Yoshi’s Crafted World (Nintendo Switch) Review

You can find this review in full at GBAtemp.net:

The Yoshi series as a whole is something that’s always enthralled me. Growing up with the GBA port of Yoshi’s Island, the casual explorative platformer series has managed to keep me interested through both the good times and bad. After harbouring mixed feelings for both Yoshi’s New Island and Woolly World, I find myself once again eager to explore, hoping to be charmed and captivated in the same way the series first caught my eye.

A Whole New World

Opening with a short cutscene, the game begins with a peaceful Yoshi society, this time lazily gathered around the legendary Sundream Stone. Eager to claim the stone’s fabled power to grant wishes for himself, Baby Bowser suddenly appears raring for a fight. After an intense round of tug of war between the jealous junior and our party of friends, the stone is pulled apart, its five Dream Gems launched across an unknown world. Intent on finding the gems before Baby Bowser can, the Yoshis set out on a new quest in this foreign land.

I feel there’s only so much I can say here; I doubt you’ve come to the game for a particularly deep or intense storyline, though that’s an avenue I’d personally be interested in seeing Nintendo go down. What the introduction does well in is highlighting what’s to come. You have the bright colour scheme, a myriad of Yoshis to choose from, a new visually stunning art direction, and of course, the brilliant duo that is Baby Bowser and Kamek. With these glimmers of radiant hope, the game set my expectations high, and it really didn’t disappoint.

Launching into the first level, the same one featured in the free eShop demo, you quickly begin to see what’s changed from a mechanical standpoint. Having played Yoshi’s Island quite recently, I found myself immediately taken aback by two things: movement and eggs. As a whole, the game feels fluid and responsive, the controls something that can be picked up in a matter of minutes. In an attempt to keep things moving and minimise downtime, the game also does well in streamlining certain things such as swallowing enemies, the egg conversion now automated instead of having to crouch. It defines itself as a unique entry to the series without straying far enough from its roots as to remove what made it great so many years ago. I found it incredibly satisfying to play, but only when jumping back to the SNES version of Yoshi’s Island did I realise just how different it is, and by no means do I think this a bad thing. The game is slower, but in what feels to be an intentional way; you have time to see the multi-layered levels, time to pick up on the small details and hidden secrets that make the Yoshi series so fun. With the new ability to shoot into both the foreground and background, you come to appreciate the change of pace.

The strangest quirk to irritate me as I started ended up being the fact your eggs don’t carry over from level to level as they did in older games, but the more I played, the more I came to appreciate the reasons behind this choice. Enemy placement feels far more meaningful and well-paced as to provide both ample ammunition to progress and subtle hints of what’s available to hit nearby. You also have areas with few eggs and challenges that require them, adding a thin veil of challenge to an otherwise largely laid back game. As you progress, you begin to make better use of what the levels give you, and as a whole it goes a long way in crafting an enjoyable experience.

Yoshi’s Crafted Collectathon

While the challenges of Yoshi games have often been found in collecting everything the game has to offer, Crafted World takes this to new unparalleled heights. Each level has a number of visible flowers as you’ve likely seen in previous games of the series. The amount varies from level to level with some lying around, some hidden behind floating clouds, and others obtained through small challenges. You then have three bonus flowers for each level; one for collecting 100 coins, one for collecting the 20 red coins, and one for finishing the level on maximum health. Finally, you have four flowers on offer for optionally completing the course in reverse and finding mini Poochies, with one flower being awarded for each of the three found, and the last being a reward for completing the stage in a set time. Once you’ve beaten each level in a world, you’ll then be tasked with extra missions to seek out souvenirs, with each one successfully found rewarding you with an additional flower. That’s everything. While you do need flowers to unlock new worlds and progress through the game, the levels are structured in a way as to encourage exploration and discovery without forcing it on you. It’s balanced well to the point of unlocking worlds being satisfying without feeling gated behind unnecessary walls. 

At first glance, the sheer volume of flowers is overwhelming and as I played the first level, I found myself incredibly irritated by the design as a whole. After all, if you want to get everything, you’ll be playing through each level three or four times: once for the normal completion, once in reverse, and once more for each souvenir. Having already played the first level via the demo, I had already appreciated the sights, I had already spotted the cows, and I’d already seen the small details on show as you go through in reverse. What I had however forgotten was how much I loved doing it in the demo; it’s almost amusing to me how my first impressions of the game’s collectibles was jaded not through any fault of the game itself, but by my completionist attitudes in full force when playing the demo. Despite each level being packed with content, and despite there being an incredible depth of gameplay that can shift by simply focusing your attention on different areas of the level, I found myself burned out by something that could have so easily been solved by carrying over save data. Though I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing everything each level had to show, I do feel it negatively impacts replayability to the game as a whole. Once you’ve seen everything, you really have seen everything, and I just can’t see myself coming back to play it any time soon. It’s not to say I won’t come back to it again a few years down the line, or going through the odd level again with different friends, but otherwise it’s something that’ll be be sat collecting dust.

The two player options are however worth mentioning for a way to keep your experience fresh. Where I usually meticulously scour levels for every secret and collectible, everything is different when I pull a friend in. Gone are the methodical searches, one of a friendly journey or competitive death battle standing in their place. The degree of the coop play is relatively simple: you get two Yoshis and you play through levels as normal. You can swallow your friend to carry them, and one Yoshi can ride the other and play as a turret. It’s brilliant fun all in all, and does well in providing a platform for players of any skill to appreciate. The only fault I could possibly pull from this is the lack of option to mix and match game play styles. While the classic play the one I generally recommend people try, mellow mode acts as a perfect bridge for a parent to introduce their child to gaming. Giving you wings to flutter infinitely, as well as each enemy providing two eggs in oppose to one, the game is made easier and its challenges further trivialised. It becomes less about the level design choices and more about experiencing the music, the brilliant art direction, and the world of the game. Though it isn’t something for me, its inclusion is definitely not a bad thing, especially in a series like Yoshi.

It’s difficult to deny that Yoshi’s Crafted World is by most standards an easy game, but I think it’s brilliant for it. So rarely nowadays do we get the chance to explore and discover in such a relaxed and mellow setting. The game is forgiving to the degree of me feeling comfortable jumping off ledges from time to time just to make sure I haven’t missed anything; it isn’t something I could say of a Mario game, nor any other platformer. For every Dark Souls of its genre, I feel we should be crying out for a Yoshi. A game you can sit down and uncontrollably smile at, a game you can enjoy without pressure or stress. For anybody looking for a good time, or even just a gentle break from reality, Yoshi’s Crafted World is a must buy, and one I can wholeheartedly recommend.

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