While the original Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island is an unmitigated classic, sequels starring everybody’s favorite tax-evading dinosaur have been of disputed quality. From the very simplistic Yoshi’s Story on N64 to the ear-screeching soundtrack of Yoshi’s New Island on 3DS, it wasn’t really until Yoshi’s Woolly World on Wii U that the franchise finally seemed to have a worthy successor to the SNES wonder. Which is why it only makes sense for Good-Feel to be taking a stab at the arts-and-crafts styled platformer again with Yoshi’s Crafted World.

I’ve been excited about this one since its initial unveiling at E3 2017, which made me all the more eager to get my hands on the demo that dropped after last week’s Direct. And it’s the very definition of short and sweet — one level that showcases everything to get excited for all over again.

Woolly World was one of the best looking games on Wii U, displaying a joyful and serene artfulness that perfectly befit Yoshi’s naturally cheery disposition — and Crafted World seems to continue and expand upon that trend even further. Whereas just about everything in the previous outing fit neatly into that wool fabric look, the variety of objects and textures is much greater this time around, with rough cardboard edges and landscapes colored by scrawly markers. Usually when you say a game looks like a 4th-grader’s art projects it’s pejorative, but in this case it’s some of the highest praise I can offer — the game bounds with creativity, harkening back to the playful imagination of you with utmost sincerity. Also, the coins are really shiny. Like, blindingly so.

Gameplay is largely an iteration on the classic SMW2 controls. Yoshi still hops and flutters about, swallowing enemies to produce eggs he can then chuck about. The big new thing this time is depth of field — unlike many other 2.5D games that utilize the 3D graphics but keep things strictly on one plane, Yoshi can actually move into and out of the background at various points, expanding the potential for level design greatly. Also affected is egg aiming — instead of the usual arcing reticle, you can aim more manually to hit objects both on the same plane and in the foreground/background. It takes a little getting used to, but I’ve already seen cute and clever applications of this greater freedom in action.

Levels are still primarily built on collecting flowers, keeping your health at max, and getting the 20 red coins sprinkled throughout, though there’s the additional new goal of collecting 100 normal coins. It appears now that accomplishing these various goals now gives you more flowers, which appear to be a sort of currency this time around – presumably to unlock new levels, or maybe collectibles. Hopefully this game will be like Woolly World in that it’s challenging but not irritating to get to 100% — which is something I can’t say about certain other Yoshi titles…

One of the big features this time around is the ability to replay levels backwards. At the end of the single stage offered, the camera is flipped around and Yoshi is offered the chance to chase three Poochy pups scattered throughout the level, with a timer in the background to boot. Collecting each pup offers a flower, as does collecting them all within a time limit. While neat on paper, I’m a tad cautious about how this will play out in-game — designing a level so that it can be played both forwards and backwards is difficult, and I worry that it has the potential to sour what could be great levels if played straight. In this single instance, though, it seemed like a harmless extra challenge. And it’s really cute to see the same stage props from the back, where they’re taped up and clumsily assembled, adding more personality to a game that already oozes it.

At its core, Yoshi’s Crafted World appears to be a continuation of what makes the good Yoshi games stand out so much: unique and well-crafted (heh) levels, easy to clear and tough to 100%, and an unbridled optimism that stands out in the contemporary age of Serious Video Games. While Woolly World was in large part a translation of the SNES game into a modern style, Crafted World looks to be taking the series beyond to new horizons — and I, for one, can’t wait to see what those look like.

 

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Written by Amelia Fruzzetti

A writer and Nintendo fan based in Seattle, Washington. When not working for NinWire, she can be found eating pasta, writing stories, and wondering about when Mother 3 is finally going to get an official localization.

Amelia Fruzzetti