Release Date: October 16, 2015Platform: Wii UDeveloper: Good-FeelPublisher: NintendoGenre: Platformer
Harnessing the same spirit of the whimsical Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Yoshi’s Woolly World weaves together a gorgeous tapestry of fuzzy colors and wonderful lighting effects in a rich and vibrant platforming experience. The attention to detail never ceases to impress, from buttons and patchwork lining the horizon and classic Yoshi enemies revitalized in new woolly form. Even the world maps are meticulously designed, and the relaxing soundtrack pairs perfectly with the tranquil visuals, but still knows how to crank up the tempo when things start to get a little hairy.
Of course, the yarn components are not just for the visuals alone: Yoshi’s woolly anatomy plays a huge roll in how different gameplay mechanics develop as well. At its core, the game stands in line with previous entries in the Yoshi’s Island series: you complete platforming levels while swallowing enemies and using your eggs as powerful throwing weapons. But in Yoshi’s Woolly World, those eggs are now replaced with big yarn balls, and Yoshi effortlessly unravels enemies with a quick lick of his tongue.
The yarn textures are consistently manipulated in interesting ways to solve environmental puzzles. One of my favorite examples involves shooting yarn balls at a Chain Chomp to freeze him in place, then pushing him into position and releasing him from his woolly entrapment so that he follows you up a small set of steps. On occasion, Yoshi will transform into a number of different objects for a quick time-based segment, from an umbrella to a motorcycle and everything else in between. These arcade-style moments offer a fun and fast-paced break from the traditional Yoshi gameplay and really let Nintendo stretch their creativity even more.
The story of Yoshi’s Woolly World is extremely simple, but effective: Kamek has unraveled all of your fellow Yoshi friends and disassembled them into hundreds of spools of yarn. But upon flying off, he accidentally drops the spools across a variety of different lands, sending you on a big adventure to rescue everyone and knit them back together again. Although you can steadily progress through the game just by reaching the many goal rings, one of your primary tasks in each level is to find the five spools of yarn which correspond to a specific disassembled Yoshi. And there are dozens upon dozens of unique and adorable Yoshis to unlock and subsequently view, from Flower Yoshi and Shy Guy Yoshi, to Poochy Yoshi and the Yoshimelon. If you’re into collecting Amiibos, then you’ll have even more costumed options to play around with.
Yoshi’s Woolly World is all about collectables. Aside from the smiling Yoshi yarn fragments, each level also has five flowers and twenty secret stamps to find, the latter of which are hidden in selected beads throughout the platforming landscapes. On top of that, you’ll also earn extra accolades for completing each level with full health. All of these provide a great incentive to keep replaying levels and scour every corner for another woolly secret. Although the main platforming sections are never anything too difficult, the abundant use of invisible question mark clouds can make achieving 100% in the collectable department a true challenge.
The beads themselves, however, end up feeling less important over time. They can be used as currency to buy badges that apply helpful buffers before the start of a level, like one that saves you if you fall in a pit and another that loads your arsenal with the larger-sized yarn balls. But that’s really all the beads are used for, and you likely won’t be purchasing many badges all that often. It didn’t take long before I had racked up over 50,000 beads, and that made me wish the game had some extra challenge rooms or items to buy from the onset akin to Kirby’s Epic Yarn (although the special stages that are unlocked after collecting every flower in a world are so difficult that I’m sure they will keep me plenty busy for quite some time to come).
In the end, Yoshi’s Woolly World is an extremely solid platformer with some exceptional visuals. Its long list of serene and varied levels are extended even further by a plethora of collectables to find, and the different ways that the yarn textures come into play from a gameplay perspective are always fresh and exciting, not to mention the excellent local co-op functionality. Although the bead and badge system leaves a bit to be desired at times, the game has easily earned its right to be knitted into the Yoshi canon as another strong and magical entry in the series.
Joe Jasko is a game critic.