Yoshi’s Crafted World review: cardboard cuteness with a paper-thin plot

Yoshi's Crafted World is a fun commute-killer with adorable style, but it lacks a truly engaging heart...

Yoshi’s Crafted World barely has a story. It places numerous colourful iterations of Yoshi into a hand-made universe, without even taking the time to explain why these characters live in a world that’s made from cardboard boxes, plastic straws and other assorted bric-a-brac. It’s a cute place, undoubtedly, but the fact that its existence goes completely unexplained does rankle somewhat.

Kamek and Baby Bowser show up right at the start, causing a skirmish that sends five magical gems flying off into the distance. You then get to choose a Yoshi (or two if you’re playing with a friend), before setting off across the overworld map in search of the missing gems. It’s Nintendo’s tried and tested platformer formula, albeit with Good-Feel serving as developers, and it feels particularly familiar after playing New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe earlier in the year.

The plot may not grab you, then, but there will be levels that do. As is often the case with platformers, the challenges on offer here are something of a mixed bag, but there’s more greatness in there than naffness. For every predictable level that you feel like you’ve played a thousand times before (jump on the rotating cogs and avoid the lava, for instance), there are heaps that will surprise and delight you.

From the hundred or so levels in the game, the most memorable challenges include moving magnets to make new platforms, legging it away from a giant dinosaur, flying a plane, running around with a skull on your head, racing in a kart, and even evading axe-wielding attackers. Most of these missions can be completed in a couple of minutes, too, which makes Yoshi’s Crafted World another Nintendo Switch game that’s perfect for picking up and playing on go. If you do play it on your commute, though, just be careful not to miss your stop.

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Adding an extra layer of playability, most levels in the game will be invaded by Poochie Pups after you’ve finished. This creates the potential for Yoshi to run back into the level and complete the same course backwards, which presents new struggles to overcome. For instance, platforms that moved the right way in your first run-through may now be a lot less useful. Or, on the upside, you might be able to access new areas that were just background decoration before.

There are coins to collect in each level (which allow you to buy adorable costumes for your Yoshi), but the true currency at play here is big sunflower heads. Every so often, in the overworld, you’ll come up against a robot that won’t let you through to the next unless you pay them off with sunflower heads. Depending on how many you’ve picked up in your recent levels, you may have enough to get by. Other times, you’ll need to jump back into a level and find some more hidden flowers. This forces you to revisit locations, look a bit more closely and hone your skills.

This being a Yoshi game, it’s no surprise that most of the tasks can be overcome by gobbling something up and then lobbing it in the right direction. This is often easy, but there are occasions where you need to engage your brain and do something creative. Or, and this is when things can start to get stressful, there could be a ticking clock and/or moving platform at play that adds more pressure to the throw and makes tiny tasks seem a lot more difficult.

Revisiting the same levels again and again does make the game seem a bit repetitive, but there’s normally something fresh and exciting in the next area to spruce things up and keep you on board. The boss battles at the end of each overworld area are a bit underwhelming, though, repeatedly reissuing the age-old level design of dodging attacks and then hitting the weak bits. Of course, this is a classic feature of the genre, but it doesn’t feel like Yoshi’s Crafted World has anything to add to it.

Despite its paper-thin plot, repetitive moments and unimaginative boss battles, Yoshi’s Crafted World is still a good time. Even though it’s never really justified, the cardboard visual style throws up loads of imaginative ideas, and it’s fun – if not particularly challenging – to play a few levels on the train and see which hand-made creations are coming next. It may never become addictive or difficult or unique enough to establish itself as a landmark moment for its genre, but this game is a decent rendition of those classic tropes.

The music is strong, as well, with a cutesy recurring melody – which often sounds like it’s played by a child on a recorder – that will rattle around your head for days after you’ve finished playing. There’s also a really euphoric little animation that plays, with a musical flourish to match, every time you cross the finish line at the end of a level. It’s a real confidence booster, that. 

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And when you have finished the game, a few extra challenges will pop up on the map to try and entice to you to keep playing. Whether or not you do tackle the post-game content will probably depend on how much patience you have left. Replaying levels for the third time won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s nice for the option to be there.

And, as an added bonus, the optional ‘mellow mode’ difficulty (which gives Yoshi wings and invulnerability to attacks) couples up nicely with the easy-to-use local co-op to make this a perfect game to play with a young child. This would be a great title to teach a new gamer the ropes, and that may well be the best way to play Yoshi’s Crafted World. Little kids probably wouldn’t notice the absence of a plot, either. 

Yoshi’s Crafted World is out now for Nintendo Switch.