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Yoshi’s Woolly World – Wii U

Yoshi’s Woolly World – Wii U

Yoshi's Woolly World - Wii UPlatform:  Wii U

Release Date (NA):  October 16th, 2015

Developer:  Good-Feel

Publisher:  Nintendo

Genre:  Platformer

Nerd Rating:  8.5 out of 10

During my younger days as “a gamer,” I didn’t own a Super NES or N64, so my experience with Yoshi was limited to the eponymous Yoshi for the NES, a basic puzzle/reflex game.  As an adult, I’ve been on the fence about the Yoshi franchise in general.  It’s clear that Nintendo has done its best to distance it from Mario games and I think that Yoshi games have remained one of Nintendo’s higher quality products over the years, I just don’t know if I’m sold on the idea.  Super Mario World 2, aptly subtitled Yoshi’s Islandfeels fresh and different at first, and while I would agree that it is a great game in many respects, it’s also a very hard game and worse still, a very frustrating game.  (Yes, there is a difference!)  Yoshi’s Story has a fascinating concept at its core, yet is hampered – even crippled – by a frankly inadequate presentation.  The most recent offerings, Yoshi’s Island DS and Yoshi’s New Islandare respectable enough, though they’re basically updated versions of the original.  The remaining 2 major entries in the series – Yoshi: Topsy Turvy and Yoshi Touch & Go reside in my collection, but I have yet to play them.

However, Woolly World might just change my mind about the series…at least for the time being!

Yoshi’s Woolly World stays mostly faithful to the Yoshi that many of us have come to recognize.  He’s got boots that can crush almost anything, he jumps, he flutters, he eats baddies and turns ’em into eggs, and he fires said eggs with the same sort of 90° spinning reticule mechanic.  Mario, or any other babies for that matter, are thankfully absent, with Yoshi gaining a more traditional life meter.  The whole catch-the-baby-before-time-runs-out was a unique replacement for health, but sometimes in platformers you’ve just got to be able to sacrifice some health to progress.  Having to constantly tend to Baby Mario is one of the biggest aggravations of some of the earlier games, and I’m glad it’s been thrown out for this entry.

Yoshi's Woolly World - Wii U

It isn’t the reuse of these familiar mechanics that makes Woolly World great though: it’s the thoughtful and clever design combined with brand new mechanics and in-game physics that make this one such a treat to play.  Some levels are more “standard” than others, but quite a few feature some sort of unique element.  In World 3 for example, there are clouds that Yoshi can “climb” in.  It’s tough to explain; imagine a cloud as roughly a circle.  Yoshi can land on the top of the circle, or within it, and by jumping he can literally move through the cloud.  I’ve never seen anything like it in platformer, and it’s precisely this newness that provides so much enjoyment.  Also in World 3 we’re introduced to the “Fluffin’ Puffin” for a single level.  Instead of balls of yarn (which have replaced eggs throughout the game), Yoshi picks up these small birds.  When he throws the birds, they create small trails for him to walk on, giving him a whole new level of access to the level!  There are also bubbles to bounce on, floating balloons to ride on, and gigantic mobiles to balance on (like those things you’d see over a baby’s crib).  To top if off, the in-game physics governing such interactions are highly refined and nuanced, leading to some of the most fluid motions and controls I’ve ever seen in a platforming game.

Yoshi's Woolly World - Wii U

We want more Fluffin’ Puffins!

Woolly World is full of brand new things like this, far too numerous to describe, and you can expect something totally new every 2 or 3 levels.  Lots of games feature worlds with themes or motifs, but these are actual game mechanics that many times haven’t appeared since nor will they appear again in the game.  It’s not just cheap novelty either – it’s carefully planned and designed and it goes a long way in keeping the game fresh, fun, and interesting.  Even if something about one level tires you out or frustrates you endlessly, chances are you probably won’t have to deal with it again.  On the flipside, if you end up playing a level that you view as absolutely superb, you probably won’t have the chance to experience these effects in any further context.

Yoshi's Woolly World - Wii UThat’s not to say nothing stays the same.  Shy Guys are still abundant as ever, Yoshi still throws his eggs, er I mean, yarn balls at stuff, and he still uses his Ground Pound to great effect.  Also returning (periodically) is our titular character’s ability to transform into different vehicles.  These don’t happen too often (I think each “form” appears twice) but the events are memorable.  In previous games this was one of my least favorite happenings; the controls were cumbersome and the time limits tight.  Time limits are still tight, but the controls are awesome.  I actually wish there was a little minigames section or something just play during the modes.  Another great thing is that if you fail you aren’t simply dumped out on the other side of the door with nothing to show for it.  Instead, you’re able to play it over and over until you pass!  I enjoyed this aspect because this way I got a chance to see where things were on my first pass, and then put that knowledge to use in subsequent passes without having to replay the entire level.  Yoshi’s transformations include Mega Yarn Yoshi (similar to the effect of the Mega Mushroom in more recent Mario titles), a drilling/digging machine, a motorcycle, an umbrella, a mermaid, and an airplane that’s fully equipped with projectile weaponry (my favorite).

The “yarn” aspect is played up in a huge way as well.  Yoshi often uses his tongue to unravel parts of the scenery to reveal secret areas, or spits yarn balls at outlined objects in order to “knit” them and make them whole (tangible), like pipes and platforms.  At first glance the idea of a “woolly world” may seem like a gimmick, and I’m not totally sure where the idea came from or how it came about (Kirby’s Epic Yarn I suppose?), but the developers run with it and create a world that looks like a sewing basket.  Besides just the yarn, you’ll see crochet hooks, spools, scissors, buttons, and more.

Yoshi's Woolly World - Wii U

It’s difficult to describe what any typical level might look like because there is no typical level.  On the whole though, it’s what you’d expect from a platformer: jumping over holes, killing guys, and figuring out exactly how to traverse the environment.  While the presentation has changed vastly, Woolly World still retains the “adjustable difficulty” common to entries like Yoshi’s Story and Yoshi’s New Island.  What do I mean by “adjustable difficulty”?  Superficially the levels are pretty easy.  If you’re simply trying to make it from Point A (the start) to Point B (the end), you won’t get much out of the game, but it’s certainly a viable option for younger audiences.  The real challenge lies in gathering up collectibles, again similar to many past Yoshi titles.  The ultimate goal is to collect all of 4 things: 1) stamps, which are hidden in gems (like the red coins hidden within coins back in Yoshi’s Island), 2) a full health meter – you don’t start with 100% health, so you’ll need to pick up health along the way even if you don’t get hit, 3) the 5 flowers (present in many installments), and 4) 5 pieces of yarn – at the end of the level, if you have all 5, you’ll get a “new Yoshi;” more about this later.

Finding all of these items can be quite the challenge, and getting them all on the first pass is virtually impossible.  You might manage to pull it off early on, but the large number of collectibles pretty much ensures repeated visits to a level for those shooting for 100% completion.  Items are hidden in a variety of clever ways.  Sometimes you have to find the hidden question mark by passing through an area of empty space, sometimes you have to step on a certain spot to make coins appear, sometimes you have to walk through what appear to be solid walls, and sometimes you’ve got to access seemingly inaccessible parts of a level.  Seeking out all of these items really is the name of the game here; it’s not a game that’s meant to be blazed through.  Fortunately the game keeps track of what you’ve gotten, so you only need to get each item once.  It isn’t necessary to get every item on every playthrough.  Like if I picked up the first and third flowers on one play, I’d only need to find the second, fourth, and fifth during any subsequent plays.  I’m glad the developers designed it this way, especially as one moves towards the later levels.   It’s nice to know that if you picked up 4 difficult-to-reach yarn balls and finished the level that you won’t necessarily have to go through those same difficulties again.

Yoshi's Woolly World - Wii U

This sort of “exploratory platformer” format is one of the trademarks of the series and also happens to be one of the aspects I find fault with.  I’ve already mentioned the multitude of different mechanics and features that dazzle the player, and sometimes I feel like the full experience is a bit muted by the process of hunting down collectibles.  A lot of the collectibles aren’t immediately obvious, such as the hidden question marks that only appear if Yoshi walks through them, and hollow walls that you won’t know are hollow until you try to walk through them.  All of this floating up in corners and pushing against walls can somewhat dampen the novel features of a given level.  I’ve got no problem with a few hidden things, but 20 stamps plus 5 flowers plus 5 yarn balls plus at least 10 hearts worth of health (assuming you don’t get hit at all) is a lot to ask for.  I enjoy the hard-to-reach items that take some ingenuity to figure out how to retrieve, but sometimes I wish that some of the hidden stuff was scrapped in favor of interacting with all the fun stuff in the level.

Yoshi’s Woolly World has a few other features worth mentioning.  It supports a co-op mode for 2 plays, as well as a “Mellow Mode” for younger or more inexperienced players.  We also get some decent Amiibo functionality, with many unlocking a version of Yoshi in the style of whatever Amiibo figure is used.  The three Yarn Yoshi Amiibo will  each affect in-game play by adding a second, CPU controlled Yoshi to the mix.  The costumes were nice – including many many more to be earned by collected all the yarn in a given level – but I never found myself using 2 Yoshis at once for anything serious during the main game.  Everything is possible with a single player.


A ways back I mentioned that Woolly World has a sort of variable difficulty inherent to the game play – younger players can zip through from beginning to end while older or more advanced gamers can take the time to hunt down each and every collectible.  Beyond this however, Woolly World offers up another cool feature to tailor the experience to one’s own skill level: Power Badges.  After clearing the first few handful of levels, the player is given access to a number of Power Badges.  These are simple gameplay modifiers one can turn on before (or during) a level…at a cost.  It’s not so bad though, since there really isn’t anything else to spend those gems on.  For a few thousand you can make Yoshi immune to lava and fire, or give him a “magnet” that attracts gems, items, etc., or show hidden items, and many others.  One can make quick work of a level using them, especially the crazy difficult “Special” stages.  Gamers looking for a challenge will probably dismiss these outright, but they are great tools for kids and families, and getting that one super hard to find/reach item.

Earlier I touched on the whole “yarn” aspect of the game; it may seem silly or even pointless at first, but once you start playing, you’ll see the love and care that went into designing these worlds from a visual perspective.  As is common in the Mario universe of games, each larger world has its own theme.  The designers have adapted these themes to a world of yarn and string and it’s absolutely amazing.  Not only are the graphics vivid, clear, and imaginative, they’re also a bit surreal.  Even the smallest details have been attended to.  and every single object has its own texture.  Woolly World is a bright place full of fabrics and related accessories and though it might not serve any intrinsic purpose, it is beautiful.  From the rolling “yarn lava” to the unraveling of objects to the scrapbook-esque overworld itself, this is truly a woolly world realized.  So far, this is not only one of the best looking games on the Wii U, but also one of the most unique looking!

Yoshi's Woolly World - Wii U

And the music is no slouch either.  It ranges from calm and soothing at times to jaunty and almost dance-y at others with a variety of styles.  There’s a good bit of synthesizer work as one would expect, but there’s also clear, clean guitar to hear as well.  Come to think of it, this could easily be one of Nintendo’s greatest soundtracks ever.  The music will catch your attention and draw you in instantly!

Alright, did I cover everything…?  Probably not, but I think I hit all the big stuff.  Yoshi’s Woolly World is an exceptional experience, probably even outdoing Super Mario 3D World as a platformer.  I was close to giving this a 9.5, but I docked half a point for all the hidden items and another half point for the game’s overall length.  At 6 worlds with 8 stages each plus an unlockable special stage, that’s only 54.  I wish it’d been brought up to 8 worlds and then maybe a couple of difficult “special” worlds tucked away.

Anyone with a Wii U ought to pick this up and sit down with it for a couple of hours.  Not only is it beautiful as are most Nintendo games are these days, it’s extremely unique and fresh.  I’ve honestly never quite played anything like it; it’s familiar from a platformer and Yoshi perspective, but it’ll have you doing stuff you’d never imagine in a typical platformer.  I don’t know if I’m ready for a “Woolly World 2” just yet, but if Nintendo can keep up with this level of innovation, I’m all the more excited for their next top-tier release!

Reviewed by The Cubist

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist

Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

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One Comment

  1. Steroid Gamer
    Steroid Gamer says:

    Finally got around to playing this game, and boy is it great! I agree with you on the collectables. There were far too many, and on the later levels you damn near die every second if you try to get them all.

    Solid effort by dev, Good Feel and Nintendo. Sweet Review, Cubes!


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