There’s been a certain amount of pushback against the green mascot that once served as a vehicle for Mario. Yoshi is a beloved character, one that didn’t spawn from his own franchise but certainly built one up over time. The biggest problem is that Yoshi seems to be getting punished and slandered everytime the devs at Nintendo don’t perfectly recreate Yoshi’s Island, the original SNES title that gave free reins to the multi-colored reptiles. There have been games across multiple platforms, but there always seems to be something off: it’s too easy, it’s too hard, it’s not what I want. People complain all the freaking time. Yoshi’s Wooly World caught so much heat for being adorable, but not being “original” since Kirby’s Epic Yarn captured a similar aesthetic and idea years before. Well, I’m glad to see the developers have finally just focused up and gone with what makes them happy, because I loved Wooly World, and I was positively delighted with the latest incarnation, Yoshi’s Crafted World.
Everywhere you go in the video game universe, the song remains the same: Yoshis are awesome dudes and dudettes who just want to hang out, live their best lives and eat everything in sight. In this version, Kamek, along with Koopa Jr., decide to come mess things up by attempting to steal the Sundream Stone, a magical artefact that makes your dreams come true, because who doesn’t want a piece of that action? So there’s a tug-of-war, the Sundream Stone loses all the gems on it, and now you get to choose which Yoshi is off to try and find the different pieces and bring them back together. Oh, by coincidence, every gemstone has ended up in a different area in the Yoshi world, and everything is made of crafting materials just because, and Kamek has the ability to fly there and then enchant some regular baddie into a larger, more impressive baddie that needs to be dealt with in some regard.
One thing that should be made known, if you’ve been missing the Yoshi games since the original Yoshi’s Island, is that Yoshi’s Crafted World is taking cues from previous games and becoming more accessible to first timers, children and, indeed, families. There’s a great focus on co-op play that is entirely optional and entirely avoidable, but it does allow so that you can hand a JoyCon to a child of almost any game with vague motor skills and allow them to be part of the game. The difficulty level, in turn, is quite a bit lower even on a normal setting. If you choose to shift down into the “casual” area, the game basically becomes a cakewalk through a Joanne Fabrics disguised as a video game. You can’t really die or be hurt, you don’t have any lack of eggs, the baddies aren’t aggressive or mean or anything…the gameplay becomes as soft and edge-less as the game design before you, and that can really throw off someone who isn’t prepared for this downshift. Keep in mind, the normal mode doesn’t remain crazy easy forever, but it never hits that sort of crescendo of madness that you might expect from a Yoshi platformer.
Having said that, Yoshi’s Crafted World still hits all the notes that you would expect from a Yoshi game. You play Yoshi, you run around and make/collect eggs, you throw them at things and you try to get a perfect score on each and every level. These perfect scores usually mean obtaining all the smiley flowers in a level (and some are hidden in invisible question clouds), gathering all the red coins (which might not even be on the same plane of gameplay as you), and having a full heart meter, which is SIGNIFICANTLY easier in this game than any previously thanks to the box armor. By collecting as much as possible and finishing in a solid state of affairs, you get the coveted hanamaru, or flowered circle, which shows that you did the best damn job ever. Players eager to scratch the collect-a-then itch will have to look no further than this game to invest what appears to be close to three digits of hours in order to gather everything there is to see.
That’s because Yoshi’s Crafted World really takes it to the mat in terms of making you want to replay a level over and over. First, you might not be able to get everything because coins, flowers and other secrets exist in both the foreground and the background. Being able to defy your own depth perception and preconceived notions about what is and is not an interactive target goes a long way, because that sheep in the distance isn’t just set design: it’s where a red coin is. Then, you’ll probably need to run back through to get those pesky flowers that are locked behind the “timed event” clouds, in which you have just a few seconds to collect a whole bunch of blue coins that could be scattered anywhere imaginable.
THEN, after just a couple of levels, you meet Poochy (the juggernaut dog who’s been helping Yoshi for a few games now), and he has puppies, and the puppies go back and hide in each and every level. You gotta get all those puppies in a limited amount of time to get more flowers, because those flowers are needed to wake up the robots that connect each world, plus those robots sometimes want you to go get things for them. And that’s all without the fact that each world has a capsule machine that dispenses a bunch of costumes, including some super rare ones, and don’t you want to get them all? Don’t you want to see Yoshi dressed up in a cow costume, or as a train, or as a traditional Japanese bath, or anything else you could possibly imagine??
Of course you do! And that’s the big, obvious secret of Yoshi’s Crafted World: it’s cute. Holy God, it’s so impossibly cute, and I’m saying that as the father of two impossibly cute children. Yoshi is this adorable little figurine that has to traverse worlds that look like they were simultaneously imagined by children and then brought into being by parents with a huge crafting workshop, who allowed the kids to do as much work as possible before “helping.” There are terrains of unfurled ribbon, cardboard box hideouts for ShyGuys, a pirate ship on blue construction paper, and plenty of visible strings and adhesives to keep the whole thing together. It’s only further accentuated when you do the Poochy Puppy levels and you run the whole level backwards, and you can see the unpainted sides that were flipped away from the camera, or the areas where a little extra tape was needed to hold a design together. The game knows that it’s cute, and it focuses and emphasizes this idea so much that you can’t help but be delighted. Combine that with a light, whimsical soundtrack and a proclivity to letting the player with without making it obvious, and you’ve got a perfect storm of a game.
You can sit down and play this for a couple of hours at a time, passing the controller to your children and letting them take a hand at controlling Yoshi, or they can come along as an assistant Dino, getting moved along when they’re not fast enough or when they’re having a hard time. Yoshi’s Crafted World gives so much in terms of single player time investment and identity, but you can absolutely play this with anyone if you choose to, and it can be a seriously fun time. I know that it might not seem like an ideal investment for players who aren’t into cute ideas, especially at the premium price tag, but it has brilliance and excitement that’s tempered by adorability and unhurried game play. Don’t think of this as the answer to the hardcore RPG you’ve always wanted, but definitely see it as a great relaxation tool for when you love games but don’t want to just use your phone. Put Yoshi up on the big screen and giggle a little every time he ducks down into his gift box armor or tosses a Poochy Puppy like an egg. It’s delightful, and that’s all it needs to be.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Yoshi’s Crafted World Review
Gameplay - 8/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 8/10
Replay Value - 8/10
It’s Yoshi as a rainy day crafting project, how could it be anything but endearing?