Reviews// Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World

Posted 10 Feb 2017 15:56 by
I missed out on Yoshi's Woolly World when it was released on the Wii U. I have never been a particularly big fan of the series and have rather bitter memories of the Nintendo 64 release back in 1998. I had played the excellent Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island and was expecting a game of similar scope. I quickly found out that the game was significantly shorter, extremely easy and so 'cute' that I found the artistic style made me feel nauseous.

Subsequent releases, particularly on the DS, did little to change my opinion. The games always felt like simplified, overly-cute platformers that offered little challenge or engagement when compared with the Mario games, from which the character originated. Consequently, I skipped the release on the Wii U, despite being told by my fellow host on Yhe Computer Game Show, David Turner, that the game really was something special.

I was still sceptical, after all David thinks that Super Mario 3D World is better than New Super Mario Bros U, an opinion that is clearly wrong. In addition, the opening hour of the game isn't exactly compelling and I had begun to wonder exactly why David was so enamoured by the game on the Wii U. However, as I finished level after level it became very clear that Yoshi's Woolly World is something quite rare these days, a masterclass in platform game level design and creativity.

Levels in Poochy and Yoshi's Woolly World are divided across six loosely themed 'worlds.' More recent games in the Mario series have rather suffered from a repetition of visual styles, with the usual 'desert world,' 'ice world' and 'fire world.'

Instead of following this convention, Woolly World provides variety in each world, ensuring that the player is never entirely sure what is coming next. Although the game retains the same core mechanics of earlier games in the series, whereby the player uses Yoshi and his ability to throw eggs at different angles to collect items, it is the level design that truly makes the game special. Developer Good-Feel, which was also responsible for the excellent Kirby's Epic Yarn on the Wii, continuously introduces new styles and ideas, most of which only last for a single level before being discarded for something different.

Similarly to some of Nintendo's best releases several of these ideas, which feature so briefly, could conceivably be scaled up into full games in their own right. I particularly enjoyed a level early in the game that had me using a chain chomp to traverse the terrain. This enemy is usually extremely annoying, but is used here to allow the player to explore areas of the level that would not be possible alone.

Solving each platforming puzzle required the chain chomp to be guided quite precisely, highlighting the extremely impressive level construction. Frequently I was left wanting more of a specific game mechanic, only for it to be discarded in subsequent levels.

In addition, the game is deceptively challenging, although I would hesitate to call it difficult. Later levels do become progressively harder, but the game can be finished without too much trouble. However, although 'finishing' the game is relatively straightforward, the real hook is in collecting the balls of yarn and flowers that are placed throughout the level. Here the level design shines once again as exploration and experimentation is rewarded. Collecting five yarn balls on each level provides the player with a new Woolly Yoshi with which to play and the collection of all the sunflowers adds extra content following the final encounter.

Although the 3DS release can't quite compete with the Wii U version graphically, the 3D effect is well implemented. This is particularly pleasing given its absence from Super Mario Maker. The game does look slightly subdued compared to the original release with colours looking a little washed out. In addition, the sense of Yoshi and the world being constructed from wool is not quite as striking because of the lower level of detail. Nevertheless, the game is still visually impressive on the 3DS and serves as a better example of what is possible when porting games from the more powerful Wii U to the platform than Super Mario Maker achieved.

Aurally the game is horrendously catchy and predictably delightful. In addition, Good-Feel has added some extra features, presumably to make it more appealing to the target audience on the 3DS.

In addition to the standard game difficulty, there is also the option to play 'mellow mode.' In this mode Yoshi is followed by 'Poochy Pups' who point out secrets and hidden areas. This may sound like a bit of a cop-out, but for newer players it helps to highlight areas that more experienced players would instinctively know to look for. In addition, Yoshi has wings, making failure considerably more difficult. My wife rarely plays games, largely because she finds them too stressful. However, she was quite taken with Poochy and Yoshi's Woolly World because of 'mellow mode.'

The game also features another mode not available in the Wii U release, 'Poochy Dash.' This is rather similar to the recently released Super Mario Run in that the player guides Poochy through short levels with control only over when he jumps. It can be as challenging as the player likes with similar mechanics to popular iOS auto-runners. This addition also feels like a means by which younger players, whose first experiences of games are more likely to have been with a touch screen, can be introduced to more complex gameplay experiences.

Amiibos are also supported and using them unlocks character-specific Yoshis. So, for example, scanning in a Link Amiibo provides the player with a Link Yoshi. Sadly, the only benefit in doing this is cosmetic. The addition of more skills for Yoshi, based on the abilities of a scanned Amiibo, would have been welcome although perhaps rather difficult to implement.

It is difficult to fault Poochy and Yoshi's Woolly World. The additions made to the game from the Wii U version are very welcome and serve to enhance an already excellent game. The playful art style and delightful music hide a deceptively deep and complex game that demonstrates why the 2D platformer is still relevant. Yoshi's Woolly World is that rare game that can genuinely appeal to both beginner and experienced player. I certainly hope this is not the last we see of Good-Feel's yarn inspired games.

Pros:
+ A masterclass in level design.
+ Deceptively deep.
+ Welcoming to all abilities.

Cons:
- The main story is a little short.
- Amiibo integration feels like an afterthought.
- Some visual fidelity has been lost in the conversion.

SPOnG Score: 9/10
Companies:
Games: Yoshi's Woolly World

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