Yoshi's Crafted World Is the Best Yoshi Game in 24 Years, and It Looks Amazing

When Yoshi's the star of a video game, chances are I'm going to find it delightful.

Yoshi's Woolly World came out in 2015, and though I found the visuals stunning, the music memorable and the characters as lovable as ever, there was something missing that prevented it from feeling like an instant Nintendo classic. When I first saw the trailer for Yoshi's Crafted World for the Nintendo Switch, it looked like it might be more of the same. But with the team at Nintendo graciously sending me a review key for the game, I'm happy to report that the latest addition to the Yoshi series improves on its predecessor in almost every way.

The story begins with the colorful Yoshis living a simple, quiet and peaceful existence together on an island. They celebrate their happy lives around the magical wish-granting Sundream Stone which is said to make the bearer's dreams a reality. Everything's going great until Baby Bowser and his minion, Kamek, show up and try to take it for their own evil purposes. When they fail, the Sundream Stone's six gems are strewn across the world.

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(Yoshi's Crafted World via Nintendo)

Of course, it's up to the Yoshis to travel through the land and collect them again to restore the Sundream Stone to its former glory, with Baby Bowser and Kamek attempting to capitalize on their successes every step of the way.

If you've played any Yoshi game since Yoshi's Island in 1995, you pretty much know what to expect. Yoshi gets around with the help of a fluttering jump, and can whip out his tongue to interact with the world or swallow most enemies whole. Better yet, once he eats an enemy, it's turned into an egg, which Yoshi can then fire as a projectile to fight enemies, collect items, destroy obstacles or find secrets.

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(Yoshi's Crafted World via Nintendo)

But it's where Yoshi's Crafted World deviates from the other Yoshi games that helps it rise above the rest. One very important tweak is that the game is 2.5D. While in most platformers, characters can only move left and right or up and down, this game also occasionally allows movement into the background and foreground. That may sound like a small change, but it makes all the difference to the game's look and feel. This also means that, for the first time, Yoshi can shoot eggs not just in an arc around himself, but also to hit things in front of his or behind him on the screen. This may not sound like a big deal, but it makes the game seem so much richer and even more real.

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(Yoshi's Crafted World via Nintendo)

The game also manages to make being a completionist very satisfying. One of the most important collectibles in the game is Smiley Flowers because you need them to pay path-blocking Blockafellers to get out of the way, unlocking new areas.

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(Yoshi's Crafted World via Nintendo)

While each level has several Smiley Flowers tucked away within it, you can earn three additional Smiley Flowers per level by playing them well. You'll earn one for finishing the level with at least 100 coins, another for nabbing all the level's 20 red coins, and yet another for completing it with full health. Because the rewards mattered, I often found myself diving back into a level just after finishing it because I wanted to earn every last flower.

And that's just the first reason to return to a level you've already beaten. A few areas into the game, you unlock the Flip Side levels, offering an entirely different perspective on somewhere you've already been by showing it to you from the other side of the screen.

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(Yoshi's Crafted World via Nintendo)

I particularly loved these levels because the player's main objective there is to collect three adorable Poochy Pups. You earn an additional Smiley Flower for each pup you find, and yet another for finishing it within a certain time limit.

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(Yoshi's Crafted World via Nintendo)

I might be a bit biased toward these levels because I adore Poochy. I got this Poochy yarn Amiibo for Valentine's Day a couple of years ago, and not only is he my favorite Amiibo ever, but he's among my most prized possessions.

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I also think the aesthetic shift is a huge step in the right direction. In Yoshi's Woolly World, pretty much everything looked like it was knitted out of wool. While that was very cute, it also resulted in some things looking the same after a while. Yoshi's Crafted World takes that concept even further by broadening the visuals to all things arts and crafts. The needle-felted Yoshis are somehow even more adorable, and even the level intro screens look they're hand-crafted from corrugated cardboard and scrap paper, adding to the whimsy of the game.

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(Yoshi's Crafted World via Nintendo)

The backgrounds are also lusciously detailed, with absolutely everything looking like it's made from craft supplies, from paper plates to soda cans and juice cartons. All too often, I'm guilty of blasting through games because I'm over eager to see what's up next, overlooking some of the tiny, beautiful details that make the game special.

Yoshi's Crafted World has the perfect remedy to this in special scavenger hunts, which are yet another reason to dive back into levels again and again. Once you've completed each of the levels in one area, the local Blockafeller will task Yoshi with finding background objects you likely missed the first time around. When you spot them, just shoot them with an egg for yet another Smiley Flower reward.

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(Yoshi's Crafted World via Nintendo)

But the game's most charming addition might be its Yoshi costumes. Each area in the game has a vending machine filled with 10 Yoshi eggs hiding its own unique costumes of varying rarities, and I might be a little too obsessed with unlocking each and every one of them. Every purchase grants Yoshi one more adorable costume they can wear into a level, ranging from the standard costumes in great eggs to the rarest of the rare in gold ones.

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(Yoshi's Crafted World via Nintendo)

And costumes aren't just ultra-cute cosmetic changes to Yoshi. They also act as a shield, absorbing hits to protect Yoshi's health bar. An added benefit of the rarer costumes is that they can take even more damage before disintegrating—but don't worry, because even if a costume is destroyed in-level, it's still safe in your list of costumes and you can re-equip it once you leave the area.

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(Yoshi's Crafted World via Nintendo)

And if you have certain Amiibo lying around at home, scanning them into the game can unlock even more spectacular outfits for Yoshi. I just had to try my yarn Poochy Amiibo, and I was thrilled with the resulting costume.

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(Yoshi's Crafted World via Nintendo)

In addition to looking gorgeous, Yoshi's Crafted World sounds great, too. The playful playground-style music perfectly fits the tone of the game, even if it can get a little repetitive at some points. There's one main theme that you'll be hearing for most of the game, sometimes with icy, or spooky, or spicy variations, and I found it getting stuck in my head constantly once I'd put the game down. Somehow, the slot machine minigame music was even more of an earworm.

But the gameplay is the real star here. Yoshi's Crafted World isn't super hard, but it never felt like difficult was the point. And just because I didn't feel super challenged didn't mean that my heart didn't start racing when an axe-wielding enemy chased me around a Halloween-themed level. How could anyone read this text and not feel a little intimidated?

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(Yoshi's Crafted World via Nintendo)

Using Smiley Flowers as the method for unlocking more levels is ingenious because it requires players to play the game like it was intended. Because I try to play meticulously, these blocks never actually stopped my progress, but I appreciate that this incentivizes thoroughness. At no point in the game did I find it satisfying to take the easiest path from beginning to tend. The game rewards risk-taking, making me want to explore every inch of its stages in hopes of discovering something new.

But if you are looking for levels with real toughness, you'll want to beat the main game. Once the credits roll you'll unlock some ultra-challenging post-game bonus levels. They have no floors and no checkpoints, and falling into a bottomless pit means you have to start the level all over again. These actually put my skills to the test, leaving just one final area for me to conquer—though I can only unlock if I can nab every single Smiley Flower in the game. Lucky for me, the journey will be worth it. Just 137 or so to go.

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(Yoshi's Crafted World via Nintendo)

 

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