The latest entry into the Yoshi game series, Yoshi’s Woolly World, has been released in Europe and Japan as a Wii U exclusive. Due to a delay in the release of the Wii U Legend of Zelda game it is also getting a little more focus as one of two big games released by Nintendo this summer, the other being the unexpectedly popular Splatoon, released in May of this year.
The game is set in a thoroughly gorgeous knitted world made entirely of wool. The aim of the game is to take control of Yoshi and rescue your friends following an attack by the evil wizard Kamek, who has turned the rest of the Yoshi species into balls of yarn.
If you’re picking this up as a fan of any of the Wii U Mario games and hoping for a new challenge, you may well be bitterly disappointed. The core gameplay is very slow in pace. The lack of time-limit gives players the opportunity to appreciate the environment around them, which sets it apart from, say, New Luigi Bros U, which gives a 100 second time-limit to each level and ensures you have no time to look around at any point. There is no way to significantly speed up a playthrough, at least not until all the collectables have been discovered.
Another factor that means players have an easy ride is the fact there is no way to die. If Yoshi meets his demise, he simply respawns at a convenient position earlier in the level. This respawning has been commonplace in the increasingly forgiving world of video games – especially those considered to be for hardcore gamers – for the last few years but has been conspicuous in its absence in the Mario franchise. It’s a disappointment to see it here and with no lives to manage it is lacking in any concern for success at all.
Remarkably, there is also an additional Mellow Mode, which allows players to fly through the stages. Literally. Yoshi grows wings and takes flight to find all the collectables and avoid all of the obstacles in half the time. Fantastic.
The only thing keeping this from being a very easy interpretation of a Mario-esque 2D platformer is the inclusion of four different collectables. To fully complete each stage you must collect five balls of yarn, five flower heads, finish the stage with full health (you start each stage with half-health) and collect twenty stamp tokens. It’s quite a lazy way to make a game challenging but it does ensure that there’s a degree of replayability.
With its handmade feel it looks very similar to the Wii game Kirby’s Epic Yarn / 毛糸のカービィ, probably because it is from the same development house, Good-Feel. Indeed, they also share a producer in Etsunobu Ebisu and the same composer in Tomoya Tomita. That game itself was inspired at least in part by Yoshi’s Story on the Nintendo 64, so it’s nice the design has come full circle. If there is one redeeming factor it is the wonderfully realised world it inhabits.
The amiibo support is minimal at best. All that can be accessed is a reskinning of the controlled character with unusual character colours. It’s a nice touch but doesn’t really add much after the initial chuckle (which lasts around two seconds).
The amiibo functionality isn’t clearly explained in-game. It is activated by tapping an amiibo on the gamepad (the one with the screen) during the playing of a stage. In single player, this causes an additional second Yoshi to appear to assist Player 1. In Co-op mode, Player 1 Yoshi will simply be reskinned. The amiibo can also be activated in the amiibo hut on the main map.
It’s difficult to determine how popular this game will be. It definitely has a market out there. It is perfect for younger players and will undoubtedly be enjoyed by parents wanting some entertainment for them to enjoy with their children. For those players who enjoyed the likes of Champions Road in the excellent Super Mario 3D World, there’s not much to be found here.
Yoshi’s Woolly World is available to purchase in Japan and Europe now. It will be released in USA in October 2015.