Yoshi has had quite a journey throughout the years. After being tossed into pits by the rotund plumber, Mario, he soon achieved protagonist status in the eponymous Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. Since then, the lovable dinosaur was featured in a myriad of platformers, but never managed to achieve the same glory status of the SNES classic. Yoshi’s Woolly World in 2015 was perhaps the closest game to reach such goals, but 4 years later, Yoshi’s Crafted World seeks to recreate a similar success on the Nintendo Switch. While it doesn’t reinvent the genre, it remains a heartwarming platformer for all ages.
The Sunstone is a gem-studded relic protected by the Yoshis on the island. One day Baby Bowser and Kamek try to steal it, but during the scuffle the gems detach and are flung all over the world. It’s up to a single Yoshi (which the player can choose its color) to look for the missing gems and save the day. The starting levels in the game are ordered in a linear fashion, but after the first batch, players can tackle the next few in any order. Unlike Woolly World which had each batch of levels with its own theme, Crafted World opts to go for a more abstract approach with its levels. One moment players will explore a candy-laden kingdom, and the next a spooky mansion.
The real star of the game is of course the aesthetic design. After achieving the beauty of a yarn inspired kingdom in Woolly World, Yoshi’s new adventure focuses more on arts and crafts. While it isn’t the first time a Nintendo game focused on the motif of paper, Yoshi’s Crafted World’s style leans more on a child-like design. All the levels resemble that of a kid’s school project. There are background objects hanging by strings, cardboard textures on enemies, and rolled up ribbons that serve as tools for our hero. The water level steals the show. While in other games, a foreground water effect would often blur the picture slightly to simulate being underwater, in Crafted World, there’s no such effect, and yet with the various decoration of undersea life, it feels even more atmospheric than games that do use such techniques.
The game also plays a lot with depth of filed. Since levels
have multiple tiers to them, from foreground to background, it affects the
focus as well. Further areas are blurrier, and when Yoshi approaches them, it
becomes clearer. Another neat trick are the bosses at the end of each batch of
levels. Each forms up like a stop-motion animation akin to Rankin-Bass shorts
and it sells the toy-like aesthetic to perfection.
As for the gameplay itself, it’s standard Yoshi affair. Yoshi can flutter in the air in order to remain in the air for a short period of time (albeit in this game he can perform this trick indefinitely until landing), swallow enemies with his tongue, and of course transform his victims into eggs in which he uses them as projectiles. The game is played as a sidescroller, and Yoshi can only tread on a pre-determined tape lane.
Perhaps the biggest departure introduced in Crafted World
is the egg throwing mechanic. In preceding Yoshi titles, the aiming cursor
constantly moves up and down and it’s up to the player to press the button on
the right moment to pelt an enemy. In this game, however, the cursor is fully
controllable and aiming at targets has become as easy as moving the analog
stick to the right spot. This system does take a bit to get used to, as now
it’s impossible to move or jump while aiming a throw like in the past.
Crafted World also allows players to throw eggs in or
out of the main route. In many cases enemies or objects would appear in random
spots and Yoshi can hit them from afar. The cursor does an admirable job
marking the destination, but more than often if an enemy moves too fast, the
shot will miss. This usually isn’t a problem until the optional timed challenges
in which Yoshi must hit an amount of targets for a short amount of time to win
a flower. Due to how hectic those challenges are, aiming from a completely 2D
perspective to a 3D one is rather clunky, and failing those challenges means
that players must replay the levels to try them again. It doesn’t impede
progression, but it does make 100% completion more of a chore than it should
Collecting items has been the bread and butter of Yoshi games in the past, and Crafted World is no exception. Each level has flowers that are usually hidden in clever ways all throughout. In addition, players must collect over a certain amount of coins, collect over 20 hearts and find 20 hidden red coins to garner one additional flower for each tasks. Flowers are mandatory this time around, as each checkpoint between a diorama has a keeper that requires a certain amount of flowers in order to progress. Thankfully due to the breezy nature of the adventure, collecting satisfactory amount of flowers shouldn’t be too difficult.
Coins can be used as currency in the capsule machine. By inserting coins, Yoshi can win capsules that contain costumes to wear. Besides the adorable concept of seeing a dinosaur wear a paper-craft tugboat, it also serves as a hit buffer. Each costume has a certain amount of hit points, and if all are lost, Yoshi loses the costume, relying on the hearts collected throughout the level. Fixing the costume is as simple as getting a checkpoint, but the addition of this mechanic robs the game of any challenge. Considering how there’s a bonus flower for full hearts, having costumes that can absorb damage, especially the super rare ones, makes hearts seems rather trivial. Costumes will often stay intact throughout the whole level, essentially making the flower bonus a freebie. It’s good for novice players, but those who yearn for a bigger challenge might be disappointed.
Another unfortunate aspect of Crafted World is its
soundtrack. While not as atrocious as Yoshi’s New Island a few years
back, the music as a whole feels uninspired. The compositions are satisfactory,
some are even decent like in the aforementioned water level. However almost
every track is accompanied by constant recorder noises that get aggravating
incredibly fast. If only the audio department could’ve matched the high
fidelity of the visuals.
Yoshi’s Crafted World is a delightful experience to say the least. Its paper-craft aesthetic turns child-like creations into beautiful works of imagination. It’s amazing how tape rolls, cardboard flaps and even string can add so much to an already colorful world. It’s also easy to pick up, and can even be enjoyed with a friend. It’s a game that has a lot of hard work and passion poured into it, and the charm that’s bursting through its seams makes it irresistible. It may not be as challenging as Yoshi’s Island or Woolly World, but even with its minor flaws, this one is a well-crafted experience.