Review: Yoshi’s Woolly World (Wii U)

Is Yoshi’s latest outing threadbare or plush?

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 10/27/2015 09:00 Comment on this     ShareThis
The Final Grade
Editor's Choice
grade/score info
1-Up Mushroom for...
Gorgeous graphics; Yarn is more than just a visual gimmick, facilitates memorable, unique gameplay; Yoshi shines solo with no Baby Mario riding shotgun; Amiibo integration offers some cool Yoshi designs; soundtrack is catchy, for the most part
Poison Mushroom for...
Uneven boss fights-some challenging, some not

I wasn’t a huge fan of Yoshi’s New Island. The 3DS platformer was the most blatant attempt yet to reclaim the glory of Yoshi’s Island, but fell short to me because of a quirky hitch to the targeting reticule for egg throwing, middling graphics, and a score that bordered on atrocious. Yoshi’s Woolly World largely avoids all of those pitfalls, as the game confidently plays with the established Yoshi formula while also injecting new life into the series by adapting elements from Kirby’s Epic Yarn and improving upon them. Woolly World is a delightful return to form for the franchise.

Yarn is everywhere in Woolly World. Visually, the environment and its cast are all lovingly rendered in the fuzzy wool, along with sheets of fabric, sequins, buttons, and more. Developer Good-Feel’s design makes the entire adventure feel like a traipse through a legitimately handcrafted world as a result, but it’s made all the more special by the clever mixing of materials to mimic things like water and lava. The yarn water in particular is quite a sight, and a testament to the ingenuity and creativity of the title’s creators. It’s widely accepted that graphics are second to gameplay in regard to how “good” a game is, but when the visuals are as luscious and brilliant as what’s found in Woolly World, they become an integral part of the experience that can’t be glazed over. The yarn, in every way, makes this game.

This is especially true given how closely the gameplay is intertwined with the environment itself; the yarn isn’t just window dressing. Yoshi’s established move set returns, with the usual flutter-jumping, ground-pounding, and throwing on offer. Good-Feel made the wise decision to jettison Baby Mario, a move I was more than welcoming of; I’m not opposed to seeing the pairing again down the road, but without the youngster in tow it freed the design team to try something new. Good-Feel might have brought some familiar moves along for the ride, but the ever present yarn genuinely spices things up by playing with the staple mechanics that so many fans have grown accustomed to. First off, eggs are gone and replaced with yarn balls. Functionally, they’re lobbed and ricocheted much like eggs usually are, but they also provide new abilities to exploit, too. Yarn balls can build platforms out of thin air, entangle foes, and when players get their hands on an oversized bundle of the spun thread, it will split into two balls and hit multiple targets. Some of the most clever puzzle mechanics in Woolly World revolve around using yarn balls or tugging on pieces of yarn sticking out of the floors and walls to alter the environment. Woolly World is littered with clever mechanics like these that come one after the other, and each is fun and well-implemented.

Good-Feel, despite the adorable visual direction of the game, didn’t skimp on the difficulty level. Woolly World isn’t up there with the likes of Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, but it’s a stiff enough challenge that even veteran players will take pause at times. The level designs are varied, with some stages focusing on vertical progression and others sending Yoshi through labyrinthine cave networks. Interspersed throughout are Yoshi’s signature transformation segments, which provide a change of pace at just the right times. The boss fights, on the other hand, were a mixed bag to me, unfortunately. As a whole, they’re visually arresting and among the best-looking moments in the game. In terms of gameplay, however, some encounters left me wanting, with overly simplistic “three-and-done” fights that took a matter of seconds to complete. It’s the one real blemish on an otherwise superb platformer.

Newer players aren’t left in the wind, as there are ample safety nets in place to help them through, including Mellow Mode (which can be turned on and off at will), which sticks a pair of wings on Yoshi and lets him fly through the level with minimal resistance. There’s also a two-player co-op that plays very smoothly and offers less-skilled players yet another opportunity to progress through the game with the assistance of someone else. Longtime players who still aren’t taxed by Woolly World‘s difficulty and want even more of a challenge will be satiated by scouring the environment to gather each stage’s hidden Wonder Wools and Smiley Flowers. The former serves to unlock new body patterns for Yoshi, while the latter unlocks a bonus stage to complete (which are way more difficult than the majority of regular ones!). Speaking of body patterns, as someone who owns a ton of Amiibo, I can verify that a lot of them unlock new designs for Yoshi in-game, so be sure to whip out your favorites and see if it’s compatible! Yarn Yoshi Amiibo also plop a duplicate Yoshi into single player who will follow around and help facilitate some of the actions that are normally only available in co-op, which is a nice, optional bonus.

Woolly World was a delight to play, and one that I think any platformer fan will enjoy. It’s reminiscent of Yoshi Story with its fabric-focused art design, but the addition of yarn has almost reinvented what a Yoshi game can be. The new puzzle types and mechanics that the thread has allowed for are among the best that I’ve ever experienced in any Yoshi title, and that includes Yoshi’s Island. The difficulty level is hovering right in that Goldilocks-zone of “just right,” leaning enough toward the hard end of the spectrum that experienced players don’t have to depend on item-gathering to feel challenged, while offering safety nets for newer players who might otherwise be intimidated away. Wii U’s library continues to grow and be populated by top-tier, AAA games, and Woolly World is the latest gem added to the pile.

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