If there’s one thing that Nintendo’s good at (and it’s good at a great many things), it’s creating worlds. Worlds that you want to look at, admire, explore, and inhabit. These digital creations are typically charming and, more often than not, simplistic places. Despite their simplicity, there’s often a depth to them. An awful lot of thought goes into creating Nintendo’s worlds, and that’s certainly the case with Yoshi’s Crafted World.
Yoshi’s Crafted World stars the titular dinosaur and a multicoloured collection of friends (all known as Yoshi, to avoid confusion). Supporting two players at once, Crafted World is a little like Super Mario Bros. U. If you chuck out Ninty’s main lineup and make the rest of the world out of cardboard, that is.
Away we go
As is usual with Nintendo platformers, players have a fairly thin excuse to go traipsing around a diverse collection of worlds and levels. Rather than a stolen princess, it’s the Yoshis’ Sundream Stone in jeopardy. Bowser Jr. and his cohorts attempt a heist, something goes wrong, and the magical mineral is split into pieces and deposited all over the place. You’re tasked with tracking down and collecting the missing pieces before Bowser the younger, Kamek and co. can manage the job.
It might be the barest of reasons but it’s no more than you’d get from a Mario or Donkey Kong platformer. Though, in terms of game difficulty, the scale looks like this: Kirby games [easiest] → Yoshi’s Crafted World → Mario games → Donkey Kong titles [hardest]. While the mechanics might be familiar, Yoshi hasn’t been designed to offer much of a challenge.
Part of this is just the nature of Yoshi. He can jump on enemies but can also scoop them up with his tongue. He’s got a slight boost to his jumps that can save you from a sticky fall and when you do fall, you’re just returned to your last ledge. And then there’s the cardboard shielding (more on that in a second). In terms of offensive and defensive capability, Yoshi’s a little OP. If you’re after a tougher ride, you could attempt to blow through the game in the quickest time but Yoshi… just doesn’t like to move all that fast. And he shouldn’t because there’s a whole lot to check out on your trip.
Head of the (card)board
And it’s all cardboard. Taken with the existence of the Paper Mario world, we’ve got some serious questions about what’s going on that side of the planet. Regardless, it’s frequently the world itself that’s the star here. There are oddball cardboard creations everywhere, from silly-looking cows in the background to strange contraptions for players to jump, bounce, and ride on. It’s a charmingly low-fi presentation that nonetheless looks slickly done. You don’t achieve this level of casual cool without thinking about it for a really, really long time.
And players can interact with much of the scenery. Inhaling many enemies (some of them resist it) will turn them into an egg. Yoshi can trail several behind him, and those eggs can be lobbed at enemies as well as aimed towards the fore- and background to unveil hidden secrets. If you’re after the hidden red coins, you might have to knock over a lot of cardboard to get to them.
And there are additional challenges for each stage when completed the first time that calls for just this sort of action. Find the black sheep(s), or other hidden items in the scenery, for instance. Completing these objectives nets you additional flowers, which are rewarded for… just about everything. Just as well, since you’re going to need these to progress. These flowers are the equivalent of Mario’s oversized coins, though they’re far more prevalent.
The number of activities contained in each level is impressive. There are varying numbers of flowers to find hidden around stages, plus players garner extras for completing extra objectives. Snag at least 100 coins? That’s another flower. Finish the stage with full health (which you don’t start with)? That’s another. There is also a reward for tracking down the red coins but once you’ve completed a stage, you’re given a shot at going again and completing a challenge or two. That involves a spot of lateral thinking and a lot of pinging things off the background.
And then there are the Poochy Pups. Some stages, upon completion, can be flipped. Players can travel along with Mama Poochy (who is remarkably resilient to damage) in order to rescue little puppies. The change makes a previously familiar stage confusing for an attempt or two and the pups aren’t exactly a challenge to find but it’s the thought that counts. Levels work wonderfully going forwards and just as well in the other direction — albeit with a different form of movement. You’re also peering at the back of the colourful cardboard creations for the most part, so there’s a lot of brown on show.
Players can also visit little vending machines, which spit out random cardboard costumes for our Yoshi heroes. Equipping these is about more than just looks — each outfit gives players additional defence points. The rarer the outfit, there more protection there is. And there’s only one of each outfit, so you won’t be spending coins frivolously. But Yoshi’s Crafted World is already easy enough without this advantage. Ah, well, casual players will be very well served here.
Yoshi’s Crafted World Verdict
There’s no denying the Yoshi’s Crafted World is an immensely charming game. The characters and setting are adorable without suffering from cuteness overload and there’s plenty to do. Each level withstands multiple playthroughs, from the first initial foray to heading back for collectables. Flipping the stage so you can track down the missing Poochy Pups is a nice touch. It’s a testament to Ninty’s design that each level plays just as well backwards as forwards.
The only real drawback to this game is the lack of a challenge for more experienced players. Platform veterans could blast through the game in short order if they wanted to, but Yoshi’s Crafted World really wants players to take their time. It’s almost a natural reaction to slow down and take in the sights — quite a feat on Nintendo’s part. Consider it one for the kids or for the gaming challenged, but don’t let that stop you from secretly loving it.