Thursday, 2 July 2015

Yoshi's Woolly World

When I was younger I loved art shows. Whether it was Art Attack, SMart or Hartbeat, growing up I just loved drawing things, making things and pretty much just getting down and dirty with crayons, paints, play-doh, fabric or whatever. I still doodle when I can, but the closer I journey towards the big three-zero I often start to feel some of my younger self slip away. That's both a good and a bad thing as you grow up of course, but I always want to hold onto that love for hands-on creativity I used to have. Thankfully gaming has tapped into that and has kept it alive, as with games like LittleBigPlanet I find myself still creating things, even if this time it's all digital. This latest game up for review awoke that side of me once again, it is an absolute joy to play.

Developed by Good-Feel and out now for the Wii U comes Yoshi's Woolly World, a charming return to home consoles for Yoshi. Though Yoshi has had a few of his own spin-off titles since his first appearance in Yoshi's Island all the way back in 1995, his last console outing was in 1997's Yoshi's Story on the Nintendo 64.  As expected from a game within the Mario universe, the plot here is pretty wafer thin. The game is set on Craft Island, island made of wool that's populated by lovely huggable woollen Yoshi's. Of course someone has to go and screw things up, right? Sure they do! That someone comes in the form of long time Mario/Yoshi baddie Kamek. He turns all the Yoshi's into balls of wool. However, he manages to miss two Yoshi's in the process, and it's up to you (and possibly a friend) to save the day. Simple stuff, but it's perfect.

Woolly World is a side-scrolling platform game, and at its heart it plays very similar to previous Yoshi games. You'll run around levels, jump from platform to platform, take on enemies and possibly gobble them up. You get the idea, right? However, Woolly World throws the player a bit of curveball, and this is thanks to the new excellent visual style in the game. The first noticeable thing about it are its unique visuals. Compared to previous games in the Yoshi series, everything you see in the game is mode of wool. It's bouncy, bendable and even has little bits of string hanging from platforms and objects- it's lovely. The wool seen throughout the game isn't just for show though, as it directly effects everything from the gameplay, how you defeat enemies to Yoshi himself.

For instance, in previous games Yoshi would gobble up enemies only to spew them out as eggs. Seeing as all the enemies here are made of wool, swallowing them can often produce different results. For instance, when swallowed some will allow you to reveal hidden pathways in levels, tie up enemies so you can bounce on their heads and to even adding chunks of wool to certain obstacles or objects, thereby making them complete and usable. You can also hurl wool at airborne enemies too, and with a simple dotted line there to help you set up a good shot, dispatching bad guys in Woolly World is just plain fun. This use of wool within the game is a really interesting feature, as instead of aimlessly gobbling up dudes and firing eggs about, you'll need think about what you'll do with the many enemies you're eating up. All of these usable wool balls will follow Yoshi around throughout the level too, so you'll often have a great selection at hand.

Also, there are bonus levels in the game that allow Yoshi to transform into various things. There are a total of 6 transformations that Yoshi can morph into, all of which grant Yoshi a new ability. The Mega Yoshi power-up transforms Yoshi into a BIG Yoshi, as after using this you can easily stomp your way through enemies without breaking a sweat. Another nice one is Moto Yoshi, as this basically turns Yoshi into a motorbike, which makes for some excellently fast levels that you'll ride through all the while trying to pick up coins and other collectibles. My favourite though was the Mole Yoshi transformation. This gives the little guy the ability to dig underground, and it makes for some pretty nice levels filled with digging, picking up gems, smashing rocks and avoiding various enemies. All of these transformations are pretty cool to mess around with, though I would have preferred if you could use them on the fly in the main game. Them being only usable during bonus levels is a tad bit disappointing.

There's a mode in Woolly World called “Mellow Mode” which can be turned on or off at the pause screen. This mode, compared to “Classic Mode”, essentially lets you fly through any stage unharmed. Officially it's for less skilled players, but after finishing a stage I found it fun to replay it with this mode enabled. The game is incredibly relaxing to play anyway, but with this mode in full effect and the games gentle soundtrack playing in the background, it almost put me to sleep with how playful and sweet it was. I guess that's what I took away from the game the most though; it's overall wonderful presentation of its superbly tactile and cute wool world- it's just lovely!

Overall Woolly World is a beautiful, fun and utterly charming adventure through the world of a yarn Yoshi. You can also play the game with a friend too, as one person takes on the role of green Yoshi, while the other person plays a red Yoshi. It's a great little addition to gameplay that really ends up creating a nice and fun gaming experience. It's one of those games that brings me back to my childhood, feels so cosy to play around in and, ultimately, just feels good to play. I played this after finishing Arkham Knight, and though Arkham Knight isn't without its own (dark) humour, it was nice to play something as cuddly as Woolly World. Sometimes you need a game like this, because in terms of huggably cute games out there, Woolly World is possibly the only one that will hug you back.

Yoshi's Woolly World is made with cuteness and stitched together with love. 5/5.


Denis Murphy

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