For some reason that no one can seem to understand, Nintendo has had trouble following up Yoshi's Island. The last game in the original 2D Mario lineage, most (but not all) accept this SNES classic as one of the best 2D platformers around. Despite three direct sequels and two games based around arts and crafts, the original is still undisputed champion. Yoshi's Crafted World is the latest in this line, a Nintendo Switch release by the good folks over at Good-Feel.
It hits all the notes you'd expect. Yoshi runs and jumps with Super Mario-like precision, he hucks eggs at foes and he collects sunflowers. This is a Yoshi game in every sense of the word, a grand art style experiment that overshadows a lesser Nintendo platformer. Kamek and Baby Bowser are at it again, causing trouble for a group of colored Yoshis who just want to live in peace. They attack a monument and its five gems are sent flying to game levels scattered across the map. You must choose your favorite Yoshi color and venture forth, swallowing Shy Guys and throwing eggs along the way. Every boss fight features a brief check in with our two antagonists, but the story stays pretty simple after the opening.
Gameplay in Yoshi's Crafted World
Like other platformer games in the series, Yoshi's Crafted World is a side-scrolling adventure. You'll run into most of the enemies you'd expect, including all manner of Shy Guy and Piranha Plants. These are more common than you'd see in past Yoshi games, mirroring a problem with several other recent Nintendo releases. It's not quite as bad as recent Paper Mario games and their obsession with Toads.
However, there's just not a lot of originality going around. Old frienemies show up for a single level, but almost always alongside more and more Shy Guys. The novelty is supposed to come in seeing "craft" versions of all the characters you remember. That's nice, but a new coat of paint doesn't really change how you fight them.
There are a few clever level gimmicks that pop up from time to time. Dealing with a giant folded paper snake that rises up to meet you is a particular highlight. You're in a giant vertical space and the only way up is to hop around the snake's teeth and use its back as a base for jumping ever higher. However, while some things to come back from time to time, most gimmicks only appear once and then fade away. This is how Mario has been doing it for years, but adding some form of complexity in building mechanics might have solved some of the issues with simplicity.
At least Yoshi's Crafted World manages to keep one aspect of the series tradition alive. Each world ends with Yoshi facing off against a huge version of a normal enemy. When Kamek and Baby Bowser show up, you know you're in for an epic boss encounter. However, rather than just casting a spell to make his monster grow, Kamek creates a monster out of the environment. These scenes of crafty creation are some of the most creative in the whole package, as you see exactly how the developers create some of these creatures behind the scenes. Like the rest of the game, actually defeating the monsters is mostly trivial, but they're still a highlight.
Presentation in Yoshi's Crafted World
The true reason you may want to pick up Yoshi's Crafted World is right in the name. The arts and crafts vibe continues on from both Yoshi's Wooly World and Kirby's Epic Yarn. In that way, it feels like a true iteration, as this is one of the most beautiful games Nintendo has ever released. The character models ooze playfulness and the backgrounds move with authentic motion. Everything has the right texture, and common gameplay elements transfer over from the abstract to the real with grace. It really feels like you're controlling a plush doll wandering around a world created by a kid in their room.
To say that Yoshi's Crafted World is cute would be an understatement. In just one example, Yoshi can collect handicraft costumes to wear as he traverses each land. They all correspond with level elements you've seen before, just made out of boxes and paper cups. There are also a set of amiibo costumes that let Yoshi cosplay as Mario characters, including a giant wool Yoshi head in case you happen to be Xzibit. These costumes look great and they provide protection from a few hits, making the game easier if you want to wear them.
I do have a slight issue with how each world distributes its costumes. Instead of unlocking them in a set order or hiding them as collectibles, you spend coins at a gumball machine to grab them. Yoshi's Crafted World is probably one of the most kid-focused Nintendo releases in a good while. Is it really a great idea to introduce what are essentially loot boxes to a game like this? Sure, there's no real money changing hands, and kids probably get a lot of this from phone games. It just seems like a proper Nintendo Switch game should be better than that.
I also have a slight issue with the game's soundtrack. Or really, the lack of a soundtrack. Yoshi's Crafted World has a very small pool of music, with one song seeing constant remixes as you move through the stages. It adds to the overall feeling of kid-friendly simplicity, and it's not a problem that past entries in the series had. Yoshi's Wolly World and Donkey Kong: Tropical Freeze had some of the best platformer music around, so it's a shame to see Nintendo put out something with such generic tunes.
Finding the Challenge in Yoshi's Crafted World
While kids will find Yoshi's Crafted World more than manageable, the true challenge comes in collectibles. Going back into levels to hunt down all the red coins and sunflowers is quite the daunting task. Good-Feel has also added "flipsides" of each level. This is where you go through in reverse to see the back of all the crafted environments. You're also looking for Poochy puppies, a secondary collectible that gets you more sunflowers. Going in like a completionist is really the only way to fully enjoy Yoshi's Crafted World. The regular levels are cute, but you have to go beyond the norm to truly test your abilities.
You get the feeling as you play through Yoshi's Crafted World that the main levels were meant to be harder. It's not just that you have a huge life bar and not much opposition in front of you. The base Yoshi mechanics are simpler than they've ever been. You can no longer grab an enemy and launch them as a weapon. You always swallow them into an egg, even if you already have a full assortment. There are also very few times when I didn't have enough eggs to do everything I wanted. Unless you're goofing around, there's no strategy to what you're doing. It's just forward momentum with only the occasional slip-up from time to time.
Despite all that simplification, there's an included "easy mode" if you find the normal gameplay too challenging. In this mode, Yoshi gains wings, letting him fly around and collect without a care in the world. It's certainly a mellow experience, and I'm all for adding accessibility options wherever possible. It just seems like it's possible to go the other direction as well. It's hard to keep up the momentum to get through all of Crafted World when the game doesn't ramp up to meet the players.
Since it's so chill, you'd think Yoshi's Crafted World would make an excellent co-op diversion. This is not the case. Adding a second player is chaotic, perhaps even more than similar modes in New Super Mario Bros. It's common to spawn off the side of a cliff, and one Yoshi going off the screen means that their partner will warp alongside them. Also, playing co-op is the only time where I had trouble finding eggs. Since both players can pick the projectiles up whenever they like, you often have one partner with all the eggs and one with none. You can get unlimited eggs if you ride on your partner's back, but then you're trying to aim while someone else is moving. It's like two people trying to steer the same car rather than two cars driving in tandem. It just doesn't work that well.
Final Thoughts on Yoshi's Crafted World
You can tell that a lot of hard work went into Yoshi's Crafted World. The beautiful graphics are a sight to behold. In addition, there are plenty of clever nods to Yoshi-centric games of the past. It's just unfortunate that the game that brings all these interesting visuals together just isn't that interesting to play. It certainly doesn't live up to its direct predecessors, coming off as a preschool interpretation of what was already a pretty kid-friendly experience. If you're looking for something with next to no challenge and relaxing visuals, Yoshi's Crafted World may hit the spot. If you're looking for something that's pleasing to look at and play, you have to go back to the SNES once again.
TechRaptor reviewed Yoshi's Crafted World on Nintendo Switch with a copy provided by the publisher.
- Dedication to Crafting Aesthetic
- Tight Platforming
- Neat Nods To The Past
- Simplistic Gameplay
- Repetitive Soundtrack
- Co-Op is an Afterthought