NS Preview: Hands-On with Yoshi’s Woolly World

I’ve been spending a lot of time with Good-Feel’s upcoming game: Yoshi’s Woolly World. Many fans may have recognised the visual similarities between Woolly World and the fabulous 2010 game Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and indeed Woolly World is being considered a spiritual successor to that title despite belonging to a different series. In a world made almost entirely of wool, an adorable yarn Yoshi sets out to rescue his friends. The player’s Yoshi will have to eat, flutter-jump, throw yarn, and unravel some strings to discover everything there is to be found on Craft Island. On a related note, Yoshi’s friends in this case are his fellow dinosaur buddies. You won’t find any baby characters crafted from yarn here, which means less crying. The game is giving a great impression.

Woolly World’s charm is evident even from its load-up screen. Delightfully cheery acoustic music welcomes you into the game’s arms while three Yoshis shake excitedly on the screen. The introduction also did plenty to get me immersed, and the textiles aesthetic feels perfect for this game. Many of the level’s concepts take advantage of the yarn themes, by either applying gameplay mechanics around them or giving certain elements a visual flair. Lava is represented by a sheet of red, yellow, and orange felt that constantly winds from a spool sitting at the top of the volcano, itself seemingly made of a large sheet of brown cloth that covers the environment. The surface of water is simply comprised of a few blue strings that ripple as Yoshi splashes across. Clouds are made of delicate cotton balls that Yoshi can fall through. Woolly World has a truly heartwarming art direction that stands out from any other Wii U title.

The characters in this fluffy universe follow suit with this theme, with allies and enemies all designed with woven yarn that makes them look like plush toys come to life. It makes for some intriguing and entertaining boss fights, which still follow the three-hit protocol set by the Mario series. There are some wonderful animations at play too; Yoshi’s legs transform into a propellor when swimming or flutter-jumping in the air, and his feet transform into a shape resembling skis when sliding down an icy hill. Gain enough speed and Yoshi’s legs will seamlessly morph into a set of wheels, just like Sonic The Hedgehog but a little more captivating. There are also specific areas where Yoshi changes into one of several forms, each with their own control method. Moto Yoshi has him transform into a motorbike for some high-speed driving and jumping along the ground. Mermaid Yoshi swims through water and leaps above its surface like a fish. Plane Yoshi segments take the form of a shoot ’em up-style game where the player needs to fire seeds at incoming enemies.

Common elements of the Yoshi series are still here but have been given a woolly makeover. Yoshi collects and throws balls of yarn (or cotton birds) instead of eggs, and uses them to dispatch enemies, collect beads, fill in platforms and uncover secrets. I used the Gamepad for my playthrough of Yoshi’s Woolly World, but there are other options; a pro controller can be used instead, and using the Wiimote felt comfortable too. The Wiimote gives an added benefit of using motion controls to aim your throws. The Gamepad screen has no unique features and simply shows what is on the TV screen. This does mean that it’s fine for off-screen play.

As is standard for the Yoshi series, there is a heavy focus on puzzle-solving along with the platforming action. While the majority of levels have a somewhat linear path, others take the form of a lengthy labyrinth; keys must be found, switches to new pathways need to be activated, and platforms need to be shifted so that Yoshi can find his way. The puzzles can be complex but never impossible, and finding the solution is immensely satisfying.

Each hub world has an environmental theme that the levels are based around. Worlds 1 and 2 have the ‘grassy plains’ and ‘dry desert’ environments respectably, which must be the two most commonly seen in Mario games at this point. The levels in each world generally follow this aesthetic, but each stage feels unique. Several gimmicks are used only in one or two levels, keeping the game fresh and interesting throughout. Dying in a level takes you back to the last checkpoint, and if you’re taking the time to hunt down collectibles then a lot of your work will be undone upon death. Yoshi’s Woolly World isn’t impossible but it’s certainly not a walk in the park either, and even though there thankfully isn’t a ‘lives’ system, you’ll be wanting to stay alive in order to avoid replaying areas. The levels can get noticeably long too if you’re collecting.

It is with these collectibles that the game really shines, and it was pleasantly surprising to have so much to do in each level. Achieving 100% completion is not an easy task, and it will keep many players coming back long after release to finish it off. Smiley Flowers return once again and there are five to collect in each stage. Joining the Smiley Flowers this time round are Wonder Wools, again with five to collect. Finding all five will unlock a new Yoshi design that you can play as. There is such a wide range in colours and designs on these Yoshis that each player will be bound to find a favourite. In a charming touch, the colour of the Wonder Wools will correspond with the colour scheme of that level’s unlockable Yoshi.

There’s more. The game’s currency comes in the form of beads instead of coins, which can be used to purchase a power-up badge before a level. The badges help massively in various ways and there is no downside to using them, except for the bead expenditure. Amongst all of the beads that can be found in a single stage, twenty contain Stamp Patches. These unlock Miiverse stamps and also go towards the level’s score. Amidst all the collectibles, the player must also finish a level with a full health metre to earn a gold star. Only half of the health metre is filled at the beginning of a level, but hearts can be found throughout.

To earn a gold star on a level, Yoshi needs all Smiley Flowers, Wonder Wools, Stamp Patches, and a full health metre. Thankfully they don’t all need to be achieved in the same run. So rummage through every thread, pull at all loose bows that you find, and hit all of those Winged Clouds!

Yoshi’s Woolly World is a gorgeous-looking game with an art direction that will entice players, and it’s a challenging game that never feels unfair. The series has fallen to the wayside recently with the polarising Yoshi’s New Island being the only release in the last nine years, and it’s been almost twenty years since a Yoshi game was released on a home console (Yoshi’s Story in 1997), but the ever-popular dinosaur has been sewn back together in a game that truly does feel new and, of course, wonderfully woolly.

Check out our full collection of gameplay videos here!

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