Yoshi's Woolly World Is Wildly Misunderstood

Most of the reviews of Yoshi’s Woolly World have misjudged both the target market and sheer charm of Nintendo’s dinosaur mascot.
From looking at the variety of reviews of Yoshi’s Wooly World, you might think it a bit of an easy-to-miss title:
IGN declares it a “forgettable and fragmented experience.”
Gamespot declares the game has a “measured, pedestrian pace”
Eurogamer calls it “Sew-sew” (see what they did there?)
I’m not entirely certain that I’m playing the same game they are.

I guess I should preface that by saying that I’m totally and entirely comfortable with the idea that different reviewers can appreciate different factors, and, for that matter that any review is a subjective, not objective affair at a certain level. But arguing down that rabbit hole leads only to a group of belligerent online gamers (yes, that hashtag) that I just don’t give a single solitary damn about any more. On with the show.
(secondary aside: I reckon Matt Sainsbury at Digitally Downloaded also “gets it” when it comes to Yoshi’s Woolly World)
Yoshi’s Woolly World continues the tradition of Yoshi games that Nintendo has made for years now, in that it’s quite deliberately aimed at a younger audience after a simpler game with a certain amount of replayability, because kids can’t be expected to buy a new game each and every week. Yoshi’s Island was that way all the way back in 1996 (?), as was the much derided Yoshi’s Story.
Actually, I can see plenty of excellent parallels with Yoshi’s Woolly World and Yoshi’s Story, because they’re both games that the more “serious” gamer types decried as too easy, too short, too lacking in whatever-factor-it-was-that-was-decreed-to-be-kewl-at-that-point-in-time. Probably landmines, or head crabs, or something like that.
I’d argue, however, that the charm in Yoshi’s Woolly World is in letting yourself ease into its charmfully knitted world for short bursts if you’re an adult. That’s how I’ve been playing through the game, and I’m having a whale of a time.
For a start, everything is cute. Damned cute, from the solidly knitted worlds right down to the so-horribly-cute-I-had-to-buy-them-all Knitted Yoshi Amiibo. I totally recognise that Amiibo are part of the whole toys-as-DRM thing that Skylanders kickstarted a few years ago, and that’s not a good thing… but I can’t deny that the knitted Yoshis suckered me right in.

Just... too... cute... cannot... resist. DAMN YOU NINTENDO I HAVE RENT TO PAY!
Just… too… cute… cannot… resist. DAMN YOU NINTENDO I HAVE RENT TO PAY!

It’s also a great title for playing with younger players. My youngest is working his way diligently through Woolly World at the moment, but unlike my scattered play style, he’s quite determined to capture every last trinket, hidden yarn ball and sunflower along the way, which means he both peppers me with advice when I’m playing, but can also enjoy the game for a solid length of time. Even if you are lacking in additional players, you can add an AI controlled Yoshi via Amiibo — a great touch.
That’s really the benchmark I’m judging Yoshi’s Woolly World on, ultimately. It’s a game with lots of nice touches. Not all of them are wholly necessary, and many of them are quite standard tropes of the platforming genre, albeit rendered in a yarn style this time round. But like many Nintendo titles, the entire package is so well crafted as a gentle whole that it works in a way that probably wouldn’t in other settings.
Will Yoshi’s Woolly World provide you with exactly the same kinds of tough challenges you might face with the later harder levels, or more elusive collectibles in a “core” Mario game? No, not entirely, although some challenges are tougher than others. Instead, what it offers is a simple gameplay mechanic layered in a frankly gorgeous art style. Plus, Baby Mario is nowhere to be seen. I never could stand his squalling noise.
Call it a totally subjective viewpoint, but I reckon that’s just fine. Five out of five yarn Yoshis.*
No, I still totally don’t do scores. Don’t get me started.

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