In recent times we've seen a very deliberate attempt by Nintendo to broaden the audience for key Wii U titles through 3DS ports. Hyrule Warriors Legends set the tone, and then Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS gave an offline spin on the home console title. In both cases the ports had tweaks to suit the hardware, and did a solid job - Super Mario Maker caused heated debate due to its replacement of online sharing with other features (and had no 3D effect), however, while shrinking Hyrule Warriors down to the portable was evidently a tough task. Now, the latest Wii U title to drop down in size is Yoshi's Woolly World; in fact, of those retail ports this is potentially the best of the lot.
For those that need a primer on the original game and - therefore - the core of what you get here, then our Yoshi's Woolly World review may help - it's a 2D platformer in which Good-Feel infuses Yoshi-style gameplay with the ideas that it fostered in Kirby's Epic Yarn. Like Yoshi platformers from 'back in the day', the focus isn't speed and athleticism, but rather patience and exploration. Yoshi's flutter jump, ability to create and throw yarn balls as projectiles and more all come together to help you uncover secrets on the way to the goal. Clearing a level once is rarely enough, as you go back to find more flower petals, hidden stamps and yarn bundles. In short, we loved it.
Poochy & Yoshi's Woolly World is a carefully considered port, thankfully. For one thing, performance is fantastic, though it's worth noting that we're playing on a New Nintendo 3DS - it boasts a higher framerate than original models. Even with 3D enabled it runs beautifully, without the performance bottlenecks we half-expected going in - there's no gameplay quality lost as a result, so it's a bit of a development marvel. After some recent disappointments - from Nintendo and third-parties alike - we're pleased to see a nicely implemented 3D effect; for our money the effect adds to the visual sheen.
Of course, achieving a rock-solid framerate and 3D on the ageing 3DS means compromises. The Wii U original was a visual stunner, with hugely effective textures on the woollen surfaces and impressive detail - fabric would flutter, and the soft floor would visibly sink under Yoshi's feet. On 3DS the visuals are nice, but the texturing is far simpler, while incidental details around fabric effects are largely gone. It still looks like a Woolly World, but don't expect miracles - the true visual delights are still found in the Wii U original.
Nevertheless, this is a game that doesn't feel out of place on a smaller screen. The original actually spends large segments relatively zoomed in, no doubt to exemplify Yoshi's features - the effect was environments and characters that felt larger than life on a sizeable TV. This suits the smaller screens of the 3DS nicely, as the bulk of play feels like it could have been designed with a portable in mind; Good-Feel has also made subtle but smart adjustments to the camera in some cases, too. The viewpoint and zoom does vary and can be dynamic, depending on the stage and particularly in boss encounters, but at no point so far have we felt like we're playing a home console game that's out-of-place on a handheld. Even on a smaller-model New Nintendo 3DS, the design has felt well suited to the platform.
For many, of course, the questions are around what's actually different here, especially as the core campaign is the same as that on Wii U. For one thing Good-Feel takes advantage of the integrated second screen in a way it didn't on the home console; handy touch buttons act as shortcuts to different features in the game. The general structure of the worlds and extras is changed, too, dropping the semi-freedom of the 3D navigation on Wii U in exchange for a more structured 2D approach, using those shortcuts on the touchscreen or moving Yoshi left and right to navigate. This makes scanning amiibo, for example, far easier and more intuitive to access at any point.
The Yoshi Hut has had a significant overhaul, with the main feature being the ability to create and customise a Yoshi from scratch. In 'Easy' mode you can work in broad strokes, even implementing patchwork templates (of which you can change the colour) that you unlock; the Miiverse stamp collectibles in levels have been replaced with these. 'Professional' mode allows for rather intricate designs, as you have full control over colour and style, even breaking down designs to different Yoshi Parts such as the shell or nose; you use the stylus to draw and edit. Whether you just want a quick and fun design or to produce a heavily detailed Yoshi to match those from the game in quality, the tools are there. Afterwards you can save the design to use in-game or share via StreetPass.
The other major additions are the Poochy Hut and, of course, Poochy himself. The Poochy amiibo bundled with some copies of the game will unlock time trial challenges or, alternatively, bring Poochy into any level to help you out. We haven't been able to try this out as yet, but he evidently lends a useful helping hand for those struggling. Much like the option to switch between 'Classic' and 'Mellow' difficulty options at any time - the latter allowing you to flutter indefinitely - Good-Feel is keen to help everyone enjoy the game. If you don't need the help, you can simply ignore those options.
The Poochy Hut itself, meanwhile, has some auto-running challenges that double up as hugely useful ways to pile up gems, the in-game currency. If you need help buying power-ups for tricky levels a few runs through the Poochy challenges will go a long way. In these stages Poochy dashes from left to right, and you simply duck and jump to try and find the optimal route. One clearance unveils three challenges to then conquer, and more of these levels unlock with progress through the campaign. In addition, grabbing a petal when jumping through the end goals in the main levels unlocks 'gold' runs in these Poochy stages, meaning bumper gem rewards.
Last but not least we have the 'Yoshi Theatre', which has a whopping 31 slots for the adorable short animations. However, you can only view one at a time before waiting 24 hours for the next to unlock, clearly with the goal to keep you coming back for a month - they're in 2D, too. Nevertheless, we do love these animations, often full of wit in the exchanges between Yoshi and Poochy, and at the end of a first viewing there's even a quiz question that, when answered correctly, nets you another 500 gems for your collection.
There is a lost feature to cover, though, and that's local multiplayer. It's gone, as was previously confirmed, though you can still scan a Yoshi amiibo (Yarn or Smash Bros. varieties) to bring a second character into the game. They copy your actions and can be rather useful when short of Yarn Balls, as they can be gobbled up and thrown in a pinch. It's nice that this amiibo feature made the cut - along with all the NFC-unlocked Yoshi designs, we're rocking the Mega Man look right now - though the lack of co-op is naturally a pity.
Also of note is that the alternative control schemes of the Wii U game are here, including the ability to aim projectiles with tilt controls. We prefer the standard methods and layout, but it's good that the effort was made to implement these control schemes.
Overall, we can't help but be impressed and charmed by Poochy & Yoshi's Woolly World so far. It's a pleasing version of a fantastic Wii U game, with Good-Feel adding some excellent new features to entertain 3DS gamers. It's one cute adventure that we're only too happy to undertake once again.