For those still embroiled in the tired ‘are games art?’ discussion (presumably on faded platforms like MySpace and Mxit), Yoshi’s Woolly World offers a definitive answer in the affirmative.
With its characters and environments shot through with a gorgeous patchwork aesthetic of cloth and yarn, Yoshi’s Woolly World’s demands your undivided attention on its presentation alone. In fact, the visuals are so beautiful it’s almost a sin to play it using the Wii U’s GamePad screen.
Yoshi (full name T. Yoshisaur Munchakoopas) is one of the more prominent members of the Mushroom Kingdom. Since the character’s debut around 25 years ago in the simply titled Game Boy title, Yoshi, the green dinosaur has appeared in dozens of games alongside Nintendo’s iconic mustachioed artisan plumber.
Herein lies the first challenge I had with Yoshi’s Woolly world, for as much as I enjoyed the cuteness of the levels, and the responsiveness of the controls (which is miles ahead of platformers like LittleBigPlanet), I couldn’t shake off the nagging feeling that this was an old ride with a new lick of paint.
It’s an issue I have with most Nintendo platform franchises – they hold so much nostalgic capital and are so intrinsically woven into my memories of gaming that I feel as though I end up playing them more as a duty than for actual enjoyment.
I tested my theory by inviting my wife to play local co-op with me. She grew up as a PC gamer so Yoshi was a foreign entity for her. After three levels she quit to play Assassin’s Creed: Unity.
I was really looking forward to playing Yoshi’s Woolly World ahead of its release, but after actually booting up the game, I began to become a little bored of it only two worlds in.
(Perhaps this has something to do with me ploughing close to 35 hours into Rayman Legends on the PS4 not too long ago.)
It was also around this time (world two) that I noticed a considerable spike in difficulty, with some levels nearing Donkey Kong Country levels of frustration. Luckily, Yoshi isn’t as vindictive as his simian counterpart and you have an endless amount of lives with which to sacrifice your Yoshis at the altar of lava monsters. It also helps that there is a ‘mellow mode’ that gifts you with a pair of wings to assist with some of the jumps.
The game offers up a heap of collectibles but not all of them feel very worthwhile. It’s enjoyable and rewarding to hunt down balls of wool hidden throughout the levels because players are rewarded for it – with, for example, a new Yoshi (in colours that rival a big bag of Jelly Belly candy beans). But a lot of the other collectables feel like more of a chore and unnecessary padding. Needless to say, I didn’t spend too much time on them.
I had fun with Yoshi’s Woolly World, but I can’t help but feel that in spite of its jaw-dropping visuals and Nintendo trademark gameplay it’s more of a familiar comfort , than a bold step forward for platformers.
In the age of indie platformers that offer new gameplay mechanics, and short, inexpensive thrills, a Yoshi title has to work a lot harder to impress.
I would recommend Yoshi’s Woolly World to people who enjoyed Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and to those seeking an easier challenge to the Wii U’s Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. Just don’t expect it to blow your collective socks off.