Yoshi has been destined for stardom since his first appearance in Super Mario World. He started his video game career as a power-up for Mario, but soon the lovable dinosaur starred in his own spinoff series of 2D platformers. These focused on his unique ability to eat foes and lay eggs, which can be used as weapons. Yoshi’s Woolly World combines this simple but effective mechanic with a beautifully realized art style and clever level design to create not only the best Yoshi game, but one of Nintendo’s best platformers in years.
Nintendo games are contractually obligated to open with someone being kidnapped. (It’s usually Princess Peach, though she’s absent here.) Kamek, a robed turtle wizard who you may remember from Super Mario World, shows up on a broomstick needing yarn (for some reason). In this world, the Yoshis are conveniently made out of yarn, and throw yarn balls instead of eggs. Kamek unravels most of the Yoshis and flies off, leaving only our familiar green hero (and a red duplicate if you’re playing co-op). Yoshi immediately sets off to rescue his friends.
Yoshi’s Woolly World takes full advantage of Nintendo’s large roster of enemies and uses them in fun new ways. Shy Guys replace Goombas as the primary foe. But my favorite enemies were the Chain Comps. They begin as wire frame skeletons, but turn into yarn boulders if attacked with yarn. Many of my favorite levels and puzzles involved manipulating the Chain Chomps back and forth between killer wire frames and docile boulders.
Like in all previous Yoshi games, Yoshi can eat enemies and create eggs—in this case, balls of yarn. These balls act as ammunition for hurling at other foes. They can also reveal new paths and platforms, hit switches, and uncover secret clouds. Yoshi can perform a powerful ground stomp and hover in the air for a few seconds. Mastering these abilities is key to success, though the unlimited air hover can quickly destroy your thumb after prolonged play.
The level design is where Yoshi’s Woolly World truly shines. The map is structured like Super Mario 3D World. There are eight levels in each of the six themed worlds. At the end of each world, Kamek shows up to create a giant version of a standard enemy. Sadly, the boss fights get a bit repetitive in later levels as you simply fight harder and faster versions of earlier bosses.
Like Donkey Kong Country‘s letters and Super Mario 3D World’s stars, each level contains optional collectibles. The volume of collectibles, combined with the freedom to retrace your steps in most levels, gave me the incentive to fully explore nearly every level in the game. These goodies are hidden in false walls, in concealed clouds, and in optional side paths. Some are in plain sight, while others are easily missed. Some levels even include optional mini arcade-like sections that resemble side-scrolling shoot ’em ups or driving games.
Collecting all the daisies in a world opens up a special bonus level. These bonus levels provide great challenges and offer unique gameplay and level designs.
My favorite collectible was the yarn bundle. If you gather them all, you unlock new Yoshi skins. From the orange and green Citrus Yoshi to Glacier Yoshi’s deep mix of blues and whites, the impressive variety of designs made unlocking them a high priority. My personal favorite was the black and grey Flame Yoshi.
Both players can pick their favorite Yoshi at any time between levels in co-op play. This makes for a fun and immediate reward for collecting all the yarn. Most amiibos will also unlock appropriately themed Yoshi costumes based on the amiibo’s character.
Yoshi’s Wooly World offers a special “Mellow” mode, designed specifically for younger players. In it, Yoshi gains wings, making most platforming challenges a breeze. The difficulty mode can be changed any time, letting you soar through a particularly troublesome level.
The collectible stamps from Super Mario 3D World are back, and can be used by the game community to create new Miiverse posts. These posts show up during the quick loading times for each level, as well as on random Miis around the world map. Nintendo has done a good job policing this user-made content, and it’s a fun way to passively interact with other fans.
Yarn to Life
We’ve previously seen the yarn theme used in Kirby’s Epic Yarn on the Wii. Yoshi’s Woolly World was made by the same developer. But it’s the Wii U’s HD graphics that really help the world of Yoshi’s Woolly World to come alive. Subtle touches, like upholstery fabric bending when Yoshi walks on it, or the fuzziness of each yarn-based critter, sell the entire experience. Yoshi’s unique animations also take advantage of his malleable fabric body. His spinning feet form wheels when running. They become propellers while hovering.
Yoshi’s Woolly World has been rated E for Everyone by the ESRB. It includes Mild Cartoon Violence as Yoshi defeats typical Nintendo foes and critters in his quest to rescue his friends.
I had more fun with Yoshi’s Woolly World than with any other Nintendo platformer on the Wii U. The focus on puzzles and exploration, rather than on challenging jumps and time management, is a welcome change. Collectibles are rewarding and fun, and the variety in level design, gameplay, and enemies keep the action fresh for the 10–20 hours you can sink into it. Fans of hardcore platformers might be disappointed by its relative ease, but Yoshi’s yarn-filled charm and personality are undeniable.