Yoshi brings new mechanics, style and a whole lot of platforming to a Switch near you!
Yoshi games are the platforming games I actively care the most about. Naturally, I can instantly recognize that not every game was all that hot. Yoshi's New Island was, in my mind, nothing more than just fine filler. Woolly World was the first game I felt in love with in quite a while, and brought a constant stream of entertaining level concepts. I would even argue that it is my favorite Good-Feel game to date, and that is saying a whole lot. When it came time for another Yoshi Good-Feel game, I wasn't really sure how to feel. I felt that they pushed the green dinosaur to his utmost limits and didn't think that they could give me something even better. Yet, I went into Crafted World with an open mind and found what they did with the game instantly refreshing.
During my demo time, I got to play various Yoshi's Crafted World levels for well over an hour. The first thing that struck me is how beautiful the levels are. Just like Good-Feel's previous creations, they go with a concept and champion it at every step of the way. In Crafted World's case, they chose to make everything out of arts and crafts. The result is sincerely spectacular with everything feeling extremely rich in the fore- and backgrounds. In one level, we see trees made out of party hats and an ocean that is basically a blanket. It almost feels like a few friends or family members sat down and created something in their spare time. You can constantly see where the ends meet, but that really doesn't make it less impressive.
This doesn't feel like video game environment made in a computer program. When I say everything looks like arts and crafts, it feels like something that can be built in real-life. I was just stunned looking in the distance and seeing a little house with smoke made out of paper coming from the chimney. The attention to detail made me incredibly quiet while uncovering the game. It isn't just for show either. Various enemies and collectables will hide behind various papercrafts, giving it all a reason for them to be there. As soon as a Shy Guy came and took a peek, a little smile quickly appeared on my face.
The gameplay side of Yoshi's Crafted World is very much a winner. While there was plenty I loved about Woolly World, it opted to go for a traditional approach. Yoshi would run, flutter jump and aim his eggs in a very specific manner. While the first two stay 100% intact, Good-Feel felt confident enough in changing how egg throwing functions. Instead of a stuck cursor, you move it freely and between the various planes. This took a little while to get used to as limited functions makes it quicker to grasp. Within Crafted World, everything became instantly more deliberate. The game feels a lot more focused on exploration rather than tons of quick action.
I think it is an extremely positive development. Yoshi games have always focused on tons of collectables including smiley Flowers and red coins. While I had fun collecting them, they weren't the main reason I played the games. With Crafted World, they actively feel like rewards for going off the beaten path or finishing a certain challenge. In addition, they don't drag the rest of the experience down and make them part of the level design. There is a kindness to the flow of the levels that I like. Some might say that the levels become too long due to this design change, and I can't fault them for feeling that way.
For me though, the easy stroll through the levels felt extremely pleasant. The stages are filled with quick puzzles, challenges, winged clouds and tons more goodies to constantly keep you glued to the screen. The sections really don't feel the same either. One level opens with green fields and cardboard sheep, while it ends with a big Poochy section. You will sit on your buddy's back, use him as a platform and make him dig for additional Flowers. Throughout the ten minutes the level can last, I really never felt frustrated with what I was doing. The game does let you figure stuff out and gives you time to breathe when you need it.
Another level that I played through the demo was a smoothly crafted ninja castle. Parts of the environment were wrapped into golden tin foil, including the clouds and some ninja stars. More importantly though, this was the level where I played another journalist present at the preview. The co-op can be best described as chaotic. The Yoshis can jump on each other's back, though the person on top can no longer shoot eggs. Furthermore, the other Yoshi can be swallowed up and throw back to parts in the environment. One of the puzzles had a Smiley Flower in a tiny gap, and the thrown Yoshi was almost a perfect fit. On that note, you can no longer swallow and spit normal enemies anymore. In Crafted World, they instantly turn into a ball without you having a say in the matter. I'm not against this change as it fits Crafted World's new design choices.
In any case, the ninja castle was the perfect fit to showcase what two players can do. There are plenty of branching paths where there is stuff to get from both sides. One will be able to get coins behind a wall, while the other sets up the next segment of the level. Flipping panels and opening up switches can easily be spread across two players and ensures to speed up the progress just a tiny bit. An additional player can also help within the special challenges that levels offer. In one of them, a Flower will hide behind a cardboard cloud and alone you will simply have to choose the right one. With a buddy, you can shoot them all down and get extra coins out of it too. I'm heavily considering finishing the game with a friend as it will allow us not to miss a single secret.
The last level I want to focus on is something that gave me pause. As soon as I finished up, one of the regular levels I was presented with the Flipside. In it, I had to collect three Poochy Pups and race to the end. Initially, I didn't think much of it, but then I got another during my demo playthrough. Now here is where my dilemma comes in: does this mean that the levels are pup collectathons solely? If so, I think that is incredibly disappointing as I had bigger expectations from that side of the game. In the reveal trailer, it seemed to flip a level completely, but that no longer seems to be an option. In addition, I don't get the point of the missions just yet. They seem to be there so that you keep hanging around a certain level, but isn't that what the collectables are for?
Overall though, I really enjoyed what I played of Yoshi's Crafted World. The various levels that I got to play were joyful and I very much love the approach that they were going for. The stages are made with a more deliberate design in mind and the shooting mechanics reflect this. I could freely move across the screen, which is extremely helpful for puzzles and other challenges. What I'm less sure on are the Flipside and mission segments of the game. It is cool that they are there, but I'm extremely unsure on what purpose they serve. Time will tell, and I'm certainly interested in learning more.