Yoshi is one of those franchises that’s kind of struggled to find a place in the modern world. It’s somewhere between Kirby and Mario: a mid-point of a completely entry-level platforming experience and a more normalized one.
The series has also only hosted three mainline games in 13 years, as Nintendo seems mostly content with relegating Yoshi to sidekick status. For the most part, that’s okay with me.
Yoshi’s Crafted World (Switch)
Release Date: March 29, 2019
If you’re expecting Crafted World to single-handedly break down Yoshi barriers and transcend the heavens on into the pantheon of platformers, bringing the series back into the resplendent era of the original Yoshi’s Island, just walk away. This is a cute, very much co-op oriented game where you can wear cardboard boxes as outfits and fight stop-motion enemies. That said, this is more Woolly World than New Island, as it’s comfortable unzipping its old skin and slipping into a new suit.
If you haven’t guessed by now the “crafted” bit of the moniker should give it away: this one is centered around cardboard. Given that there are very few projects with that aesthetic to date (RIP you little Vita franchise that could), it’s not only unique, but serves the team well when it comes to level design. This is still a “moving from world to world in a linear fashion” shindig, but the sights and sounds are so pleasant that you’ll want to keep going in spite of its overly traditional setup.
Nintendo borrows a decent amount from its 2.5D platformer handbook (more recently, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze) to open up the stages a bit. The going is mostly carefree to be sure, but there are lots of secrets (flowers and hidden objects), goals (red coins), and costumes to mop up if you want to go that extra mile. The big thing is that Yoshi can chuck eggs at the foreground and background at will, with a nice little glowing reticle to highlight confirmed kills and targets before you throw them. You aren’t frustratingly wasting eggs trying to find that one obscure portion of a hidden wall; instead, you’re curiously searching for fun to be had. That’s good!
At least once throughout each level, Crafted World will elicit a giggle or two. One chuckle-heavy moment involved a barn filled with mice hanging from the rafters. To scare them down and ensue a Looney Tunes-esque chase around a labyrinth of paths, you have to pump up an inflatable cat. Even a few of the repeat concepts like riding a train and smacking up enemies or grabbing coins along the way are whimsical.
In the next fleeting moment, Crafted World will either play it safe or bring in mechanics that aren’t fully realized. Collectibles are mostly cosmetic (once you have an outfit that can block a few hits they all blend together), leaving you at the mercy of Yoshi’s base kit for the entire game. There’s also the issue of gatekeeping with the main flower collectible, requiring a certain amount to progress, which isn’t that big of a deal if you’re nabbing three or four per level, but still begs the question of “why is this here?” You can see how Nintendo could have upped their game amid the cute presentation and wonder why they didn’t.
Co-op is a large part of Crafted World‘s DNA and I highly suggest you play the entire game with a friend. It opens up all sorts of strategies like riding on each other’s backs and spitting one another out to bring down enemies and hazards when you’re out of eggs, adding a whole extra layer on top of the typically elementary proceedings. Plus, having a second set of eyes to find secrets is always great.
Most of my journey through the wonderful cardboard universe of Yoshi’s Crafted World, littered with myriad ridiculous noises from Yoshi, was spent with a smile on my face. It’s not the type of project that’s going to set the world on fire like Tropical Freeze, but it still has more heart than most studios could ever hope to give in their lifetime.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]