When we first clapped eyes on Yoshi’s Crafted World, we’d be lying if we said our first thoughts weren’t something along the lines of ‘oh look, another Yoshi game’. That’s not to say we didn’t like what we saw, but the Yoshi series has always played things a little bit safe in the past, and at first glance, beyond the art style, one might say the same about this crafty addition to the Switch's library. Well, now we’ve actually played it – and gone beyond the single level available in the free demo – what do we have to say now?
First off, let’s get the obvious out of the way; the game’s adorable as heck. If you point to anything on-screen that isn’t alive, you can be certain it’s made to look like a child’s arts and crafts project in a way that’s simultaneously realistic and unrealistic. If you don’t know what we’re on about, have a look at some of the screenshots scattered around this article.
It’s an aesthetic that works, and works by the bucketload. If you can stand there and state in earnest that you don’t find at least something charming about the way this game looks, we reserve the right to stand in a similar spot and call you a heartless fiend. The tiny little details from the Shy Guys waving tiny paper butterflies on sticks, to a train being made out of a cola can, it all smacks of creativity, and gives the levels we tried a great sense of consistency.
But enough about the looks, anyone with eyes already knows what a visual treat it is; how does the ruddy thing play? Well, it’s a Yoshi game. It feels almost exactly like Yoshi’s Woolly World for the most part, but it’s in the finer details where things start to change. For one thing, our favourite green dinosaur (or should that be Yoshi?) from the Mario franchise isn’t restricted to just going left and right; in a style similar to a handful of levels in Yoshi’s Story, he can go forwards and backwards through the oft-forgotten Z axis, where the levels allow it.
You’re not allowed to run entirely free, however; you’re only allowed to move along predetermined paths that are clearly indicated underfoot. It sounds restricting at first, but considering every 2D platformer has the same linearity of movement, it’s actually quite refreshing to suddenly go up rather than constantly right.
Eggs now behave quite differently as well; you have free control over the aiming reticule and can aim at quite literally anything you can see onscreen that isn’t the HUD or yourself. Enemies in the backdrop? Throw an egg at them. Coins in the foreground? Throw an egg at them. An inconsequential piece of indestructible scenery to your immediate left? Throw an egg at it, although that won’t do much. Where this benefits the game most is in the hidden collectables, as previous games relied on borderline obscure corners housing invisible winged clouds, but Crafted World adding a whole new dimension (literally) allows hidden items to be hidden in much less convoluted and obtuse manners, but still concealed enough to make finding them a fun little challenge.
We also got to have a go at the ‘flipside’ of a level, where the camera pans around Yoshi 180 degrees so you can see the back of everything as you search for lost Poochy Pups. It’s nice to see the courses from a different angle, and it can help you find collectables you may have missed before, but it’s definitely taken much more of a back seat compared to how it was shown off in earlier presentations of the game. So much so that a previously promoted mechanic whereby two Yoshis ground-pound simultaneously to flip the perspective on command is no longer present. Yoshi’s Flipping Island this certainly isn’t.
Speaking of co-op, we had a pop at that as well. We didn’t get much of a chance to play it for any great length of time, but from what we played it felt quite different. In Woolly World, for example, it could often feel like your co-op partner was either just getting in the way, storming off ahead of you, or lagging behind. We can’t quite say how or why, but in Crafted World it feels a lot more balanced, and you’re able to help each other out a lot more effectively. Naturally, you can still swallow your partner and spit them out into danger; there's all the sabotage you’d like, so if that’s more your jam, worry not.
All in all, Yoshi’s Crafted World looks like it’s shaping up to be a fine game indeed. The new mechanics are fun and add a bit of a new spin on things, the aesthetic is wonderful, and whilst all of it doesn’t amount to anything revolutionary, it’s still very entertaining and there’s plenty to enjoy for fans of the series. It may well end up being ‘just another Yoshi game’, but if it gets all that right, that’s more than alright with us.
Yoshi's Crafted World lands on the Nintendo Switch on 29th March.