|System: Wii U|
|Release: October 16, 2015|
|Players: 1-2 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080i||Mild Cartoon Violence|
by Becky Cunningham
Mario? Eh, he's just a profession-confused guy with really tough shoes. Peach? Too pink and too prone to being kidnapped. Toads? Excepting Captain Toad, they're pretty much useless. No, my favorite inhabitants of the Mario universe have always been the Yoshis. Affectionate, loyal, and always hard-working, Yoshis are ready to do whatever it takes to save the world, be it ferrying Baby Mario across dangerous terrain or chomping hot peppers on an obstacle course in space.
Sadly, it's been some time since our Yoshi friends have had a great game of their own. Ever since the original Yoshi's Island way back in 1995, Nintendo has struggled to recapture the magic that paired a sense of childlike wonder with some truly worthy platforming - until now. Yoshi's Woolly World is a magical place full of surprises and hidden depths of gameplay goodness.
At first glance, it may seem like we've been here before. After all, Kirby's Epic Yarn on the Wii already explored the craft theme. Yoshi's Woolly World, however, perfects the concept. Every inch of this world looks handmade, and it's a riot of colors and textures that make you want to reach out and touch them. Yarn, felt, burlap, canvas; you'll know exactly what every object in the game (reality-stretching lava aside) is made of, and there are imaginative crafty delights around every corner. Shy guys wield little crochet hooks like spears, burlap flags flutter in the wind, sequins sparkle merrily, and one level is a couch fort in miniature. And have I mentioned that it's all super-adorable? It's so effing adorable it might make you want to hurl, but secretly, you'll love it.
It's not just the look of the world that works, it's the entire gameplay concept. Yoshi tosses out yarn balls and instantly knits platforms that sag slightly under his weight. He unravels enemies and knitted objects with his tongue. He bounces off felted platforms and scrunches up cloth curtains to get at hidden gems. See a scrap of yarn tied up in a bow? That's a hint that you can unravel some scenery. See a chain chomp made of twisted wire? Toss a yarn ball at it and it knits up into a friendly woolen wrecking ball that can crush enemies and obstacles. Familiar Mario series elements have been tweaked and re-imagined as a part of this cloth world, leading to an internally consistent yet constantly surprising experience.
This is a game for explorers, for people who love taking in its small details. There's no time limit in the levels and there are few mechanics that push you relentlessly forward, except in the odd transformation sequence. Its not the kind of hard-core platformer that wants to kill you from the first level, but it does have a challenge level that gradually increases as you move through its worlds – especially if you want to get all the collectibles. For example, it usually takes a few worlds for a Mario game to present a “jump atop a flying enemy to get to a high platform” challenge, but Woolly World tosses some in (optionally) in World 2. Still, it's primarily a game that asks you to slow down, to investigate every corner, to hang out with a friend in co-op play and experiment with the way its world works.
Gathering all the collectibles in each level won't be easy, and it can feel a bit unfair at times when many are hidden in invisible question-mark clouds. Still, there are often subtle clues in the environment that hint at secrets, and the game rewards you properly for each kind of collectible. Wonder Yarns are the most important kind, as collecting all five in a level gives you access to a new Yoshi with a unique yarn pattern. Some are a bit odd, but others, like Moo Moo Yoshi and Cinnamon Yoshi, are absolutely precious. Collecting gems gives you currency for power-up badges that can be invaluable for exploraing, plus there are Miiverse stamp coins hidden in some gems. Finally, collecting all those familiar happy daisies in a world gives you access to its bonus level. The great news is that you don't have to collect all of anything in one playthrough. Your progress is saved, so if you only need a single Wonder Yarn in a level, you can rush through and just grab the last one without having to remember where all the others were.