Yoshi brings experimental egg throwing, a bunch of cool levels and some problems.
Back in June 2015, I instantly fell in love with Yoshi's Woolly World. While it built on the fundamentals of a Yoshi platformer, it added so many intriguing elements that put a huge smile on my face. Good-Feel did the green dinosaur justice. That being said, it is hard to imagine the developer topping that achievement, which is why I went into their new game, Yoshi's Crafted World, with quite an open mind set. Would they head in a more experimental direction, or go for something traditional instead? The answer, surprisingly, is both. So far, the game has some tremendous highs and lows that I, as the Yoshi fanatic that I am, gladly discuss below.
The story of Yoshi's Crafted World is a simple one. A bunch of Yoshis are living on a peaceful island in harmony with the Sundream Stone. This stone is encrusted with five gems. When all the pieces all together, it has the possibility of making your wildest dreams come true. Kamek and Baby Bowser catch wind of the mysterious stone and head off to take it as their own. In their struggle with the Yoshis, the gems scatter across the Craft Islands and it is up you to bring them back where they belong. It really doesn't go any deeper than that, outside of dialogue before facing and finishing off a boss. The little interactions are cute, but certainly not the main reason why you would play Yoshi's Crafted World.
The way Yoshi's Crafted World is set up is fairly unique when compared to what came before. Every location, outside of the boss areas, is a little island shaped diorama that presents two or three levels each. In addition to that, every level is fairly unique in terms of ideas and overall design. At the second location of the game, Yarrctopus Docks, you will go underwater in the first level and explore docks in the secondary level. Another example is the world of Ninjarama, which contains three stages. In the first stage, you walk through a tightly-crafted ninja stage. Parts of the environment are wrapped in golden tin foil, including the clouds and some ninja stars. In the level ''Behind the Shoji,'' the famous Japanese paper doors block your sight, and so you have to navigate based on shadows alone. Finally, you head into The Shogun's Castle where plenty of moving platforms and spikes await.
The gameplay of Yoshi's Crafted World is very much traditional in more ways than one. The green dinosaur can flutter jump, run and aim eggs just the same. While most of these elements are exactly like you remember them, the game opts to change how eggs are thrown. In previous entries like Woolly World or Yoshi’s Island, the cursor was completely fixed and would move around half a circle. In a similar sense to Yoshi's Story, though done in a much more profound way here, the player will be able to move the cursor around at will and launch eggs at objects. Even better is that you can freely switch between the planes, allowing you to hit elements in the background. This instantly makes Yoshi's Crafted World a very deliberate game, which is both a positive and a negative.
Let's start with the positives. Yoshi games have always focused on the collectibles, which were quite fun to search for. Looking through every nook and cranny through a stage is endlessly rewarding and something that makes going for 100% a fun challenge. However, the levels didn't always seem made with this aspect in mind. While Woolly World did an admirable job of making it a bigger component of the game, there were special badges there that basically told you where to go. Yoshi’s Crafted World adds a kindness to the game's overall proceedings, where it is less about throwing constant twists into the levels. There is one main gimmick per level, various collectibles and a goal waiting for you.
On the flipside, I can't say that makes going through the levels any faster though. In previous entries, fully completing a level was barely a requirement. There are baselines the player needed to hit, and everything else was A-okay in their eyes. In Crafted World, they muddied the water a little by gating off process by handing Smiley Flowers to some cardboard robots. The number requirement will increase as you move along, so skipping every collectible in sight isn't really up for debate. As someone who enjoys collecting, this is far less of a problem, but I recognize that not everyone will feel the same way. The regular levels can feel long in the tooth as a result of this, something that can become irritating as you inch close to the end.
I say ''regular levels'', because there is plenty that diverges from what you know. There are special levels that break away from the regular format entirely, and come off more as score attacks stages. An early example of this can be found in the level ''Go-Go Yoshi,'' in which you control a gigantic cardboard robot. The only two things that this bigger Yoshi can do are jumping and punching at different angles. By hitting multiple objects at once, you score tons of points, and this decides how many Smiley Flowers you receive. Another level with the points concept is ''Altitude Adjustment,'' which sees Yoshi on top of a plane. By moving back and forth, the plane would go up and down, allowing you to collect items and defeat Shy Guys.
The rabbit hole goes way further than these Score Attack stages, though. After wrapping up an island, you will get the chance to participate in Poochy Pup and Souvenir Hunts. With the Poochy Pup challenges, you will explore the flipside of a stage and collect three pups within a set time frame. Do it all correctly and four additional Smiley Flowers will be added to your overall total. Souvenir Hunts take all the things you learned about the stages and flip them on their head. You will need to find specific crafts across the stages, which are worth a Smiley Flower each. These can be hidden on either the front or flip side, so a sharp eye is needed. While I liked these quick missions at first, completing everything in addition to these bonus challenges feels like an awful lot. For the moment, I'm sticking with them, but extremely nervous how I will end up feeling.
It brings up, really, my bigger disappointment. When the game was first revealed and showcased, the Flip Side was supposed to be very different. It was meant as an otherworldly look at the stage, allowing you to collect everything that way. While I'm glad that I can still discover both Front and Flip Sides within Yoshi's Crafted World, I can't help but be left wanting to explore both ends the same way. I’m not upset that it isn't there, but the idea seemed really cool and I wanted to experience it for myself. Despite my reservations with the missions, I can see how everything is crafted, which is incredible to behold.
As far as difficulty is concerned, I do find Yoshi's Crafted World to be a decent challenge. There is nothing that pushes me to the very edge of my limits, but I never found it overly easy either. As a perfectionist when it comes to Yoshi levels, I always felt that I had to do better and give levels a secondary search for collectibles. The search for Red Coins in particular will force you to take a good, hard look at everything around you. The invisible Winged Clouds are still devilishly placed, making those a-ha moments never far behind. A regular run, without item pick-ups, didn't require a thinking cap equally as much. As the game progressed though, the title wanted me to do specific platforming tricks to stay ahead. Sadly, shooting an egg and moving across the stage doesn't feel as easy as before, but that creates some fun new challenges all on its own.
For those less skilled, however, the game offers a few more options to welcome more players into the mix. Mellow Mode returns from Woolly World, giving you more hearts and the ability to fly at a certain point in the air. The feature keeps you steady until you decide yourself to descend at your own pace. A bigger and more adorable feature is the inclusion of the cardboard costumes. At special machines in these mini worlds, you can spend the coins you have collected on ten costumes per machine. Depending on their status (Normal, Rare or Super Rare), they will allow you to take a certain number of hits before starting to detract hearts. A Super Rare costume can take five hearts before they go away, with hearts replenishing at checkpoints.
Most of the costumes are beautifully themed after their respective world, but there are some special ones out there. Let's take the Labo Toy-Con Piano that was showcased as an example, and leave it there. Other ones can be earned by scanning in select Super Mario amiibo, instantly giving you five-hit costumes from the start. For the majority of the time, I kept them on to dress and impress. Personally, I was super fond of the Poochy amiibo costume as its little legs would move alongside of you. It is pretty much one of the most beautiful things I've seen all year thus far.
Obviously, the adventure can be played alone or with a buddy. 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 thrown back to previous parts in the environment. On that note, you can no longer swallow and spit most enemies. In Crafted World, they instantly turn into an egg without you having a say in the matter. In any case, an additional player can also help within the special challenges that levels offer. Let's say a Flower hides behind a cardboard cloud and alone you will have to choose the right one. With a buddy, you can shoot them all down and get extra coins out of it, too. Lovely stuff.
One thing I absolutely have to mention is how striking the various worlds and stages are. Good-Feel are the champions of choosing a concept and sticking with it all the way. Crafted World is no exception to that rule, and they are showcasing some of their best creative work to date. Everything is made out of arts and crafts, which makes for more spectacular level designs. There is a richness in both the fore and backgrounds that I haven't seen in any other game for a while now. In an icy stage called ‘’Slip-Slide Isle’’, the northern lights are made with curtains and snowmen created out of styrofoam. It barely feels like the developers designed all of this with a computer; I imagine them just sitting there to create it all themselves first.
Sadly, the music doesn't back the presentation all too well. After the fantastic soundtrack of Woolly World, this feels like a huge step back. More than half of the soundtrack repeats the same melody, and this includes the title screen. Yes, they remix the way the music sounds, but the same structure and tones are mostly represented in each track. This is one of a similar level to how Yoshi's New Island handled its music, but at least, Crafted World’s tune is somewhat more of a decent song. Does that excuse them for using the same melody over and over? Absolutely not. Not even close.
Yoshi's Crafted World is, so far, a pleasant experience that annoys in some areas. The main levels are worth replaying multiple times, but I don't think very highly of the missions afterwards. Don't get me wrong, they aren't bad, but they do feel a bit too samey. Of course, I will take some time to assess all of that and come up with a firmer conclusion. The presentation is absolutely stellar too, but that doesn't include the music. More than half of the songs are repeats, something unheard of in a Good-Feel video game. That being said, I was smiling most of the time while playing, so that is at least a positive to end on. Yoshi's Crafted World releases on March 29 worldwide.