Release date: June 2015
Format: Digital download (eShop) and physical disk
Other platforms: NA
Price: ~$60 AUD
Yoshi’s Woolly World was one of those games I was on the fence about getting (and leaning towards not getting it, if I’m honest). The only other Yoshi game I’d really played was Yoshi’s Island DS on the Nintendo DS, and though I enjoyed it, it didn’t seem like anything special (I played a bit of Yoshi’s New Island on the 3DS not long after and was disappointed, as I felt that it didn’t really add enough new ideas). However, when Yoshi’s Woolly World came out, and people all around me started raving about how adorable it was, I ended up cracking and picked up a copy of the game for myself. Even my Dad (who generally has little interest in video games) watched me play for a while and noted that Woolly Yoshi is indeed a “cute little bastard”.
As with most Yoshi games, there is very little story to be found here. One day, all the Yoshis are sitting around and minding their own business when Kamek (the series villain) shows up and turns the poor Yoshis into yarn. Two Yoshis escape and try to stop him, but the evil flying critter takes off with his bag of wool, dropping balls of it throughout the land. Naturally it’s up to the remaining Yoshis to set off after him and find these balls of wool so all the little Yoshis can be restored.
The visuals in this game are utterly gorgeous. Everything is made out of textiles and buttons and almost looks as if you could reach out and touch it, and this art style is integral to the gameplay. As the previous Yoshi games have generally been, Yoshi’s Woolly World is a 2D platformer, but because so much of the level is woven or knitted, you can interact with the levels in a variety of ways to uncover secret collectibles or areas. Yoshi can pull on bows with his tongue to unravel blocks or trees, or he can throw yarn balls at outlines of objects to ‘knit’ them into a solid platform for him to jump on or pipe for him to enter. Each world has its own theme and all of them are beautifully and brightly coloured. The music is also really catchy, ranging from soothing and relaxing in some places to a bit more rock-oriented and upbeat in others.
One thing I noticed was the relative lack of checkpoints, particularly in boss and mini-boss levels. In quite a few cases, I noticed that the check point was at the half way mark through the level, so if I had died during the boss fight, I would have to replay half the level again before I could fight it again, which could be frustrating for younger or less experienced players. Generally the number of checkpoints within a level was reasonable, but it would have been nice to have one right before the boss to avoid this much repetition. Still, overall the boss battles seemed to conform to the “three hits and they’re down” formula common in other games, and once you work out how to immobilise the boss (which varies little throughout the game), you can usually take it down in a minute or two.
Another gripe I had was the controller lag in the overworld. Though everything runs silky smooth within the levels themselves, when you are moving around the overworld, there’s a good half second delay between when you move the control stick and when Yoshi changes direction to match your input. Given that navigating the overworld doesn’t require any real precision it certainly wasn’t a game-breaking issue, but it was an issue that still shouldn’t have been there at all.
Like many recent Nintendo Wii U games (and no doubt like many more to come), Yoshi’s Woolly World makes use of the Amiibo figures. When you go into the Amiibo hut and scan an Amiibo, you get a ‘reskinned’ (reknitted?) Yoshi that you can play as in the game (similar to the Yoshis you unlock by finding all the wool in each level).
Disappointingly, the Pokemon Amiibos don’t work with Yoshi’s Woolly World, which is a shame; I’d love to have played as a Pikachu or Charizard Yoshi. Still, between the Yoshi designs you earn by collecting wool in the game and those you unlock by scanning Amiibo, there are plenty of options to choose from regardless of your favourite colour scheme.
In addition to existing Amiibos, there are now special Woolly Yoshi Amiibos available, which launched alongside the game (there’s also a pink one but I’m not a fan of pink so I didn’t get it).
At around $25 each, they’re noticeably pricier than the other Amiibos. These Amiibos aren’t just adorable (more input from my Dad: “Oh my god, they’re SQUISHY!”), they also have a use in the game. While you’re in a level, if you tap a Woolly Yoshi Amiibo to the GamePad, that Yoshi will join you in the level and mirror everything you do.
While this was occasionally useful (you could swallow the other Yoshi, make an ‘egg’ out of him and spit him at collectibles that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to reach), I mostly found the spare Yoshi to be more of a hindrance than a help. Often he would get in the way when I tried to throw a yarn ball at something, or if I was trying to swallow an enemy and my Amiibo Yoshi was standing behind me, he ended up swallowing me instead (when this happens, you switch control to the Amiibo Yoshi until you spit out your starting Yoshi, but it’s still annoying). Also, because he only copies your movements, he often gets stuck behind walls or left behind, so you have to keep pressing the (-) button to call him back to you. On the bright side, it is easy to remove the extra Yoshi once you don’t need him anymore, simply by tapping him to the GamePad again.
Yoshi’s Woolly World also has a co-op mode (which I haven’t yet tried) where two players can navigate the levels together. This could be particularly good for those playing with their young children or siblings, as the more skilled player can help take out enemies or obstacles to make it easy for the less skilled player to get through the level. However this could be a double-edged sword, as it’d be easy for anyone feeling mean to swallow the other player and then spit them into a bottomless pit or onto some spikes. Players who are struggling can also switch from Classic Mode to Mellow Mode, which gives Yoshi wings and allows him to fly through the levels and lessen his chance of falling to his death into a bottomless pit or lava (he is still vulnerable to enemies and other hazards,). The game doesn’t push this mode in your face though (the first time you die, it asks if you want to switch, but you can say no and as far as I know the pop-up doesn’t appear again), and you can switch at any time by pausing the game and pressing (-). Those who don’t want to use the ‘easy’ mode don’t have to, but it’s nice that it is there and easily accessible for less experienced or younger players who want to avoid frustration or just get through a particularly tricky part of a level.
There are six worlds in Yoshi’s Woolly World, each with eight levels to start with (and an unlockable ninth) which will take you around 10 hours to get through if you’re just running through the levels. For the most part, the game is relatively easy, though the difficulty does ramp up a bit in the later half. But for those who like to hunt down every single collectible for 100% completion, it will pose a significantly higher challenge, as some balls of wool or sunflowers are hard to even find, let alone get to.
Overall, I’ve enjoyed my time with Yoshi’s Woolly World a lot more than I expected to. For those who were refraining from picking it up because they were disappointed by Yoshi’s New Island, I recommend that you at least give it a chance. There are a few small issues with it, but on the whole they don’t detract from the experience a great deal, and the game is so adorable it’ll draw an “Awwww” (or at least a smile) from all but the most bitter gamer.