Things have been a bit rough for everyone’s favorite egg-tossing, green dinosaur. Despite being the poster character for one of the greatest 16-bit games of all time, Nintendo has struggled to land another breakout starring role for the trusty steed we know as Yoshi. But those dark times are in the past, as the last two arts and crafts-styled entries are of excellent quality. The only problem is that, possibly due to that middling past, not many people seem to be talking about them. As we head into Yoshi’s Nintendo Switch debut and a still tepid response from all but the all-in Nintendo fans, I must stress that Yoshi’s Crafted World is looking great, Yoshi’s Woolly World was amazing, and neither of these games should be slept on.
I totally understand the devalued vibe of the Yoshi brand. Nintendo has used the character, once known for reinventing what a side-scrolling platformer could look and feel like, as a dumping ground for experiments in the past. Then, for some reason, a frankly b-list developer had the reins and did very little with them. Yoshi’s Island itself even faded into the background, not being properly re-released until the SNES Classic. Instead, Nintendo used the Yoshi’s Island aesthetic for Yoshi Touch & Go, a strange retail tech demo on the Nintendo DS, and gave Artoon the series for Yoshi’s Island DS and New Yoshi’s Island on the 3DS. Neither of these games brought anything substantial to the table, coming off as leaning on the old concept too hard.
When Yoshi’s Woolly World happened, people were excited about how it looked, but between the extraordinary amount of time between its announcement and release and the nature of where the Wii U was at the time, visibility was low. But it was a fantastic game. It looked great, felt great to play, and was super adorable. It also dropped the Baby Mario thing, which was well overdue. That helped it feel like something new, rather than a grasp at past glory. Nintendo would re-release it for the 3DS in order to give it a second chance, and it seemed to do okay, but again not well enough for Yoshi to feel like a superstar in the gaming community.
During the February 2019 Nintendo Direct, Nintendo stealth-dropped a demo for the upcoming Yoshi’s Crafted World, which will officially release in March 2019. This was mostly met with some “yays” from the dedicated Nintendo folks, and some “okays” from everyone else. It didn’t help that Nintendo just randomly tweeted out the release date weeks before the Nintendo Direct for no discernable reason. But I have to say, if you have a Nintendo Switch and access to the eShop, you have to download this demo.
Yoshi’s Crafted World is an easy, top-notch platformer with unbelievable cleverness in its design and some serious polish. It looks even better than Yoshi’s Wooly World – all the items based on random, little household objects turned into crafted bits of video game world often look close to real. Seeing Yoshi run around and interact with these spaces is the most charming thing in video games out of 2019, and the gameplay itself presents some interesting twists on both the Yoshi game formula, and side-scrolling platformers in general.
For example, with Yoshi, he controls mostly the same save for one detail: tossing eggs. Now, you press the egg button to bring up the aiming cursor, and have free control over it. You can directly aim at your targets, which makes a huge different in the way controlling Yoshi feels. This also opens the door for more clever egg-based puzzles, which is reflected in the layered level design. Just in the first level, Yoshi is able to throw eggs at items in the background, which itself can often comprise multiple layers. You can knock down objects, collect unreachable coins, and defeat enemies out of reach to uncover further secrets. It makes the player pay more attention to the level and their surroundings, and makes them feel clever for finding things.
To that end, each level (although to be fair the demo only provides a single example), has an alternate version of itself. If you want to, Yoshi can flip the level horizontally once he gets to the end, which opens the door up for more secrets to be found as he makes his way back towards the original entrance. Flipping the level over often means exploring what was the background before, which is a real hoot.
In sum, Yoshi’s Crafted World is shaping up to be an excellent game, a marquee platformer for the Nintendo Switch. But I feat it won’t get the credit it deserves, as much of the gaming community is so thoroughly lukewarm on Yoshi. I hope that the rabid, hungry fanbase for the console itself feeds into success for this charming title, and as we’ve already seen of the ridiculous attach rate for Nintendo Switch software, that is a distinct possibility. Basically, I am here to evangelize the good word of Yoshi, and that demo is free so there’s no excuse. Check it out!