I suppose with all the hemming and hawing I did about people’s perception of Yoshi’s Crafted World as it pertains to “value,” it’s a worthwhile game for me to review, hm?
Yoshi’s Crafted World is the latest in Nintendo’s dark horse platformer franchise – a series that I’d argue is slight more maintained than Donkey Kong Country, but still a rung below Kirby in terms of what Nintendo prioritizes. Despite continually pushing the envelope of what to expect from 2D platformers, there never seems to be a whole lot of buzz surrounding the series, and many tend to dismiss it as kiddie stuff.
Which, make no mistake, it is. If Mario is the true neutral between childhood and adulthood, and Donkey Kong’s escapades are aimed squarely at an older audience, Yoshi is firmly on the “for kids” end of the spectrum. From each game’s storybook presentation to the soundscapes to the approachable gameplay, all the Yoshi titles are ones that seem squarely targeted at tykes.
But where many adults seem to think that means Yoshi’s adventures are worth writing off, I’d argue that’s a tad bit dismissive. Is Kung Fu Panda 2 any less of a critique of Maoism just because there’s goofy humor? Does A Goofy Movie‘s heartfelt story of the struggles that come with single parenthood resonate any less because it’s a Disney musical? That’s gonna be a “no” from me, dog. Much like the best children’s films and literature, the Yoshi games are worthwhile for adults in the mood for something outside the ordinary.
In the case of Yoshi’s Crafted World, that “something” lies primarily in the game’s presentation. Like the title implies, Good-Feel’s 2.5D romp is built to look like something made in a particularly elaborate arts and crafts project. Yoshi himself, along with most other living beings in the game, is needle-felted. The world is comprised of paper plates, soda cans, Mason jars, and other stuff you probably throw away every day. Bosses are represented by things like beach balls. If there’s a small everyday object you can think of, it’s probably represented in Crafted World, and that’s a huge part of the joy. I found myself taking my time with levels, trying to figure out how each setpiece was constructed and being continually surprised at how committed to its own aesthetic the whole package was. I kept expecting “cheats,” a la Tearaway or The Lego Movie – two things that often broke their own logic when it came to their respective aesthetics, not to mention tripping on themselves to deliver treacly messages. But Good-Feel went the extra mile here, delivering something that not only follows through on its promise of a world made by (ostensibly) human hands, but allows it to be just that and nothing more. There are no twist endings that reveal Mario constructing an elaborate fantasy with his child or anything like that. For Crafted World, it’s enough to just have the aesthetic with no cheap pulls at the heartstrings, and I admire that.
Apart from the aesthetic beauty, Crafted World manages to follow through with great gameplay from start to finish. Your Yoshi (you can choose from several different ones) retains their signature egg-throwing and flutter-jumping, but has a very light weight consistent with them being made of fabric. While longtime fans will undoubtedly feel right at home, there is a distinct difference to how this outing feels, which I mean as a compliment. As an example of style serving gameplay, there are few games out there that do it this well.
However, players are not only tasked with the usual jumping, throwing and stomping. You’ll be routinely made to use the controls in clever and unexpected ways, preventing some of the tedium that lesser outings like Yoshi’s New Island were plagued by. There are stealth levels with alert phases, horror sequences with unstoppable killer clowns, and rail shooter levels. Your Yoshi will race cars, fly planes, and sink ships with giant cannons. The sheer imagination applied to how many different ways a Yoshi can interact with their world is truly impressive, and has the amount of canny and know-how you’d expect from a first-party Nintendo game, but perhaps not from one of their second-party developers. In terms of variety and arguable depth, it blows the last few entries in this franchise out of the water.
I also found myself impressed with just how much content is offered by Crafted World. If you were to just blow through the story and collect the bare-minimum Flowers needed, this is still probably an 8-10 hour game, but there’s just so much more to uncover. There’s a gimmick where you play the reverse side of each level to catch a bunch of cute puppies. Clever post-game levels are locked behind your star count. Fetch quests task you with finding certain items and pelting them with eggs at the request of cute robots. Your Yoshi can unlock a variety of silly costumes. If you were to attempt a true 100% run of this thing, it’d probably take you a decent chunk of time – much like the Kirby games. And much like the Kirby games, it’s in this supplementary content that the challenge lies. The idea is that little kids can blaze through it with minimal resistance, but adults can get a slightly more devilish challenge by putting in a little extra effort. There’s something to be said for a game that lets you make your own challenge, and I think Crafted World does just that in an admirable and compelling way.
Modern gaming has become an arms race, of sorts, when it comes to how much a AAA developer can pad out a game. “How much garbage have you crafted?” “How many hours have you played?” “What color is your weapon?” “How many corners of the map have you explored?” Even speaking as somebody who treasures JRPGs above arguably any other genre, I have to admit that it’s gotten a bit tiresome to pick up a first-person shooter or third-person adventure game, only to realize I’ve been suckered into yet another grind-happy loop of repetition. We’re quickly reaching a stagnation of the medium, in which everything feels the same and nothing is unique. Even Spider-Man, a game where you get to be fucking Spider-Man, felt like a dozen other games I’d played leading up to it. That’s a shame.
Which is why I dig Yoshi’s Crafted World so much. It implores not to bang their heads against DPS checks, or hoping for a good RNG roll for a cool weapon, or even spend 40-hours grinding out enough garbage to progress. It is not, by any mean, a service disguised as a game. Instead, it invites you into its cozy world and asks you to stay a while, inviting you to take in the sights, the sounds, the feelings. Sure, there’s challenge to be found, but that’s not really the point. The point is, as controversial as this may be to some, to have fun.
And I sure as hell did.