A spooled-up adventure
I’ve looked forward to playing Yoshi’s Woolly World ever since it was announced for Wii U in January 2013 under the working title “Yarn Yoshi.” A high-definition Yoshi game made completely out of yarn and other cloth? Sign. Me. Up. And it appears the wait for Yoshi’s latest adventure was worth it because Yoshi’s Woolly World is an utterly fantastic game. Compared to the last installment in the franchise, Yoshi’s New Island on Nintendo 3DS, it is leagues better in every way; from the visuals to the soundtrack to the gameplay, Woolly World blows New Island out of the water. It’s been a whopping eighteen years since the last Yoshi game released on a home console (Yoshi’s Story, N64), and Woolly World is just bursting at the seams with charm and personality.
Woolly World’s story is nothing special — true for most 2D platformers where the focus is mainly on level design. Even so, Yoshi’s latest adventure takes place on Craft Island, an island made entirely from fabric. The evil Magikoopa Kamek is up to his old shenanigans once again and this time he turns the island’s Yarn Yoshis into Wonder Wool, but wouldn’t you know, he misses two of them. Your duty is to rescue your friends and take down Kamek as you travel through eight fluffy worlds.
Right when you jump into the first level of Woolly World, a smile will no doubt creep onto your face, thanks to the game’s phenomenal presentation. Every inch of every stage — from the enemies, backgrounds, platforms, and even the water itself — is made out of yarn and other fabric, and it looks amazing running at a silky smooth 60 frames per second. No pun intended. With the woolly goodness coming in hues from all across the spectrum, there is no shortage of color either. Each stage is supremely well designed, making them feel like the hand-made set pieces come to life before your eyes. The fabrics react in ways you would expect, like the yarn flexing under Yoshi’s weight, so it all feels really natural.
The soundtrack is also fantastic with live instruments being used to flesh out the happy tunes. Acoustic guitars, bass guitars, keyboards, and flutes all bring their lovely sounds to this woolly world. If you are sick of that darn kazoo, then Woolly World is the game for you. The wide variety of music almost always captures the fun, peaceful, and playful vibe that the game sports through its visuals and gameplay. Each track can be spooky or a bit bombastic, like during boss battles, but they all compliment their particular scenario super well. And they sound really good. Seriously, Yoshi’s Woolly World has a beautifully arranged soundtrack.
When it comes to gameplay, Woolly World feels quite familiar to the veterans of the Yoshi’s Island series; throwing Yoshi eggs (or yarn balls in this case) at unsuspecting bad guys, flutter jumping like no one’s business, and nabbing an overwhelming amount of collectibles is still fully intact. The yarn balls are a bit more versatile than normal Yoshi eggs this time around in that they can be used to tie up enemies or fill in certain platforms and items.
The environments are certainly more dynamic here and can be unraveled with the press of a button. Yes, similar to the yarn-tastic Kirby’s Epic Yarn on Wii, you can pull on strings of fabric with Yoshi’s deadly tongue or push cushions to reveal hidden areas. Stages are littered with secrets, which highlights one of the best aspects of the game: exploration. You can run through stages pretty quickly if your aim is to just get to the goal at the end, but you will probably not enjoy the game. Each level offers so much to do and find within them that you’ll be traversing each one for a good chunk of time. Five Smiley Flowers, 20 special beads that unlock Miiverse stamps, and five bundles of Wonder Wool are waiting to be discovered in each and every level. And Nintendo did a phenomenal job hiding these items; I would finish a level thinking I searched every nook and cranny only to come out at the end missing a handful of collectibles.
Thankfully, you can buy Power Badges — each one gives you a special ability — with the thousands of beads you collect in your journey before starting a level. For example, using the “Improve your speed!” badge lets you run faster while the “All-you-can-eat watermelon!” badge lets you unleash steady streams of seeds at your enemies. There’s also the “See hidden items!” badge that reveals hidden collectibles. The latter is probably one of the most useful, especially if you’re a completionist. It eliminates a lot of the time you will spend fluttering through the air trying to find the invisible floating question-marked clouds.
Oh, and the bundles of Wonder Wool I mentioned are super awesome. They will be something that you’ll want to collect because they unlock new costumes or patterns for the Yoshinator. And since there is Wonder Wool to find in every level, there’s a ton of patterns to unlock. It’s an amazing perk getting something tangible for going out of your way to find these things, instead of just getting a pat on the back at the end of a stage.
Besides all that, level designs are creative and fun and introduce different ways of using yarn; turn Boos into balloons by smacking them with a yarn ball or attach yourself to Velcro conveyor belts. Even the segments in stages where Yoshi changes into various different transformations are delightful, which the same can’t be said for the one’s found in Yoshi’s New Island. Sure, they’re really simple, and for the most part easy, but are a nice change from the slow exploration considering the gameplay was faster-paced during these segments. Plus, who doesn’t want to play as a Yoshi motorcycle or Yoshi mermaid? Yeah, I thought so. No one.
Boss fights on the other hand are pretty forgettable and repetitive. While each world features its own unique boss, such as a giant Koopa Troopa or Lava Dog, the way in which they are defeated is almost always the same. Sure, the patterns might be different from one another, but outside of that, there isn’t much creativity applied to taking these guys down. Like, what if there was a boss battle where you had to use the Yoshicycle in some fashion … just something different from the same tactics that are rinsed and repeated.
The amiibo functionality in Woolly World — which supports the majority of amiibo on the market right now — is actually not half bad. When you scan in one of the non-Yoshi amiibo like Mario, Link, Ness, or Rosalina, you will unlock a Yoshi pattern themed after the respective amiibo character. There’s nothing special about it besides the way it makes Yoshi look, but it’s adorable, so you can’t really complain. If you use one of the handful of available Yoshi amiibo while in a stage, you can spawn a second Yoshi into the game that mimics everything you do. It essentially allows you to replicate a co-op experience while in single-player mode. Having that second Yoshi is actually useful at times because you can turn him into a yarn ball and throw him; this is helpful for those moments when you run out of yarn. On the other hand, it can be a bit annoying because the Yoshi will get in the way when you’re trying to grab an enemy and, as a result, you’ll grab the Yoshi clone instead because it’s right in front of you. I only used the Yoshi amiibo twice throughout the entire game because you usually have a means of getting more yarn balls somewhere in each stage. That Yarn Yoshi amiibo is woolicious though, and we’re pretty much BFFs now.
Whether you purchase the game for $50 or the bundled game with the Green Yarn Yoshi amiibo for $60, Yoshi’s Woolly World is ripe with content and totally justifies its price tag. There’s plenty left to do after you hit the end credits — from the myriads of hidden collectibles in each stage to special, more difficult stages that can be unlocked by finding all the Smiley Flowers. The best part about trying to be a completionist with this game is that you are rewarded handsomely along the way with new costumes and levels. This is an aspect that some games should definitely take note of.
Overall, Yoshi’s Woolly World is a supremely delightful game that oozes charm and is just plain ol’ fun that anyone can pick up and play. It’s an easy game if you are just going to run through every level without exploring, but video game veterans will no doubt enjoy the tougher challenges that come with trying to nab all the collectibles, which are sometimes stashed away in pretty tricky spots. Woolly World’s visuals are amazing and the soundtrack is playful. It’s a solid game with a heavy focus on exploration and it does a great job rewarding you for those collectibles. Unfortunately, the bosses are a low point in, which seems to be a trend with Yoshi games. Mashing everything together, Yoshi’s Woolly World is a fantastic game that is definitely worth checking out.
Yoshi’s Woolly World debuted in Europe on June 26, 2015. It launched in Japan and North America on July 16 and October 16, 2015, respectively.
You can watch my video review of Yoshi’s Woolly World below: