Released right in the middle of plenty of massive Fall 2015 releases (Metal Gear Solid V, Black Ops III, Fallout 4, and so on), Yoshi’s Woolly World has suffered the unfortunate, yet unavoidable, fate of being lost in the crowd. Attentions have shifted to bigger, more complex games, and even with its adorable line of plushy Amiibo figures, Yoshi’s latest outing hasn’t garnered the attention or praise it deserves. Yoshi’s Woolly World is a fluffy, colorful, fantastic game that provides plenty of fun for everyone, and lots of challenges even for experienced gamers.
As with most platformers, and especially those created and developed by Nintendo, the story of Woolly World is minimal and of little import. All of the Yarn Yoshis are hanging out on Yoshi island, and then Kamek shows up and turns most of the colorful dinosaurs into spools of yarn. It is then up to the few remaining Yoshis to travel through each level in each world, collect the spools of yarn to knit their friends back together, and ultimately stop Kamek and his evil unspooling.
From this point on, players are treated to a stunning and vibrant display featuring bright colors and immaculate textures. Every single object and article throughout the game is made to look like some kind of textile, usually — you guessed it — wool.
The creativity and imagination in each aesthetic design is clear as you play throughout the game, and the theme of yarn and wool permeates every single action. You can swallow enemies and turn them into balls of yarn, and then, in turn, use those balls of yarn to quickly knit together new structures and pathways to enhance the experience in each level. You can tug on loose strings to open up hidden areas, and your Yoshi can transform into vehicles and objects to occasionally rush through a hidden stage. The visuals of Woolly World are instantly gratifying and the definite standout factor of the game.
Woolly World’s fun colors and detailed textures lend itself to being accessible by players of all ages, and the gameplay follows suit. The game isn’t overly challenging, and even inexperienced gamers could probably clear each of the main levels in just a few hours. Woolly World caters itself to the young and unpracticed gamer even further by letting players swap from ‘Classic Mode’ to ‘Mellow Mode’ on the fly, which gives Yoshi wings and makes the game easier overall.
Conversely, by adding a second player, the game becomes less elementary and exponentially more difficult. When playing with two players, there are sure to be minor — maybe even major — outbursts due to one Yoshi swallowing other, pushing each other into pits of doom, bouncing off the other player’s head, and so on. A strong team can use these features to their advantage, but the multiplayer aspect of Woolly World is brilliantly frustrating.
Initially, I felt a bit cheated by the low number of playable levels that the game offers. Gone is the Nintendo standard of eight worlds in favor of just six, each comprising of eight levels. But the real challenge of Woolly World doesn’t come from completing the 48 main levels. Woolly World is sure to provide a challenge to completionists and perfectionists. To finish each level completely, you must collect five baubles of yarn (to knit your Yoshi friends back together), five Smiley Flowers, twenty Miiverse stamps, and reach the finish line with perfect health. One-hundred percent completion comes easy on the early levels, but takes time, dedication, skill, and multiple playthroughs for most courses.
In addition to completing the main levels, collecting five Smiley Flowers in all the courses in a single world unlocks a hidden level, bringing the level total up to 54. While this may not seem like a great increase, the hidden courses are very difficult, and are a chore just to complete, let alone to do so with all the collectible items.
Woolly World gives players a great sense of personality and customization. Each time you collect all five spools of yarn in a level and knit a Yoshi back together, that new, colorful Yoshi becomes a playable character. So while you might start off with simple green and red Yoshis, eventually, you’ll be controlling dinosaurs with watermelon patterns, Shy Guy designs, and yogurt color palettes.
Yoshi’s color patterns are enhanced even further by the use of Amiibo figures. Nearly all Amiibo are compatible with Woolly World, and tapping a figure to the gamepad while inside the Amiibo Hut will unlock a new costume for your Yoshi, accessible at any time. This means that if you ever wanted to see Yoshi dressed up as Link, Mega Man, Samus, or Mario, you can do just that.
You can also tap any Yoshi Amiibo, whether they be of the plastic or plushy variety, to the gamepad during a level to instantly create a second Yoshi that perfectly mimics your own actions. This feature is confusing and not very practical, and I tend to avoid it in favor of Amiibo costumes instead.
After completing the game, I came away with very little to complain about. There are a few technical details that are a minor annoyance, such as if two players both want to don an Amiibo costume, player one must enter the Amiibo Hut, select their costume, exit, and then player two must repeat the same steps. Simple processes like these are time consuming and should be more streamlined. It would also have been nice to have a few more worlds and a few more levels, but the collectibles in each level nearly make up for the length of the game.
It’s a real shame that Yoshi’s Woolly World is coming near the end of the Wii U’s life, and that the Wii U in general has performed so poorly. Because if this game were to receive more attention, it would surely be regarded as a gem, and a platforming classic.
A Platforming Classic
Yoshi's Woolly World is enjoyable by gamers of any age and skill level, and is a near-perfect platforming experience