Moving on from a woolly world to a crafted one, Yoshi and his pals make their debut on the Nintendo Switch with Yoshi’s Crafted World.
Title: Yoshi’s Crafted World
Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Release date: March 29, 2019
With a charming, tactile papercraft art style and comfortable 2D puzzle-platforming, Yoshi’s Crafted World takes on the daunting and thankless task of being accessible to the youngest of gamers, while also providing enough substance to satiate those who have been around since Mario’s dinosaur companion made his first appearance almost three decades ago.
Stuck in a land of brightly colored paper trees, cardboard box houses, and plastic bottle spaceships, Yoshi needs to track down five gems stolen by Bowser Jr. to return to his island home. You’ll travel from world to world, each containing two to three stages based around themes like carnivals or haunted houses, in a mixture of linear and non-linear fashion.
Despite the resolution leaving a lot to be desired in handheld mode (docked looks significantly better), it never becomes too much of a distraction, especially since the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids-esque world design continually provides a creative combination of oversized household items to look at and travel through.
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Stages are generally traversed in a familiar 2D platforming manner, with modest movement into and away from the screen. Besides the usual double-jump-like flutter that provides an extra layer of forgiveness in a game that is already extremely light on platforming difficulty and the ability to turn enemies into throwable eggs by swallowing them, there isn’t any major, all-new mechanical hook.
Instead, eggs can now be aimed at specific targets in the background and foreground, forcing the player to be observant of their surroundings constantly. Unfortunately, its inclusion isn’t justified all that effectively through mechanics or puzzles. Other than adding much-appreciated life to the world, it feels like a rudimentary stand-in for full 3D aiming.
It becomes slightly more interesting when you consider that each stage can be played backward, which rotates the camera 180 degrees, adding an entirely new perspective to the stages. However, this is also undercut by the structure and progression system of Yoshi’s Crafted World, which revolves almost entirely around collecting flowers.
Other than getting to the end, the main goal of each stage is to collect the dozen or so flowers that can be found or earned within them to unlock new worlds. Most are scattered about in ways that require light exploration, puzzle solving, or timed mini-challenges. After finishing a stage, you obtain the ability to play them backward or find hidden ‘souvenirs’ for more flowers.
The problem is that the number of flowers required for accessing new worlds is so minimal that none of that ever becomes necessary to consider outside of pure curiosity, leading to exploration that feels rewarding but meaningless. The game seems designed around replaying stages but does little to encourage it.
It wouldn’t be unfair to label some of these activities and challenges optional; they exist primarily for fun. But when the main thrust of the game doesn’t do enough to explore its mechanics, it all just starts to feel a little too inconsequential, and it becomes difficult to find reasons to continue.
All of this speaks to the larger issue of the game: nothing has value, and everything is too familiar.
Another example of this is with how coins work. Coins can be spent on costumes for Yoshi through a capsule toy mechanism, with each world having its own set of ten relevant possibilities. The major benefit of these is that they act as a kind of armor, protecting Yoshi from taking damage and possibly having to restart a stage from the beginning.
But stages are easy enough that it’s barely a concern in the first place and short enough that it’s hardly a setback if it does happen. Every stage also grants a flower for finishing with full health, but with how little that matters, the costume system fails to find a purpose. Especially since they’re less costume-like and more just objects that Yoshi holds around himself.
All of this speaks to the larger issue of the game: nothing has value, and everything is too familiar. In every stage, you’ll find enemies hiding in the background with red coins, smack moles before time runs out, and take short backtracking detours after solving puzzles.
They all have the same flow, with the same challenges, and ask the player to solve them in the same ways. It feels clever the first time you find a flower hiding in a suspiciously empty corner, but when you realize every stage has at least one of those, the excitement quickly evaporates.
This isn’t to suggest the game itself plays poorly. In a vacuum, fluttering and gulping your way through any given stage is a treat. As long as you enjoy the game’s basic loop and don’t expect it to evolve too much, Yoshi’s Crafted World can be a comfortable, breezy experience. It’s just that after playing through a couple of worlds, you’ll feel like you’ve played them all.
A few stages in the latter part of the game start to get mildly inventive with level design, but by that time it’s too late. Even occasional boss fights and special stages, like punching through blockades as a giant mechanical Yoshi, quickly become predictable.
Although Yoshi’s Crafted World is a single-player game first and foremost, it’s also designed to accommodate a second player at any time with drop-in drop-out co-op. This mode allows each player to control their own Yoshi independently or combine them with one player handling movement and the other supplied with infinite eggs.
In this case, it doesn’t matter that this potentially circumvents and trivializes even more of the challenge, as it’s merely a nice way to include friends or family while avoiding the misery of relegating the second player to a minor support role.
A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.