When you sit down to a play a 2D platformer, the temptation is often to race to the finish line as nimbly and stylishly as possible.
In Yoshi’s Crafted World, though, you’re encouraged to take your time. That’s partly because hunting down a sizeable haul of the various collectables hidden within each level is essential if you want to progress. But just as importantly, a leisurely approach gives you time to admire the scenery.
As the title gives away, the debut Switch outing for video gaming’s most loveable merciless predator takes place in an entirely handcrafted world that looks like the wildly inventive handiwork of a primary school art class.
Everything you encounter is made out of either paper, cardboard or miscellaneous household rubbish, all held together by string, glue sticks and some willing Shy Guys.
And while the aesthetic is nothing new (think the Paper Mario series and the magnificent Tearaway), the creativity of the environments on show never really lets up.
The endlessly charming dioramas are undoubtedly Yoshi’s Crafted World’s standout feature, but the game also incorporates some interesting 2D-to-3D mechanics, while ‘flip side’ levels let you replay each stage in the reverse perspective.
It’s enough to keep you hooked on what is otherwise a pretty simplistic platforming adventure.
Back to to the island
As you’d expect from a Nintendo platformer, Yoshi’s Crafted World begins in breathtakingly epic fashion.
Yoshi’s Island is an enviably peaceful place until Kamek and Baby Bowser rock up to an attempt to steal its Sundream Stone. As a result, the apparently important stone’s gems are dislodged and launched across the island, and it’s up to Yoshi (or Yoshis, if you choose to tag in a pal for co-op play) to track them down.
To get to the gems you have to make your way through a series of themed mini-worlds, each of them comprised of two or three levels, and often a boss.
Yoshi games are typically more forgiving than a Mario or Donkey Kong adventure. As well as stomping on enemy’s heads, the cheerful reptile can stick his unnervingly long tongue out and gobble many of them up with ease. Once you’ve swallowed a foe it’ll instantly transform into a throwable egg, used for both combat and uncovering secrets.
As usual, Yoshi is able to flutter if you double-tap the jump button, which means a mistimed leap won’t send you plummeting to your death as often as you might in one of the plumber’s trickier assignments.
As much as we enjoyed the knitted-by-your-eccentric-Grandma visual style of the Wii U’s Yoshi’s Wooly World, the arts and crafts theme of its follow-up might be even better.
It’s the little details that make you grin. From the weird cardboard seagulls with faces that look like they were drawn by a six-year-old, to the paper plate chandeliers and fizzy drink bottle spaceships, everything has a DIY feel. And if you don’t come away from the game with a newfound appreciation for the versatility of empty toilet rolls, you haven’t been paying attention.
Many levels will throw you a new challenge to keep the experience fresh. In Bombs Away on Pirate Island, for example, you fire cannonballs at origami pirate ships, Go-Go Yoshi lets the little green dinosaur pilot a much larger robotic of himself and lay waste to a papercraft village, and in Rumble Jungle you have to keep an eye on a furious cardboard rhino that’ll charge you at every opportunity.
Another highlight is the Ninjarama area, where often you’ll only be able to see Yoshi’s shadow behind sliding doors, and Shy Guy’s suddenly wield shurikens. It’s this variety that keeps the experience feeling fresh throughout.
You can’t help but feel, however, that the tactile nature of an arts and crafts landscape could have been ramped up a notch. The platforming itself is rarely memorable, and might have been if the game let you mess with the surroundings a bit more.
It’s rare that dogs in games (or indeed real life) don’t make an impression, but the Poochy sections are a bit of a disappointment too. In them, Yoshi is able to ride his canine pal across the levels (and, impressively, through red hot lava), but they feel automated and far too easy.
Lick and collect
Yoshi’s Crafted World might looks like a traditional left-to-right 2D platformer, but courses often let you explore the foreground and background too, and you’ll need to launch your eggs backwards, forwards and sideways if you want to find everything.
The game’s dimension-shifting elements make hoovering up every hidden collectable more of a challenge, and this is where the game gets it longevity.
Every level contains a number of Smiley Flowers - of which you’ll need a certain amount in order to advance to new areas - as well as gold and red coins to grab along the way. These can be cashed in at a slot machine that will spit out adorable costumes for Yoshi to wear. Starting a level in hand painted Bullet Bill or cardboard cow getup means you can take a few extra hits, but the armour will disappear eventually.
Success in the collectathon requires you to curiously inspect every inch of the environment. Often you’ll find flowers on out-of-sight platforms or behind bushes in the distance. Chuck an egg at one of the clouds with a clock face and the level will temporarily spin around, rewarding you with an additional flower if you hit enough moving targets in a limited window of time.
Then there’s flip side levels, which have you working back through levels you’ve already completed in reverse. Grab three Poochy Pups along the way and you’ll gain yet another flower.
Replaying a level in its alternative form is worth doing even if you don’t feel compelled to shepherd Poochy’s mischievous offspring to safety. It’s your perspective that gets flipped, so you’re looking at Yoshi from behind the environment, rather than in front of it. The game is granting you behind-the-scenes access, letting you see how it was all constructed.
You’ll see Shy Guys pulling strings to open a crocodile’s jaws and blowing into straws to keep balls afloat. And what were once buildings and bushes are now unpainted milk cartons and newspaper cutouts.
Doing it for the kids
Until you reach its very last levels, Yoshi’s Crafted World is extremely easy, even on its standard difficulty setting, making the majority of boss battles pretty forgettable.
But if your especially clumsy nipper wants in on the action, there’s also a Mellow Mode. This allows Yoshi to take more hits and fly for an infinite amount of time.
Co-op is also seamlessly integrated, letting a second player drop in and out whenever they like. As is the case with most Nintendo platformers, multiplayer can turn the game into laugh-out-loud pandemonium.
You can eat your sidekick and fire them at enemies, and while double-teaming makes finishing each level unscathed an even breezier assignment, it’s perfect for grown-up gamers with little ones in tow.
Yoshi’s Crafted World verdict
Yoshi’s Crafted World doesn’t do quite enough with its arts and crafts theme to earn itself a place in the pantheon of all-time platforming greats, but it’s an endearing and endlessly charming adventure that, like the best games starring Nintendo’s mascots, can be enjoyed by all ages.
This is a game built for laid-back exploration rather than speedrunning, but the playfulness of the level design will have you smiling from start to finish.
It really is amazing what you can do with a few empty toilet rolls.