Hey there, ports-fans! Sometimes we like our games with a hefty dose of nostalgia and familiarity, and there is nothing wrong with that. Now I wouldn’t call Yoshi’s Woolly World a port exactly, but it sure feels a lot like Yoshi’s Island on the SNES, just newer. And you know what? It felt great! Should you be in possession of a WiiU, this has got to be on your ‘must have’ list. Don’t just take my word for it either; we’re going to pick this apart so you know just what to expect.
First of all, you’ll notice lately that Nintendo has a bit of a fetish for arts and craft supplies. Perhaps the success attached to Paper Mario spurred something that led to more Paper Mario, then Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and more recently, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. That being said, Yoshi’s Wolly World is gorgeous. The tiny fuzzy fibers make Yoshi and friends look like real wool. Backgrounds and environments are made of fabric, sequins, buttons, and of course, yarn. The plushy path bends under your adorable feet while tiny fishing lines hold platforms aloft above. Nintendo is managing to achieve something weird wherein they make unrealistic creatures look hyper realistic, by building them out of real world materials. This is why Kirby got the claymation treatment in his recent game. This is an art choice that makes an insane amount of sense to me. In this way, we can avoid accidentally getting a game with a grotesque photo realistic, scaly yoshi-saurus by hopping right over the uncanny valley.
There has been an immense amount of work for the audio of Yoshi’s Wolly World, the score is fantastic and cheery and nearly every single stage has it’s own original song. Very little is reused, and to their credit it further breathes life into each stage. If I had a slight complaint, it’s that some of Yoshi’s vocals seem a bit more grating and obnoxious than before. Here’s a taste of the audio in store; this certainly gave me flashbacks to Yoshi’s Story on the N64.
Each stage does a great job at introducing or using a new element somewhat unique to it. One of my favorites was a curtain rail stage where you cling to a set of drapes like an unsupervised house cat and slide down the rail much like a mine-cart level. Each stage brings something different that affects the layout and puzzles hidden inside. The object of each level is to get from the beginning to the end. This is a fairly simple task that isn’t too difficult overall. Most stages are simple enough in design to the point where you will rarely be halted by an obstacle. Slowed down, certainly, but not dead-stopped. This is where the game feels as though it may be designed for people new to platforming. The challenge for us veterans, however, is in discovering and uncovering collectibles.
In order to complete each stage 100% you must collect objects hidden within. There are five skeins of yarn, five flowers, twenty stamped gems, and you need to finish the level with full health. Objects are hidden well, but not so well as to be nearly impossible to find.
The flowers and health bonuses are just for completion bonus. Gems, however, are certainly worth picking up. You can use these gems as currency later, and disguised among them are stamps that can earn you new stamp images for the Miiverse. They are very reminiscent of the red coins from previous Mario-world platforming titles. Many of them do not seem special until you collect them. The skeins of yarn are the main objective to look for. Collect all five in any given level and you rescue a Yoshi. He basically serves as a new skin/color scheme to play as. It is entirely aesthetic, but I for one love hunting down these new character skins, as it stands to be a real, easily displayed reward for your efforts. Most of them, quite frankly, are freakin’ adorable. There I said it. Everything about Yoshi’s Woolly World is cute as hell and it’s part of it’s charm.
As you progress through the game, you will unlock access to power badges. These are temporary powers that feel like old school cheat codes. They cost gems and last until you die or finish the level, whichever comes first. The powers are of varying degree of useful, including unlimited watermelon seed spitting or invulnerability to fire and lava. These are here to help younger or more inexperienced platformers while being less frequently called upon by you hardcore vets. I did catch myself using one when I was stuck that made secrets more visible and therefore easier to see while I was scrounging for yarn. Overall, hardcore platformer players will likely build up a cache of gems and spend them infrequently.
Ever since the release of the first Yoshi’s Island, the titular dinosaur has taken to transforming into inanimate objects to clear certain time sensitive obstacles. They were fun sequences then and they are fun now, but it makes about as much sense as a racoon tail enabling Mario to fly. Every few stages, you may find a door that may or may not be optional. There, Yoshi is transformed and transported to a bonus area that usually conceals a skein of yarn. Motorbike Yoshi zooms along at high speeds, mole Yoshi is back with a digging mechanic better than the old days. Umbrella Yoshi is weird but fun, and controls the way a jellyfish game might: opening and closing catches air and helps you flit about on currents of air. Airplane Yoshi plays like an auto scrolling shoot em’ up (my favorite). Lastly is mermaid Yoshi. He is a thing that exists in this game. He is weird, but laughably so, and his sequences reminded me of playing Ecco the Dolphin when I was a kid, as you leap out of the water and perform flips as you collect gems. These stages were mostly just timed scavenger hunts but a quick change of beat as well as a load of fun.
Amiibo support is handled well here too, by the way. If you bought a handful of those neat little figures and don’t play as much Smash Bros as you used to, scan them in here. You will unlock a character skin based on your amiibo. Every single one works. I swapped between my Bowser and Mega Man Yoshis quite a bit. Yoshi, and the new woolly Yoshi Amiibo don’t unlock anything, but they do give you a little power up. It is a lot like the triple cherry from Super Mario 3D World. A second Yoshi appears and does everything you do, matching your every move. This was a cool but not terribly useful feature.
You can also play Yoshi’s Woolly World as a co-op multiplayer experience. It shares many of the same benefits and challenges of previous Mario co-op platforming titles. 2D multiplayer platforming makes the game chaotic and more challenging rather than less so. If you have someone in mind, try it out. I wouldn’t try too hard to love this feature if it isn’t doing anything for you, though. I make a great team with some of my friends, but in a platformer like this, sessions can devolve into a really negative place quite fast.
If you own a WiiU, I’m willing to assume you have played and enjoyed a lot of previous Nintendo titles. Yoshi’s Woolly World is not terribly innovative; rather, it takes what worked from a number of previous titles and reassembles them into something that works better than all of them. This game is paced incredibly well, gradually getting more difficult as you progress and with a bare minimum of forty-eight stages (There are optional bonus levels not counted here) you have plenty of content to explore without being overwhelmingly large. If you like Yoshi’s Island/Story then you know what to expect and will enjoy this title. Woolly World is a relaxing but challenging experience meant to be accessible to all skill types. You do not need to psyche yourself up or mellow yourself out to be in the mood for this. You can very easily sit down, digest a few levels, then move on. Grand-pappy Nintendo did it again, guys; get your newbies and veterans alike to sit in for this whenever you get the chance.