Yoshi’s Woolly World Wii U Review
At the start of 2015, I spent some solid time with Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. It was a game so likeable it was almost ludicrous. Every single pixel of that game seemed designed solely to stimulate the pleasure centres of one’s brain. I defy anyone not to smile whilst playing it. As we break through the halfway point of the year, another equally delightful looking game has made an appearance. Simply looking at the various screenshots and video populating online for Yoshi’s Woolly World is enough to make you fall into a saccharin induced coma. It goes without saying there is a lot about this game to love, and for most those feelings will propagate long before even getting their hands on a controller.
Yoshi’s Woolly World has that indistinct something that makes it look like a game you should enjoy. However, after getting to play, I did not fall in love with it the same way I did with Toad. Don’t get me wrong, Woolly World is far from disastrous, it just doesn’t nail everything it sets out to do.
Yoshi’s Woolly World is a game filled with endless cotton fluffiness that offers gamers a unique playground to lose themselves in. Everything you interact with in the game, be it enemies, platforms, switches or blocks, is in some way constructed with thread, string, wool, and bits of fabric or buttons. If it were real, and if a stabby knife fight were to break out, it would be a world where a lot of loose foam and filling would make your nose very bloomin’ itchy. Of course, such hatred and violence would never happen in a game like this. The most sinister thing that happens here is people get kidnapped and turned into wool balls. Although, that is actually a horrible fate if you think about it some – but it is presented in a joyful way to make your heart sing. Now that I think more about it, there is also a level where Yoshi casually murders a mother duck, and throws her newborn hatchlings like an NFL quarterback to create cloud bridges. At least Yoshi does not hate dogs like some people in that league. Oh wait, there are levels where he makes a woolly dog walk on lava, and others where they jump down endless pits to constant doom. This game is actually pretty fucked up!
Whilst not giving PETA reasons to get annoyed, and making PEGI question their 3+ rating, Woolly World can be a very relaxing game to play. But reaching the end of levels is rarely the biggest challenge the game offers. Instead, reaching the end with all the various collectables in your woolly mitts is where the true challenge lies. To find all requires obsessive checking of all corners of each stage. Some can be hidden behind false walls. Some ask you to tug at a bit of thread with Yoshi’s long-gene-simmons-shrinking-violet-making tongue to reveal them. There are even some totally invisible collectables, meaning you need to first walk past them to reveal them before you can even pick them up. These collectables really are where the game’s longevity lies, unless you head to YouTube to find their location. To be honest I would not blame you for that, as some are almost too well hidden.
Away from the almost obsessive collectable hunt, the game’s mechanics are very simple. Yoshi’s arsenal of moves remains similar to his previous outings. He can jump, flutter jump (accompanied by grating whooping excursions as he wills himself with all his might to the next platform), swallow enemies whole, and hurl their woolly remains across the screen. These basic interactions remain across almost all levels, but what surrounds them are continually changing as you best each area, and move onto the next. Thankfully, unlike some recent Nintendo-branded games, Woolly World is not filled with wordy condescending tutorials as you go – instead asking you to learn by doing. You see a big woolly fluffy cloud – and you are not told the properties of the big fluffy cloud – instead you jump on the cloud (that is big and fluffy) – and you learn you can use it as a platform. However, it you stand on it for too long you’ll fall through it. This learn-as-you-go mentality continues through the whole game, with almost every level giving you something new to see and do. It is hard to ever grow bored by what the game throws your way. Learning can be fun!
The cutesy presentation is accompanied by some solid tracks that are easy listening. Whilst it is not exactly music that will stick in your head, it is perfect low-impact stuff to write to, which is what I am doing right now. There’s no doubting the music is head bobbing, finger clicking, foot tapping, or whatever other kind of bodily movement you wish to perform whilst listening. If the latest Mario Kart seemed to have fallen in love with the saxophone and all things jazz, then Woolly World’s muse has to be the piano, although the OST does not limit itself solely to one instrument. I think there is some panflute, and even some spanish guitar in there too. The weird eclectic mix of styles is certainly distinct, although something about it reminds me of the completely unoffensive songs The Monkees released back in the mid-to-late 60s.
My biggest issue with the game would have to be it’s difficulty, which is inconsistent on two ends of the spectrum. It can paradoxically be both challenging but a bit too easy at the same time.
Before going any further, I should preface the following with some important personal info. I am far from a gaming prodigy that can sail through challenging games. I am more than happy to be a content tourist, and experience games on normal difficulty if they give me the option. Champion’s Road in Super Mario 3D World still gets the better of me every time I try it. I say this because I beat all the bosses in Woolly World in one or two attempts, and the same could be said for the levels themselves. It seems that Yoshi has an easier time overcoming the odds than John Cena on PPV. Everything about the game may be great to look at, and a joy to take in, but I rarely had a feeling of victory beating a level. Seeing the end credits did not feel like an accomplishment either. It may be weird to want a game to be a bit more dickish to you, and put more roadblocks in your way, but I feel it was necessary here. Unless you obsess over the aforementioned almost too well-hid collectables, it is a struggle to find true challenge in the game.
This mentality particularly struck me on the boss of World Three. Initially, the battle seems well designed, with excellent sound effects, music and gameplay mechanics coming together, resulting in one of the better encounters you are likely to see in a game all year. However, it was all over before it ever got going. In typical Nintendo fashion I did something three times, and the boss was vanquished all too soon. I actually went back straight away, played through that whole level up to the boss, and when I met him again I just dodged his attacks for 5 minutes reveling in the visual and audio splendor before he was quickly gone again. If the fight were a challenging one, I could see sites devoting whole articles to speak solely about the encounter – not just a one hundred and fifty word paragraph lodged in the middle of a review.
Perhaps the above was a bit too harsh, as these issues only arise when you think back on your experience. Woolly World is still a great game that is happy to welcome gamers of all skill levels into its cushy embrace. It is one of a few select titles that is easy to get lost in, and is good for what ails you if you’ve had a troubling day.
To me, there are two things in this world guaranteed to cheer people up when they are feeling down. First on the list would be watching Muse’s “Knights of Cydonia” music video on repeat, and second is sitting down in a comfy sofa to enjoy Captain Toad Treasure Tracker. Before falling ever further down this Buzzfeed-like hole, let’s just say Yoshi’s Woolly World debuts a little bit further down this very unofficial list, but that’s still not a bad place to be.