegans Wake.

In short, a game is a work of art and difficulty level is as much a part of that art as the graphics or the controls. Games like Sekiro aren’t required to dumb down their challenge so that more people can “get it” any more than the creations of an abstract painter or writer are. I mention all this because the opposite complaint is frequently levied at games like Yoshi’s Crafted World, where the challenge is toned down and thus deemed “flawed” or “unbalanced.” This isn’t true of every Yoshi game, but Crafted World is indeed not all that difficult. I find it irrelevant. The gameplay is engaging and the presentation is spectacular; that it doesn’t deliver tension and stress is immaterial to how solid a production this is. If “easy” isn’t someone’s thing, then perhaps Yoshi’s Crafted World isn’t for that person— which is a real pity.

Easy doesn’t mean a lack of fun, and if Yoshi’s Crafted World is anything, it’s fun. Good Feel has very nearly perfected its quirky practice of hyper-stylized visuals fused with quality gameplay. As ever, the pure joy of hurling eggs at encroaching Shy Guys and Piranha Plants remains one of the biggest draws in all of video games. The new, multilayered stages composed from bric a brac are charming to the max. There’s also a bevy of unlockable goodies, including a multitude of cute costumes to dress Yoshi in, and that will keep players busy returning to Crafted World’s numerous stages for a good, long time. It won’t tax any but the youngest and/or newest of video game players, but then, to butcher a quote from former IGN staffer Audrey Drake, it’s not like anyone is complaining if a sundae is easy to eat. Yoshi’s Crafted World is a sundae with a cherry on top. Go eat it.

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