Disclaimer: this review was completed using a New 3DS. Game may perform differently on older models.
Game developer Good-Feel captured my heart almost immediately with its work on Kirby’s Epic Yarn. The unique visual design and gentle aesthetic provided a light but enjoyable game experience, made all the better because it could be shared with a friend. When Yoshi’s Woolly World came out on Wii U, that same, innate joy was felt. The multiplayer was a treat just like before, and there were many more things to collect and secrets to discover. The game added visual depth and put Yoshi and his signature gameplay back on display after a few less inspiring efforts starring the dinosaur on handheld platforms.
Now we come to Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World, a port of the game to the 3DS that keeps the core game more or less intact while adding just a bit more. Sadly, multiplayer hasn’t made the jump to handheld, and the visuals aren’t nearly as eye-catching this time around. Still, if you’re a fan of Yoshi and his older games, you’re after a collection-based platformer, or you have a hoard of amiibo, this could be a game worth picking up.
For this 3DS outing, the core Yoshi gameplay hasn’t been altered to any extensive degree. You use your tongue to swallow enemies, toss eggs at distant targets; you can ground pound mid-jump, and flutter through the air. All of these techniques get you through the game’s various stages, though with none of the limiting features of past Yoshi games present. There’s no Baby Mario to worry about or 30 fruits to collect, just time-tested point A to B platforming. The game’s feel is on point, with the mechanics of Yoshi’s techniques feeling right and making sense in their functionality. If you’ve played any Yoshi game in the past you’ll feel right at home. For those who’ve played Woolly World already, the transfer to the 3DS from the GamePad or any of the Wii U game’s control methods is natural and feels fine in your hands. “Good-Feel” is right, even after playing through older Yoshi games, and this one twice it still holds up.
Touch fuzzy, get busy
The real draw of the game is the yarn aesthetic, and the way it exists throughout the experience is indisputably spectacular. Craft Island takes the theme and runs with it, with Yoshi’s eggs being yarn balls and his other abilities unraveling, then reshaping him appropriately. Lava flows are instead waving scarves, glittering cave gems are sequins– and most importantly, it’s all consistent. No level feels “less” woolly than any other, maintaining the joy and appeal from beginning to end.
While I don’t think every Nintendo series needs the knit treatment, having Yoshi take up the torch from Kirby was the right choice. He’s always been cute in his own way and he carries a similar sense of innocence. I guess that’s part and parcel with eating what enemies you have. The 3D crochet look is a natural evolution of the 2D outlines Epic Yarn had, and they similarly carry the Yoshi game tradition of unique visuals.
As wonderful as this woolly world is to behold conceptually, anyone who’s seeing it a second time around might be let down. It’s understandable, but the game just doesn’t look as stunning on 3DS. It’s remarkable that it could be ported so well in the first place, but when a key draw is in the visual elements that likewise tie into the game play, the affair’s not quite as seamless as it could be. It’s not just the graphic quality or the loss of effects, though. Craft Island’s world map was a delight on the Wii U, being actually spread out along a central hub that was fully walkable around. Now it’s a straight path leading from stage to stage. It doesn’t affect the stages, but this loss of immersion and charm is unfortunate.
My other key complaint about the game is the level designs themselves. Visually, even with the downgrade, they’re lovely. But, for whatever reason, the stages oftentimes came across as poorly paced to me. Maybe it’s the amount of time I put in to hunting down collectibles, but I rarely wanted to do stages back-to-back because they felt too lengthy. This would end up magnified if I chose to revisit a stage to get a something I missed, but that part’s more on me than anything. I never outright disliked a level or felt it was designed poorly; I just wouldn’t recommend trying to marathon this game if you’re after all it has to offer. Thankfully the handheld nature actually lends itself to that well, letting you take on shorter sessions versus the longer, dedicated time I felt obliged to give on the Wii U.
What doesn’t bog down the stages is the game’s sound design, which goes hand in hand with the visuals perfectly. Standard sound effects are continuously soft or bright, perfect for fluffy impacts or collecting beads. As far as music goes, there’s more variety, with the majority of it being light and acoustic with hand-clapped beats. That said, there are moments when things pick up to harder, electric instrumentals or even synthesized soundscapes to give certain stages a life of their own or up the tension. A good amount of praise needs to go to the “Special” stage music, which is driving and peppy in the face of some of the game’s most difficult moments.
Flipping through the fabric
Speaking of difficulty, this is a game that’s fairly forgiving in most respects. While it’s possible to run out of life, fall down a pit, or hit some kind of obstacle, you’ll merely be bumped back to a check point. There’s no cost to your bead total, and any collectibles you’ve gathered are right back where you found them. The real challenge isn’t in completing a level, but in finding all its secrets and collectibles. With five Smiley Flowers, five Wonder Wools, and 20 Pencil Badges to find in each stage, that’s a tall order. The game also records whether or not you’ve made it to the end of a stage with full health or not. With all these factors in mind, gameplay can suddenly seem more difficult, depending on how much these things mean to you, as a player. Whether you rush through the game or tug at all its stitches though, it never feels unbearable.
Those collectibles are all fitting in their own ways as well. The Flowers have been in Yoshi games since the SNES, and gathering Wonder Wools gives you more Yoshis to play as. These cosmetic unlocks were always my favorite of the tasks, and thankfully, Nintendo’s added even more in a way. Replacing the Wii U version’s Miiverse Stamp Badges are Pencil Badges, which unlock additional patterns that can be used via one of my favorite new features: It’s now possible to design your own Yoshi patterns, either with the pre-made and unlockable patterns or from scratch. These custom Yoshis can then be shared via StreetPass, letting you make your mark on other players’ worlds and offering you a chance to show off some creativity.
Your own collector’s corner
There’s more than one way you can change up Yoshi’s look – returning from the Wii U version is the full range of amiibo unlockables. This may well be the game that uses the most amiibo for unique functionality, providing themed skins based on the figure tapped. As several more have released since Woolly World first came out, we now have the likes of Animal Crossing, the Squid Sisters, Wolf Link, and more themed Yoshis to play with. Again, these are wholly cosmetic, but the amount of fan service that comes along with being able to see these all gathered in the game’s amiibo Hut is a sight to behold.
The game’s Double Yoshi feature returns as well, unlocked by tapping any of the three Yarn Yoshi amiibo. They’re not alone though, as faithful fido Poochy has gained a Yarn amiibo as well. His name’s in the title after all, and being able to summon Poochy into any of the game’s stages helps make him feel more present even when the levels aren’t designed around him. It can create some interesting moments and interactions, but mostly I just love seeing him hop on screen and follow me around every which way. It’s a nice bit of seasoning to the game and something new for returning players to experience– but truth be told, the feature doesn’t “add” to the game in a meaningful way. It can make certain sections easier, whether with respect to traversing dangerous spots or collecting slightly out of reach collectibles, but it’s not necessary if you want to see what the game has to offer. Full marks for cuteness though, and this dog’s still got a couple of tricks.
Replacing the post-stage bonus games of the previous game are a new way to gather lots of beads very quickly. Poochy Dash stages put you in control of the four-legged fellow and task you with collecting as many beads as you can in an auto-movement type level. These are fun diversions and interesting in their own right, like something that would work well as an eShop title on its own. They’re a nice extra, and by tapping Poochy’s amiibo during one you can shift it to a time trial mode instead. It’s here that you can win ways to customize Poochy himself, giving him unique designs and looks to gush over. For some though, Poochy may no longer be the cutest canine the game has to offer…
Enter: Poochy Pups.
Waiting to be collected in these Dash stages are Poochy Pups, which are exactly what they sound like. These tiny guys are precious, and while they’re just a collectible, you can bet I wanted to grab all three every time just to see them celebrate the stage clear alongside Poochy. They also show up in the returning, more casual difficulty option – Mellow Mode. It’s in Mellow Mode that Yoshi is able fly freely, eliminating any sort of difficulty by way of the game’s platforming. This was available in the Wii U version, but with the Poochy Pups on board for the 3DS, they’ll make their talents known by searching out secrets and collectibles for you. Now there’s no drawback in terms of seeing what the game has to offer while using Mellow Mode, as you can still gather the collectibles. It’s great for less skilled players and for those who just want to see a cute world with cute characters.
A Solo “so long”
Where Mellow Mode really shined in the Wii U release was multiplayer, letting someone play along with me even if they didn’t feel confident in their ability. Sadly, there’s no multiplayer available on the 3DS, even across multiple systems. After the visual downgrade I’d say this is the biggest loss of all, as co-op Woolly World is a real treat. It doesn’t impact the single player experience at all, but if you own both systems and are trying to decide which version to get, definitely take this detail into consideration if you plan on playing with others.
I never really thought about playing Yoshi’s Woolly World a second time through, but having it on 3DS was a surprisingly enjoyable experience even when the core game is identical. If you haven’t had the chance to play it through and you don’t have a Wii U, the 3DS version is definitely worth picking up. I think the Wii U version is ultimately the one I enjoyed more, but I can’t deny that the added features on 3DS and the portable nature of the system itself are all fantastic.
If you love amiibo and have a huge collection with Poochy as the latest addition, you owe it to yourself to give Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World a go to get the most out of your figures. Bringing together time-tested game design with modern visual ambition and toys-to-life functionality, Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World is a loving return to the kind of platforming that Nintendo has always done best. Yoshi’s handheld and handcrafted adventure will make you smile and your heart melt with its imaginative world and style.Leave a Comment
System: Nintendo 3DS
Release date: February 3, 2017
Categories: Puzzles, Platformer