A flawed masterpiece, but the best Yoshi game in ages.
With Yoshi's Woolly World, I never knew for sure how much I was going to like it. Even with the pedigree developer Good-Feel has, it feels like it has been in development forever. Besides that, the recent Yoshi outings haven't been anything to shout about. ''How is this Yoshi game going to be different?'', I asked myself. The answers started to unravel one by one and things were pretty clear by the end of the experience. Yoshi's Woolly World still has still a few unfortunate issues here and there, but it remains one of the dinosaurs most solid adventures to date.
The story of Yoshi's Woolly World is not very deep, but it is still quite adorable. It takes place on Craft Island, which is a small island in the Handmade Ocean. A clan of Yoshi live peacefully here and enjoy each other's company. Their peace comes abruptly to an end as Kamek shows up and turns most of the dinosaurs into various sets of yarn. Two of the wily Yoshi manage to escape and pursue the trickster with all their might. As Kamek finally manages to escape, he drops yarn everywhere and now it is up to these two Yoshis to set forth at once to save their friends.
If you ever toyed around with a Yoshi's Island game before, the basics will hold no mysteries to you. You move Yoshi about a 2D platforming landscape, deal with a variety of obstacles and enemies and try to snatch a large number of collectibles throughout. Where Yoshi's Woolly World differs, however, is that it resents giving you a whole lot of stress. Baby Mario is gone, and in his place there is a more traditional health bar. This allows you to solely focus on the platforming challenges ahead, which are accompanied by perfect controls.
While the game is totally suitable to be played with a variety of controllers, the best option out there is the Wii Remote in the sideways position. Most of the options go for more a traditional Yoshi feel and what you choose really depends if you like that option or not. The previous games had a large emphasis on throwing eggs, and with the new yarn balls that doesn't change. You will need to attack enemies, destroy question bubbles and even use them for some brand new tricks like creating platforms. The Wii Remote scheme understands the tasks at hand and allows you to tilt the controller for more precision. It changes the game entirely and allowed me to react at any given moment. Flutter jumping while you aim and press the A-button works like a dream and it makes that perfect run even more possible.
Next to throwing the yarn, the fabric aesthetic can be seen everywhere you look. You will find bows in the environments, which you can pull with Yoshi's tongue. It might not be always easy to spot them, but you can find some pretty cool secrets if you do. You will also climb on yarn strings, knit the skeletons of Boos and Chain Chomps together, hang tight to curtains, jump on trees with springs and so much more. The concepts and elements that are found in the more than 50 stages here are amazing and it makes for the most entertaining platforming sections in a while.
What helps is that the game is very elegantly designed and there is a nice progression curve. Over the course of the six worlds, the skills really grow with you and it all leads up to a very satisfying finale. I am not embarrassed to say that I died quite a bunch of times throughout the journey, mostly due to being unprepared for what is ahead. You're not going through the motions like in Yoshi's New Island, but performing them with grace for the best possible results. That made the game never lose its charm, even if I felt challenged at times. What will lessen the frustration is that there are frequent checkpoints, so you will never go too far back. In the worst case scenario, you could always activate Mellow Mode and worry less about the enemies ahead.
Yoshi games are also made out of transformations, bosses and collectibles. While the transformations are still a key element in the game, there are used a bit less than you might expect. I honestly don't mind that though, as it keeps the moments that they do pop up special and there are stellar ones in this title. Our cuddly dino friend will change into a motorcycle for example, which changes the stage to an endless runner with pretty tight controls. The bosses are fair play in Yoshi's Woolly World, though the mid-world ones are way too recycled for their own good. They all pop up more than once and that lessens the impact of them in a major way. Next to that, boss fights are over before you know it and those battles make it the least exciting part of the ride. They aren't bad, but the level designs do clearly reign supreme. Finally, the collectibles are staggering. With five Smiley Flowers, twenty Stamp Patches, five Wonder Wools and many beads is there enough to keep coming back. Not only serve all of them a functional purpose, they snag you pretty great rewards too!
Yoshi's Woolly World looks amazing on the platform. Even when you look at the overworld, there is sense of detail there that is not found in every Wii U game. The stages and characters really show that they are made out of craft and it looks better than any other Good-Feel game. The backgrounds are sometimes curtains or the clouds are hanging with a string from the ceiling. Every aspect of it was really well thought through and Good-Feel tells the world once again how they perfected this craft of making games look like crafts. The game is bright and overly atmospheric, which made it a joy to gander upon. The soundtrack doesn't play second fiddle and there are some terrific songs in there. There are certainly Yoshi touches in there, but it features more piano strokes and deeper sound bits. Nothing wrong with that I say!
The only thing that really annoyed about me about the presentation were the loading times. While I wouldn't say that they are the worst I have seen in a Wii U game, it does take forever to get a level going. Loading even occurs when you go to a boss, which is a pretty inexcusable all things considered. I can only hope that a patch can address this in the future, but we will have to see and wait on that.
Yoshi's Woolly World is the best Yoshi game I have ever played. The controls feel extremely solid and the gameplay quirks just keep coming that makes it a unique experience. With over 50 levels to explore and many secrets to undercover, the game will keep you going for quite a while too. While I wish that the bosses and loading times were better, that shouldn't stop you from playing the game. If you play it alone or with a friend, you will have a blast looking in every nook and cranny that the world offers. It was an adventure that I didn't want to miss for the world.