Yoshi’s Crafted World

Yoshi’s Crafted World is constantly changing not just the gameplay quirks around which its stages are built, but also the nature of its stunningly detailed environments, rising above its obvious flaws to qualify as a product worthy of the Nintendo stamp

Although they have been involved in plenty of varied projects, the folks at Good-Feel – one of Nintendo’s closest partners – have clearly become proficient in one very specific niche: the visual transformation of important platforming franchises. Guided by an artistic touch that is uniform in quality and rather heterogeneous in style, their strong display in revitalizing well-known properties via a shiny new coat of paint started all the way back in 2008, when the Wario Land saga was given fluid hand-drawn animations that made its Nintendo Wii entry, subtitled Shake It, look like a finely produced cartoon.

Following that relatively successful incursion, the company went on to place their creative fingerprint on both the Kirby and Yoshi series, which – respectively – through Epic Yarn and Woolly World saw their already cute and colorful auras have those two qualities greatly augmented by the fact their quests took place in worlds where objects, characters, and scenarios alike were all made of cloth, as if the entirety of their environments had been knitted by a very skilled and inspired individual.

crafted_world

Due to the success that, to different degrees, each of those three products found in gameplay and visual goodness, none of the properties that form that trio – as well as their dedicated fanbases – would find much reason to complain if they ended up having a second shot at receiving the Good-Feel treatment. However, with the Wario Land series being out of commission for unknown reasons and the Kirby franchise being back in the arms of HAL Laboratory, the studio that created it and built many of its classic installments, the opportunity to receive a second graphical transformation ended up easily falling on the back of Mario’s lovable dinosaur partner.

And since Yoshi’s Woolly World had already immersed the character in a world of cotton, yarn, and plush, Good-Feel – under the pressure of not repeating itself – was left with the task of finding yet another source of visual inspiration around which they could construct a brand new cuddly universe. And as players are bound to discover as soon as they walk into Yoshi’s Crafted World, the company’s artists have certainly excelled at that task, for with the basic materials one would encounter in an arts and crafts classroom, the game builds an astonishing world out of sheets of paper, tape, glue, cardboard boxes, paints, threads, cups, and many other simple assets.

Given Yoshi’s Crafted World marks the fourth time Good-Feel takes on an endeavor of such nature, and the third instance in which they do so by using real-world objects to put together a virtual universe, it is to be expected that – save for falling into the trap of comfortably resting on one’s laurels – the game’s visuals showcase signs of maturity. And that is indeed what they do, because as far as graphics go, Crafted World clearly trumps what came before it. It is arguable that the advantage in hardware that it holds over Shake It, Epic Yarn, and Woolly World helps in that regard, as the game does look technically impressive.

Nevertheless, most of the credit for that achievement must go to the ridiculous attention to detail that was put in the building of the game’s environments. Firstly, because whether one is talking about small objects (such as flowers) or larger assets (like a steam train, a house, or an evil boss), an attentive player can visually deconstruct those items piece by piece to conclude that, indeed, every one of them was digitally assembled in a way that replicates what one could manually do with a lot of talent and patience. Secondly, because as Yoshi travels through the distinct scenarios that are part of his journey, gamers will notice they were not built to deceive and look like the actual natural locations they portray; instead, they are meant to be paper-craft representations of those environments, giving off the feeling that the friendly dinosaur is walking inside beautiful dioramas.

crafted_world2

Perhaps even more impressive than any of those visual traits is how Yoshi’s Crafted World, despite the obviously enormous amount of work that went into each of its scenarios, sports an absurd amount of different environments. A whopping forty stages separate the hero’s starting point from his final destination, and rather than being organized into just a handful of worlds with half a dozen courses each, the game goes against that format, boasting – instead – sixteen worlds that tend to house either two or three levels.

Given each world, as tradition dictates, has a theme, it goes without saying that the game has room to explore both commonplace sites, such as a forest and a desert, as well as delightfully unusual locations, like a village of ninjas and a wacky carnival. However, as if that wide space for artistic freedom was not enough, Yoshi’s Crafted World goes the extra mile and invariably changes the themes of its courses even if inside the same area. Case in point, the world centered around outer space begins at the launch facility of a rocket; sends Yoshi through stars, planets, and alien ships; and ends inside a weird space station that gets hit by a comet every ten seconds. What that means is that the forty courses that make up Yoshi’s Crafted World represent forty entirely different scenarios, each one of them showcasing a stunning degree of care and effectively putting to shame platformers that recycle the same visual assets multiple times.

In spite of that unparalleled creativity in graphical matters, which is sadly not matched by a soundtrack that is uninspired at best, Yoshi’s Crafted World takes a much more straightforward path regarding its plot; a choice that paves the way to a relatively familiar progression. Living on their own island, the Yoshis deeply treasure an artifact known as the Sundream Stone, which has – encrusted on its rocky surface – five gems that make dreams come true. Unsurprisingly, it all turns sour when Baby Bowser and Kamek, the two usual suspects of the franchise, show up to take it away. As the pair engages in a bizarre tug of war against the Yoshis for the stone, the gems break apart and are sent flying across the world.

Naturally, that means players, who can tackle the game alone or alongside a friend, must pick one of the many differently colored dinosaurs and look for the five crystals, which are – as one would imagine – guarded by mean bosses that are creative, varied, and fun, even if they are also somewhat too easy. Regardless of how its clichéd setup leads to an objective that is equally commonplace, Yoshi’s Crafted World does hold some unexpected turns in the way it unfolds, including high-quality and genuinely funny dialogues and cutscenes that are triggered whenever Yoshi catches up to Kamek and Baby Bowser; and the fact that the adventure’s areas are organized in a way that, thanks to branching routes, allows gamers to take care of them in different orders.

Inside the worlds and stages themselves, meanwhile, players will come across gameplay that carries characteristics inherent to both Nintendo and the Yoshi franchise. From the former, the quest borrows the concept that each stage is based around a certain gimmick that is explored in progressive levels of difficulty as the stage goes along; consequently, other than boasting a unique visual presentation, all of the title’s courses feature their own signature quirk: whether it is birds that serve as platforms, searchlights that must be avoided, a fossilized dinosaur that comes to life with a thirst for destruction, and many others.

Because of that, Yoshi’s Crafted World is a game that does not touch the same ground more than once, being able to stay creative all the way to the finish line by engaging in traditional platforming situations and in wackier experiments, which include racing on solar-powered cars, riding an airplane, controlling a giant Yoshi robot, shooting targets from a moving train, and a few extra instances when developers walk out of the expected line and unearth sheer fun. At the same time, from previous Yoshi games, the adventure borrows not only a more meticulous pace than the one gamers find in Mario’s platformers, but also the standard mechanics that come with having control over the planet’s most popular green dinosaur.

crafted_world4

Other than jumping, Yoshi can flutter to gain some additional air time, perform a deadly ground pound, swallow enemies with his tongue in order to turn them into eggs, and – finally – throw said eggs at other bad guys or at objects that require some sort of interaction. Out of all those moves, the one that is more noticeably altered by Yoshi’s Crafted World is the egg-throwing mechanic. Firstly, because – on what is bound to be an annoyance to some players – the character can no longer move while aiming, a restriction that results from how the direction in which the egg is launched must now be indicated with the control stick. Secondly, and as a far more important ramification, because the eggs can now hit objects, coins, and enemies that hang around the background and foreground of the levels.

Such a new feature, which is employed very smartly, has a lot to do with how the scenarios of Yoshi’s Crafted World, taking advantage of how they are meant to be perceived as tridimensional dioramas, frequently boast a very noticeable depth. In fact, that trait is so prominent that many courses feature paths or entire sections that branch out into paths that run parallel to each other, giving Yoshi the ability to walk towards or away from the screen and making the game be a rare instance of a title that, despite having a progression that goes from the left to the right, makes use of the fact it takes place in 3-D environments to build numerous refreshing gameplay situations that have players overcoming tridimensional challenges.

Even though it undoubtedly deserves a lot of praise regarding its visual splendor, the creativity of the mechanics employed in its levels, and its exploration of the deep diorama-like scenarios it holds, Yoshi’s Crafted World carries the problem of being overly easy. It is, truthfully, a characteristic that allows even very young children to overcome the obstacles it presents. However, since the game features a very effective Mellow Mode, which can be activated at any time and alters gameplay – such as by letting Yoshi fly and reducing the damage he takes – so that the quest becomes even easier, one is led to question why Good-Feel did not give the difficulty dial a slight nudge.

Being a breeze is not inherently a problem, but in the case of Yoshi’s Crafted World that attribute turns into an issue because it actively diminishes some of the greatness in level design that the title carries. After all, when courses are very simple to clear and require little effort from gamers, the care that was put in the development of their mechanics, in the placement of their enemies and platforms, and in the building of the structures and areas through which Yoshi must navigate runs the risk of being lost. And that is exactly what may happen to some players when they take on Yoshi’s Crafted World, especially during the first half of the quest.

Truth be told, the game does take some measures to counter that problem. Following a pattern established with great success by Yoshi’s Island, Yoshi’s Crafted World has – for each of its levels – a list of achievements that need to be cleared by those looking for full completion. They must collect one hundred golden coins, a task that is not all that hard; track down twenty red coins; find the location of hidden flowers, of which each course has between four and eight; and reach the goal with full health, an objective that can be truly hard if players decide to go for it without using the humorous paper-made purchasable costumes that serve as armor.

If one opts to chase those extra slices of content, especially the collectibles, then Yoshi’s Crafted World will show its teeth and be engaging right from the start. And that is because trying to locate all the red coins and the flowers will not only demand that players take a more meticulous and attentive approach when progressing through the courses, but it will also invariably reveal cleverly obscure ledges and secret locations that will be a testament to how fun and rewarding the activity of exploring the levels to the fullest extent of their smartness is. To a certain point, the game does recognize the strength that lies in the exploration of its scenarios, for having a specific amount of flowers is always a requirement to opening the way to a new world; yet, that mandatory threshold is so low that it is still not sufficient to generate enough challenge during the early portions of the adventure to those who just want to get to the end of the game.

crafted_world3

Despite how its non-mandatory content is responsible for unearthing a good deal of the greatness and challenge of Yoshi’s Crafted World, those same assets carry some flaws of their own. For starters, flowers and red coins can generate frustration for two reasons: firstly, because some of them are produced by winged clouds that only become visible when touched, and given a handful of those are in obtuse locations, they can be awfully easy to miss; and secondly, because the collection of a few of those items involves timed challenges – such as shooting all Shy Guys desperately hiding on a boat in the background or collecting devilishly arranged temporary coins – that albeit fun, can only be retried if gamers restart the level.

The biggest problems on that front, though, are related to another pair of optional tasks that the game possesses. Once a stage is completed in its original format, players can revisit it with two other goals in mind: the rescuing of three Poochy pups hidden around the level within a certain amount of time, and the finding of specific paper-crafts that are tucked away in either the foreground or background of the scenarios. Even if they do considerably extend gameplay hours to those who seek full completion, turning an adventure that can be finished in eight hours into a twenty-hour quest, they are not entirely successful.

Finding the Poochy pups can be somewhat entertaining, because besides providing an interesting time-related challenge that requires that gamers comb the stage thoroughly and quickly, that task must be accomplished in what the game calls a flip side version of the course, meaning that Yoshi traverses the level from the finish line to the beginning and that the camera tracks the action from the opposite direction. As a consequence of that approach, not only do players get an interesting backstage glimpse on how the environments were assembled, as tapes, scissors, and the unpainted surface of boxes become visible, but the stages also suffer some slight changes in the challenge they provide; many times, however, these alterations are simply not enough to make the flip side courses feel unique.

Meanwhile, locating specific paper-crafts and shooting them with an egg is, thanks to the way it is implemented, nothing but a dull chore, because whatever value there is in paying close attention to the scenarios in order to spot certain objects is eroded by the fact the game sends players after those souvenirs one at a time; never revealing the next item on the list until the current one is located. As such, given sometimes there are levels that carry up to three collectible paper-crafts, gamers will be forced to replay the same stage multiple times. Had Yoshi’s Crafted World chose to, instead, reveal the souvenirs players must look for the first time they stepped into the stage, that activity would have been far more pleasant.

Yoshi’s Crafted World, then, poses a bit of a dilemma to players, because while its generally low level of difficulty makes simply getting to the end of the quest a task that does not reveal the full extent of its wonderful design, aiming for full completion unearths some frustrations of its own. The bottom line, though, is that regardless of how one chooses to approach the quest, there is a lot of fun to be had, whether the player in question is a child who is taking their first steps into the gaming world or a veteran with a fondness for the platforming genre. And that quality stems from how Yoshi’s Crafted World is constantly changing not just the gameplay quirks around which its stages are built, but also the nature of its stunningly detailed environments.

These two elements, which never repeat themselves through the course of forty levels, form an adventure that is entertaining and inventive all the way through, mixing situations that fall perfectly among the character’s traditional exploits with unexpected gameplay detours and mechanics that creatively take advantage of the depth of the title’s tridimensional scenarios. It is thanks to such prowess that Yoshi’s Crafted World rises above its obvious flaws to qualify as an experience that cannot be missed and a product worthy of the Nintendo stamp.

Final Score: 8 – Excellent

6 thoughts on “Yoshi’s Crafted World

  1. This looks like the cutest game ever. It gives me some major LittleBigPlanet vibes and I love it for that. I’m definitely going to be picking this up as soon as I have the money!

  2. I do really want to get this, I have a continued love for the series. Although nothing has matched the masterpiece that is Yoshi’s Island yet, unfortunately. Kind of odd for Nintendo to not better that.

    1. It’s a pretty great effort, I think. It certainly ranks, for me, inside the Top 3 in the franchise alongside Yoshi’s Island and Woolly World. But if you are not going for the extra content (all flowers and red coins) it can feel lackluster.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s