America - Front
America - Back
By Stephen LaGioia 10th Apr 2019 | 1,371 views
Nintendo has built a tremendous track record when it comes to quality platformers in its long gaming history. Developer Good-Feel, which has taken the reins for Yoshi-specific games in recent years, comes with a less certain history. Good-Feel has created a handful of charming and enjoyable titles for Nintendo platforms over the years and its most notable efforts include the well-crafted but rather basic Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Yoshi’s Woolly World, and Wario Land: Shake It. I’m happy to say, however, that the developer's latest effort on the Nintendo Switch - Yoshi’s Crafted World - just might be Good-Feel’s best game yet.
Crafted World utilizes a mechanic of aiming and firing eggs in a pseudo-3D space to hit cardboard pieces. This is a simple yet effective and satisfying hook, and continues the trend of boundary-pushing Yoshi platformers. While Woolly World’s yarn gimmick tended to be in your face and a bit much at times, the cardboard themes in this title reside more in the background - both in a literal and figurative sense. This allows for a tighter, more enjoyable experience; and one that's a touch more fast-paced. It comes off as distinct, while feeling closer to Yoshi’s Island/Story in spirit. It truly felt to me like a nostalgic trip back to the mid 90s when playing around with the egg-firing mechanic, especially after seeing the return of baddies like Spear Guys, Goonies, and the main villains - Baby Bowser and Kamek.
The artistic vibe of Yoshi’s Crafted World maintains that predominant level of colorful cuteness that Woolly World pulled off so well. Much like Woolly World, it really feels like you’re playing through a rich, kid-friendly animated piece here. Yet Crafted World has completely ditched its predecessor's “hook” of its often cumbersome yarn-yanking mechanic. In its place we get the more straightforward approach of shooting cardboard cut-outs scattered throughout 2.5D planes. These cutouts take on a variety of images that are often meant to blend into the background, providing a certain scavenger hunt feel. Nailing them can yield various goodies, such as hearts that replenish heath, as well as coins and flowers.
Crafted World nicely interweaves the collectables into the gameplay itself, as you can use earned coins to buy a variety of cute cardboard costumes that give you extra protection depending on their rarity. These range from common items like a bottle cap, to a more coveted Labo keyboard and Monty Mole shell. The other collectables mainly revolve around flowers, which are needed to pass certain blockades on the world map, including a colorful secret area that opens upon completion of the game. Crafted World keeps things rather light and easy-going for the most part. But make no mistake - completionists will have their work cut out for them as they scramble to earn the plethora of goodies in each stage, some of which are well hidden.
While the mechanics as a whole feel more traditional compared to Woolly World, the game mixes in a vast array of courses that differ thematically and mechanically. The biomes number well over a dozen, and each one comes with a handful of stages, which themselves usually offer distinct qualities. The sporadic nature of environments and themes is reminiscent of Super Mario Galaxy. It can feel a tad inconsistent at times, but on the plus side any feeling of repetition is certainly kept to a minimum with this approach.
Stages range from train stations, to ninja dojos which obscure your view behind a screen, to a haunted house in which you’re hunted by creepy axe-wielding clowns. You’re even dropped into a handful of more action-based vehicular stages. This includes a course where you control a large mechanical version of Yoshi who plows and punches through all in his wake, and a solar-powered racing stage where you’re forced to avoid shadows. I enjoyed the both the ingenuity of the concepts and richness of each stage's unique atmosphere, and was happy to see a refreshing lack of typical environmental tropes.
An additional "Flipped Mode" allows you to run through variants of each stage in which 3 Poochie dogs are hiding. These scurrying pups can be nabbed and converted into additional flowers following completion. Flipped Mode also doubles as a sort of time trial, as gathering all 3 Poochies and reaching the goal in a certain amount of time nets you another flower. You’re also tasked with the option of revisiting stages and seeking out specific items to bring to robot-like allies at various spots on the map. These are neat inclusions, as they not only add yet another dimension to Crafted World but drastically increase the already generous amount of content on offer for those who seek it.
On top of this, there's the return of a 2 player co-op mode, which allows a player to jump in as a different colored Yoshi of their choice and provide assistance. While this usually proved amusing, it’s quite easy to get in the way of eachother, sometimes impeding or disrupting progress more than helping towards it. Since you’re on a limited 2D plane, accidentally lapping up your partner, clocking them with an egg/turtle shell, or hopping on their back will likely be a common occurrence. In a wise NSMB-esque inclusion, though, a Yoshi dropping out of frame will morph into an egg, which will simply float towards the other player and drop back into the action.
Collect-a-thons notwithstanding, most of Yoshi’s Crafted World is a breeze to get through. The main game can ideally be finished in a handful of hours and with few deaths, for those looking to get right to business. This might be off-putting to some, though there certainly is a place for the “sit back and relax” style Good-Feel’s become notorious for. Most of the various enemies creeping about don’t pose too much of a challenge, as you can gobble them up and convert them to egg ammo rather simply. You're also typically granted several hits before dying, especially when donning a costume.
You’re sometimes given a lack of eggs, which can make things a bit hairy, though being smart about egg use usually mitigates any issues here. The bosses, while granting some exciting and amusing moments, usually go down in 3 well-placed hits with little sweat. Then you’ve got the return of “Mellow Mode”, which allows you to quite literally drift across a stage, and grants a drastic increase in hits before dying.
Aside from its relative simplicity and occasionally touchy co-op bits, the latest Yoshi installment really is a well-crafted platformer - if you’ll excuse the pun. It offers an impressive variety of innovative concepts that keep things feeling fresh. At the same time, it adheres to the crisp and familiar mechanics - along with other cool nostalgic nods - found in the classic Yoshi’s Island. It’s quite the artistic marvel too, with its imaginative atmosphere and fine detail, making it one of the prettier games to grace a Nintendo platform. Yoshi’s Crafted World is a pleasant, enduring experience that platforming fans on the Switch shouldn’t miss.