As Nintendo keeps on rolling out the usual batch of fresh entries in their continuing franchises we are treated to a new adventure starring Yoshi, our favorite reptilian protagonist of the big N’s bunch of characters. In Yoshi’s Crafted World the creative twist is that everything looks like it was handmade in an arts and crafts class, but does the gameplay hold up or is it as flat as a sheet of cardboard?
Kamek and Baby Bowser put in motion a plot of epic proportions as their attempted theft of the Sundream Stone sends the gemstones set inside flying across the lands. Your job, as one of the many colorful Yoshis, is to get the gems back inside the Sundream Stone, as it is capable of fulfilling every wish imaginable. Truly material rivaling that of Tolstoy or Hemingway.
In terms of gameplay Yoshi’s Crafted World is a 2.5D platformer and carrying on the legacy of Yoshi’s Island you swallow enemies and turn them into eggs, which you can chuck at all who stand opposed. Along the way, you pick up lots of coins and Smiley Flowers. With the former, you can unlock heckin’ cute costumes and the latter allow you to progress through the overworld map, both great carrot-on-a-stick mechanics. All of that happens across many bite-sized stages, which you can play repeatedly, even on the flipside with the objective of catching all the Poochys.
While at a glance the core of Yoshi’s Crafted World might seem overly simplistic, it is anything but. The further you progress, the more the gameplay is built upon with clever additions. As such, you will need to find some items inside a level to overcome an obstacle e.g. the materials to build a bus stop, where you’ll be picked up to continue. Other times, you will be in control of various vehicles yourself and a great variety of enemies and puzzle elements round out the experience. There are even some (dare I say it?) fun auto scrollers with creative twists. I don’t want to go into specifics here, this is stuff should really be enjoyed firsthand.
A lot of the levels have unique gameplay hooks within them and usually follow a certain theme, like being set in an underwater environment or feudal Japan. Just as in real life a change of perspective can work wonders. As the elements introduced up to that point border on becoming stale, the game introduces something new to keep it fresh, may that be some new visuals or new mechanics. The structure of the game fits the pick-up-and-play nature of the Nintendo Switch very well. Levels never overstay their welcome and are great in terms of length for a couple of train stops.
In terms of difficulty, the game offers the options to play in Mellow Mode, allowing you to fly infinitely to skip past any tough passages, and Classic Mode, giving the player a more traditional Yoshi game experience. Needless to say, Yoshi’s Crafted World isn’t the most challenging platformer around. Still, I was never bored and even died a couple of times in some of the later courses. To my mind, the newest Yoshi adventure isn’t foremost about the difficulty and expectations should be managed in the direction of a purely fun, smooth jump and run game.
While the boss battles also aren’t the most difficult, the designs and ideas always made me smile, which perfectly encapsulates the whole experience on offer here. Usually, there is some sort of puzzle to be solved on how to damage the bosses. In the end, the game is just so disarmingly cute and about nothing more than having fun in this brilliantly realized, mostly cardboard, world and that is completely fine, with plenty of hardcore platformers around to please a different kind of audience.
A big part of the whole feel and charms of Yoshi’s Crafted World is the visual design. Developers Good-Feel went all the way with the arts and crafts style, with clouds in the background being paper cutouts hanging by some string, interactive bushes which go flying when hit by an egg as if just blown off your own desk, bosses that get assembled in a stop motion fashion right before your eyes and painted tin cans as part of your obstacles. The end result is a visually very distinctive game world, inviting you inside to explore. You’ll come across many surprises based on this design philosophy such as opaque surfaces obscuring the view or secrets which require you to somehow rearrange your environments.
Unfortunately, the sound design is an aspect within the game that could have deviated some more from the olden days. Everything seems to come from a time capsule from roughly twenty years ago. Enemies are oftentimes seen before they even let out a single noise and the music is not only insignificant to the overarching mood of a stage, but it seems rather generic in comparison to the hard work put into the visual design of the courses. It never fails to fit the accompanying stage, don’t get me wrong, but the music just falls flat of that hallmark of quality we are used to from a Nintendo title.
You don’t even have to go on your mission by yourself. The two-player multiplayer mode is one of the best “little sibling” kind of multiplayer experiences I’ve had in recent memory. You and your similarly colorful Yoshi buddy can go on the complete adventure together, dropping in and out at any time. If any of the mechanics between platforming and chucking eggs at enemies is too much for either of the players they can just piggyback on one another and split those duties up, even gaining a stronger ground pound in the process. Unfortunately, you’re limited to local play.
At times it might seem as though Yoshi games are just an outlet for the art design department to go absolutely nuts, but Yoshi’s Crafted World is a finely crafted (huehuehue) platformer with lots of content and variety. The ability to explore, gather everything and even play each level on the flipside to catch all Poochys should put a smile on the face of any fans of 2.5D jump and run games around for many hours.