Ever since the first time Yoshi stole the limelight in Yoshi’s Island, Nintendo have had a bit of a habit of rendering their characters in new and unusual materials. Mario was turned to paper, Link flattened with cel shading, wall paintings and clay, Kirby to yarn, but it’s Yoshi that has transformed the most often. First he was pencilled in, then he journeyed through a pop up book, on Wii U it was his turn to get knitted, and now he’s been made out of wonderfully fuzzy felt, adventuring through worlds that look like a kid’s arts and crafts project.
It shouldn’t really come as any surprise, but Yoshi’s Crafted World is just plain cute. It’s adorable. This feels like Yoshi’s Woolly World and Paper Mario: Color Splash had a baby, but outside the realms of Nintendo you could look to LittleBigPlanet for a similar feeling arts and crafts vibe. The big difference to LBP is that, where everything in those games was sort of bolted together in blocks of generic texture, here it feels hand crafted. You’ve still got all the little Yoshi mannerisms, the “Thum” he makes when gobbling up a Shy Guy and turning them into an egg – don’t think about this too much – the straining wind up when preparing to throw said egg, and now he’s got this delightful felt texture.
It’s a game that would make a Blue Peter presenter need to sit and take a moment, with the only real flaw being just how heavy the depth of field effects are for the backgrounds and a lack of anti-aliasing. It would be just another quirky art direction for the series, but it’s made meaningful by being able to play almost all of the levels in reverse, chasing down a trio of Poochy pups in a race back to the beginning. Here you see all the hidden workings when you played through it for the first time, the Shy Guys waving the butterflies and manipulating mechanisms, the real world that these living dioramas actually exist in. It’s a wonderful twist that helps stick the landing for the art direction as a whole.
That’s not the only quirky twist, as Yoshi can now wear hand crafted costumes. Each world within the game is just two or three themed levels grouped together, never outstaying their welcome and constantly delighting with their “Oh, it’s a Shy Guy doing cute ninja flips!” cuteness. Each world also has a gashapon machine where you funnel in the coins you find to unlock themed costumes, which have the benefit of giving you armour in the level if you wear them. Some are just amusingly terrible, others are ingenious, like a rocket that has a flamed fringe when Yoshi flutter jumps. The best by far are actually tied to Mario character amiibo, with Yarn Yoshi and Yarn Poochy simply being perfect.
There’s plenty of humour here, some of which comes from the level design – who doesn’t want to pilot a giant Yoshi mech that simply punches stuff into oblivion? – and others from the cutscenes that precede boss fights. Baby Bowser and his babysitting wizard Kamek are up to no good once more, throwing the Yoshi tribe into disarray and sending you off to recollect gems that I’m sure I last saw in Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet. Every time you bump into Bowser and Kamek along the way there’s an inconsequential, but funny little decision to make. Do you taunt Bowser and irritate him or try to placate him? Either way you’re going to be fighting a giant balloon condor, so just pick what feels right and chuckle at his petulant antics.
Gems aren’t the only thing you’ll be collecting, because this largely plays in the same easy-going collectathon style as previous Yoshi games. You’re not under time pressure, the actual platforming isn’t that tricky – there’s the traditional Mellow Mode which gives Yoshi wings, if you want it – and enemies are rarely fixated on you. It’s a family friendly game that’s light and enjoyable throughout, but are a few moments of challenge if you want to collect everything possible.
Each level has a number of hidden flowers, typically in question mark clouds that are admittedly a pretty lazy disguise, there’s also flowers for scooping up more than 100 coins, making it through with 20 health points, and for finding the 20 red coins. There’s plenty that would have you returning to levels anyway, except now you’ll be eagerly dipping back into levels to chase those poochy pups in reverse and with souvenir hunts to find certain items in the background, like an orange gator, a Flutter sign, a curious rock, and so on.
For the first time, Yoshi’s egg throwing works in 3D, with the aim cursor snapping to items in the background or foreground and shifting the focal point and depth of field. It’s a little finicky at times, especially when aiming at a small target, and I almost invariably found that when I had a timed challenge to pick up a flower I’d stumble over this. There’s a few minor difficulty bumps (not really spikes) where actual challenges would catch me out.
You’d think that having a second Yoshi along for the journey would make the game even easier, and in some cases it does, but mostly it just leads to chaos. You’re fighting for space on platforms and every jump can see you accidentally land on your buddy’s back, and it’s all too easy to accidentally gobble them up when going for a Shy Guy, and inadvertently steal their eggs in the process. There’s quite a few light puzzles where having two of you lets you brute force your way past them. It’s still got a nice and gentle tone to it, but it can also descend into raucous carnage and deliberate sabotage and tomfoolery.
Whatever you’re doing, once you stop playing the game, it will stick with you. You will be humming, whistling, singing the little ditties in the game’s soundtrack days after you last played it. I do wish there was more variety here, as the same variations on the theme keep coming round again and again, but I can’t deny that they’re catchy, their tone, instrumentation and performance perfectly matching the childishly crafted vibe of the game as a whole.