Handled With Care
Good-Feel is known for developing visually unique platformers like Kirby’s Epic Yarn and Yoshi’s Woolly World. Its latest platformer Yoshi’s Crafted World once again stars Mario’s dinosaur buddy, except this time he ventures courses entirely designed as arts-and-crafts projects come to life.
Here’s my Video Review for your viewing pleasure!
It’s a gutsy move to fashion every area like a third grader’s diorama, but Yoshi’s Crafted World balances its seemingly childlike design with carefully constructed set pieces. DIY tools and fabrics cleverly come together to form platforms and backgrounds. The little details stand out, from creases on a plastic backdrop to folded edges of cardboard. I firmly believe that any of these stages could be recreated in real life. I’ll take a “Nintendo Labo Stage Builder” please? The HD resolution enhances the crafty visuals. It’s not as sharp as other Nintendo Switch games in either docked or undocked mode, but the eight colorful Yoshis and their foes shimmer in this sculpted setting.
The crafted world isn’t just for show. Different elements serve the various level gimmicks. Tape unfurls to form pathways, yarn ropes create bouncy platforms, and magnets weigh down cans for puzzles. The mechanics are creative and give each level a fresh feel, but they’re usually restrained to the course they’re found in, so you never really get to see them evolve. At least there are a wide variety of themes from levels based on sweets to ninja castles, complete with tricky trap doors. The most memorable stages branched out from standard platforming, for example, to target shooting or riding a giant robot.
For the most part, Yoshi plays similarly to other titles in the series: he has a flutter jump, eats enemies to make eggs, and throws those eggs as projectiles. However, that last element has changed significantly. In Yoshi’s Crafted World, you can move the aiming reticle anywhere on the screen for precise egg tossing. The catch is that Yoshi can’t move while aiming, so you are stuck in a static position until you throw that egg. Why such an odd gameplay shift? Because Yoshi can now throw eggs into the foreground and background. Tossing eggs and walking in and out of different planes of depth lend credence to the game’s “2.5D” side-scrolling style, and it looks neat to jump back and forth. However, due to this shift in stage design, Yoshi screeches to a halt when performing one of his primary abilities, just so he can adjust to shooting in 3D space. The series isn’t known for brisk platforming, but Yoshi’s altered egg tossing doesn’t do the pacing any favors. Nor does the slow lullaby-like soundtrack, which creates no tension whatsoever and is reused gratingly throughout the entire campaign.
Extra objectives highlight the game’s theme of discovery. Nintendo has emphasized in its marketing that every level has a flip side. Basically, you play the stage in reverse, and the perspective switches such that you can see the backsides of every object. I had a smile on my face anytime I saw a box’s nutrition facts or a bar code; the charm is at maximum ooze in this mode. Unfortunately, flipping the stage doesn’t offer any new meaningful challenges. Instead, the game tasks players to find three Poochy Pups and escort them to the end within a time limit. It’s an entertaining mission that fosters exploration, but it’s underwhelming considering how heavily the flip side levels were promoted. Catching these adorable puppies is at least more substantial than the souvenir hunts that function like tedious hidden object fetch quests.
The discovery train doesn’t end there as plenty of collectibles adorn the world, from the core Smiley Flowers required for unlocking levels to 20 red coins scattered throughout each area. Achieving 100% on a stage requires nabbing every flower, red coin, over 100 gold coins, and maintaining maximum health – which is definitely tough. You’ll need an eagle eye to see some pesky hidden collectibles and may need to replay levels repeatedly just to find a single red coin or flower. Thankfully, the game tracks what you’ve already obtained. Hardcore players will find it worth their while to amass Smiley Flowers for some key rewards, though I wouldn’t say it’s a must to get every collectible for anything but bragging rights.
Completionists will get the most out of Yoshi’s Crafted World. Otherwise, a standard run through the approximately 40 levels takes about eight to ten hours. The plateaued difficulty curve is what ultimately limits this platformer. Unless you’re actively trying to find everything, the challenge is stagnant until the last set of levels and the few bosses. Truth be told, the game is well-tuned for younger or inexperienced gamers. Interestingly enough, there are actually ways to make the game easier. A Mellow Mode setting grants Yoshi wings for infinite flutter jumps, and cardboard costumes function as defensive armor. I wish the costumes, which you unlock via a randomized gacha-style machine, were purely cosmetic as I wanted to wear them without further simplifying gameplay. On one hand, I appreciate that difficulty is variable depending on how you approach the game. On the other, with two ways to reduce challenge, surely, the developers could have produced more devious courses.
Finally, there is two-player local co-op. It’s a bit more chaotic than other cooperative games because the Yoshis often get in each other’s way. Nevertheless, the unique abilities grant this mode its own personality. The Yoshis can gobble each other up and spit them out as extra ammo. And one Yoshi can ride another’s back, Mario-style, such that the steed can focus on the platforming while the rider assists with aiming.
A creative arts-and-crafts artstyle synergizes with innovative mechanics to produce the game’s impressive interactive diorama courses. There’s a little something for everyone, from a mellow mode for casual gamers as well as completionist challenges for the hardcore. It’s style over substance, however, and a harder base difficulty would have vastly improved the adventure. Also, the heavily advertised flip side mode didn’t quite meet its potential. Regardless, the uniquely designed set pieces are engaging to uncover. Yoshi’s Crafted World may not make waves, but it’s a solid choice for younger players and fans of the lovable green dinosaur.
Note: A review copy was used for this article. This review was posted on DarkStation.