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Yoshi’s Island was one of the best games that you could get on the Super Nintendo. It was visually striking, it was fun to play, and it provided a more dynamic experience than standard platformers did for the time. Following the success of Yoshi’s Island, there were several other games that made attempts to capitalise or capture the success of Island. DS was okay but unnecessarily bloated and convoluted. New Island was just all around disappointing. Heck, even Yoshi’s Story felt overly simplistic. Now, even if it’s borrowing a few elements from Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Woolly World is the most heart-warming and easily the best Yoshi game since the original Yoshi’s Island. Of course, it’s not without a few shortcomings, however.

Woolly World takes place on Craft Island, an idyllic retreat situated in the middle of the Handmade Ocean. Without ragging on the game for its uninspired naming conventions, the story is pretty stock standard for Nintendo and even Yoshi. The Yoshis are relaxing one day, and Kamek appears and starts mischief as he usually does. The Yoshis are all turned into unravelled yarn, but two Yoshis who manage to avoid Kamek’s spell embark on a journey to save their friends. It’s pretty typical Yoshi fanfare but it does the job and isn’t the focus so it’s hard to really complain.

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Woolly World attempts to succeed Yoshi’s Island more so than other games like Touch N Go or even Yoshi’s Story. As such, the game plays very similarly to the 1995 classic. You play as a Yoshi and you collect yarn balls (previously eggs) which can be used to either solve puzzles, find collectibles or fight enemies. The result is a game that takes the more classical elements of Mario but puts more of an active spin on things. It’s not just about jumping on things anymore – but rather aiming precisely at enemies weak points or lining up your projectiles to bounce and hit certain areas or objects.

It’s this more dynamic form of game design that makes me prefer the Yoshi games to more typical mainstays like Mario. Whereas previous Yoshi games attempt to reinvent the wheel by introducing new mechanics or characters that can be switched between, Woolly World keeps things devilishly simple.

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Almost every mechanic is lifted directly from Yoshi’s Island, but most of the changes or intricacies come from the game’s new and bold visual style. While it doesn’t bridge the gap between aesthetics and gameplay as intently as Kirby’s Epic Yarn did back in 2010, it does still keep things interesting enough to be fresher than Yoshi’s New Island felt, but still familiar and refined like Yoshi’s Island was.

The game is structured slightly differently, however. Yoshi has free roam of Craft Island and can jump to other islands to begin his journey. Each world is themed rather typically for a Nintendo platformer. Similarly, each level is usually designed around a gimmick or a certain enemy type, which means that the game never truly wears out its welcome as it’s always introducing new things for players to come across.

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Each world has a set of levels and two boss battles – one is found midway through each of the world while the other is found at the end. Boss battles are things that I personally feel Nintendo and their partners rarely get right in their 2D platformers, and Woolly World does feel like a hit and miss. They’re classic Yoshi’s Island battles – ones where Kamek casts a spell on an enemy and enlarges them. The strategies to defeat them are reasonably variable and pose a challenge, and even though the mid-level bosses are reused from time to time, they still behave differently and require different strategies to defeat. A minor gripe, but one that’s worth mentioning.

From time to time, Yoshi will be transformed into something. Woolly World takes a leaf out of Yoshi’s New Island’s book in that it separates these segments into their own courses for players to trawl through, but also takes a leaf out of Yoshi’s Islands book in that they’re actually fun and memorable. Yoshi can turn into classics like Mole Yoshi to more exotic renditions like Mermaid Yoshi. They’re a fun little diversion, and an excellent call back to the original game.

The crux of the challenge, however, comes from finding all the collectibles in each level. If you remember collecting stars, flowers and red coins in the original Yoshi’s Island, you’ll know what to expect in Woolly World. Stars are now replaced with hearts – since Baby Mario is nowhere to be found here. Flowers remain, but red coins are now Miiverse stamps which unlock, as you’d expect, Miiverse stamps. There’s also rolls of yarn that can be found to sew up brand new Yoshis to play as for later on.

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And since this is where most of the challenge lies, it’s definitely one of the more daunting tasks presented to players as they play through the levels. Thankfully, Good-Feel have been rather forgiving and have designed the game so that you don’t have to do EVERYTHING in a single play-through, giving the game some slight replay value, or at least more so than usual. Arguably, most players will not be able to handle finding everything at once, especially as difficulty ramps up in the later levels.

While initially I thought it was quite useless, Woolly World’s co-op mode lets players take on levels with a friend too. At first it seems like the second player is just dropped into the proceedings with little consideration, but rather, the second player can provide great help to the first. You can jump and bounce off each other as you please, turn each other into wool or carry each other through tricky areas. Given there have been areas that I’ve run out of wool balls but needed to use one to pick up a collectible, co-op would’ve been a great way out of my predicament. Don’t fret, though, as the game is designed to be played or completed fully by yourself, but co-op just makes it easier (and possibly much more fun).

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For the average player who wants to just run through the game from beginning to end, you’ll probably get anywhere between eight and nine hours of gameplay out of Woolly World. The real fun and the real challenge comes from collecting absolutely everything, however, and this’ll easily push the game to last more than ten or even twenty hours depending on just how good you are. Collecting everything unlocks secret levels too, and since they’re optional, they’re incredibly difficult and pose a huge challenge to the more seasoned players. Of course, newer players can also play the entire game in Mellow Mode which gives Yoshi less opportunity to die too.

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Without a doubt the thing most visually striking about Woolly World is its slightly unique presentation. I say slightly because it’s definitely been done before in Kirby’s Epic Yarn, but it somehow feels like it suits Yoshi better. As you’d imagine, Woolly World takes on an artistic direction that builds its world out of items like wool and string rather than the crayons and pastels of Yoshi’s Island. And while it makes use of its visual style with its gameplay too – like being able to unravel things – it never feels as integrated as Epic Yarn did.

Despite this minor setback, everything looks truly authentic, from the strings making up the enemies to the fluff surrounding Yoshi himself. All the character models look like you’d be able to just pick them up and out of the screen quite easily. It’s just such an arresting visual style that looks better than most games available on the market today and is likely to age just as well. The fact that it runs at a smooth framerate is a huge bonus too.

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The soundtrack, on the other hand, is a little bit disappointing. While it seems unfair to keep comparing Woolly World to the original Yoshi’s Island, Woolly World manages to live up to its pedigrees lofty standards. But in the soundtrack department, it’s lacking an atmosphere that Island had. The soundtrack, instead, sounds more upbeat and cheerful, to the point where it feels cloying. While we can’t be too sure, Yoshi is also quite vocal in Woolly World which can be more annoying than cute during extended play sessions. But these are minor issues in a game filled with fantastic design choices, and it’s hard to criticise the game for creating a soundtrack to match its cheery aesthetic.

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About The Author
James Mitchell
Avid gamer since I was as young as three years old when I received my first NES. Currently studying full time and consider myself a balanced gamer. Enjoy games on all systems, from all genres, on all platforms. Sometimes feels like he's too optimistic for this industry.
3 Comments
  • Adam
    July 9, 2015 at 5:19 pm
    The Good

    Great game engine, spot on physics, great graphics, great level design and great controls. The best platformer since Super Mario 3D World. No screaming babies.

    The Bad

    Not everybody enjoys platformers.

    Rating
    Overall

    Another fantastic platformer on Wii U.

  • Dash135
    July 9, 2015 at 10:25 pm

    After the scathing reviews that Kirby’s Epic Yarn got a few years ago, I thought this was destined to be a game light on substance and heavy on its appeal to kids instead. It’s so cool to see that Nintendo can make a game that’s different, with an adorable art style and deliver a revolutionary game experience at the same time!

  • Yaw69
    July 11, 2015 at 4:03 am
    The Good

    Really enjoying playing this with my 5 year old son.not difficult nor to easy.great gfx.

    Rating
    Overall

    Must have for any wii u owner

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