The legacy of Mario games can be traced back thirty years. During that time, the franchise has also delivered memorable supporting characters. Those characters, in turn, have spun their own legacies in spinoff games. Mario’s big little brother, Luigi, has found success in the Luigi’s Mansion series over the GameCube and 3DS consoles along with Nintendo declaring an entire month in his honor (which included the release of “Super Luigi U”). Donkey Kong has enjoyed a run in the Donkey Kong series, and even Toad had so much influence as a mini game in New Super Mario Bros. U that it, too, spun off into a mildly successful puzzle game “Captain Toad Treasure Tracker”.
With a positive legacy following the supporting cast, one character over the years has been lost in the shuffle. Yoshi debuted in the massively successful Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo in 1990. His unique attributes and adorable appearance appealed to gamers and even the Nintendo brass as he was the feature character for spin-off games such as the simply titled “Yoshi” for the NES and “Yoshi’s Cookie”.
The Yoshi-based titles failed to live up to the expectations of a successful supporting character. Nintendo tried to capture lightning in a bottle giving Yoshi the lead in the “Super Mario World” sequel “Yoshi’s Island: Super Mario World 2” as he had the unexpected and unusual task of toting around a Baby Mario around his world. The sequel, unfortunately, didn’t share or exceed the success of its originator. As the years progressed, Yoshi sporadically appeared in several Mario sports game spinoffs and other titles, but never had the featured success he enjoyed in Super Mario World.
It seems that Yoshi may make the rebound he is looking for in Yoshi’s Woolly World for the Wii U. This game was developed by Good-Feel – the same developer that created Kirby’s Epic Yarn (do you see a pattern developing here?). In Yoshi’s Woolly World, felt-based Yoshi’s of the world are turned into unwoven yarn bundles by the pesky and evil Magikoopa. It’s up to the original Yoshi that we all know and love to find his companions, turn them back to their cute and fuzzy Yoshi selves, and stop Magikoopa from “unraveling” the Yoshi world.
This game gives a good balance of simplicity for the novice gamer while still offering a challenge for those advanced in the classic platformer. The game begins with very simple gameplay to get the player used to the skills that Yoshi possesses. We’re introduced to Yoshi’s classic tongue skills that allow him to eat enemies and turn them into yarn balls. Those yarn balls can then be aimed at other enemies to knock them out or used to turn “hidden” items in levels and weave them to usable platforms or warp pipes. As for movement, Yoshi can jump and flail his legs about to allow for longer jumps. The flailing action can be chained together to allow for Yoshi to traverse across very long gaps. As the game progresses, these skills are necessary to move along what become very challenging levels including side scrolling and underground levels.
The added content of the game is to find the sometimes very cleverly hidden yarn bundles in each level. If the player can find all five bundles in each level, the unraveled Yoshi is put back together to form another Yoshi of which the player can choose to take form. There are dozens of Yoshis that take form including those modeled after a bumble bee, a tree, a flower, and many others. One lacking feature is that none of the Yoshi’s possess any ability features beyond a unique look. In addition to the yarn bundles, other collectibles such as daisy icons and gems that turn into stamps can be used by players in the Wii Universe. The gems collected are tallied and can be spent on badges that Yoshi can use in a world that provide special abilities such as faster speed, immunity to lava or pits, or higher defense among others.
The enemies in the game are instantly recognizable to those familiar with the Mario universe including Shy Guys, Snifits, and Koopa Troopas. Each enemy is designed with unique features of the fabric world including knitting needles, buttons, and thread. The bosses in the game also exhibit unique features once Magikoopa gets a hold of them and gives them a massive stature. The bosses also share a Mario legacy feature in the “three hits and they’re out of there” realm. However, the three hits are only attainable in exposing each of the boss’ unique weaknesses.
The game also features a co-op mode similar to the New Super Mario Bros. games where the two players play side-by-side making a fun gameplay experience. Players can even eat each other’s character, turning them into usable yarn balls for throwing at enemies or finding hidden items. This feature can be fun and/or frustrating depending on the skill of the player you are playing with.
“Yoshi’s Wooly World” is very easy to pickup and play, but certainly presents a challenge for experienced gamers. The very novice gamer can experience Mellow Mode where their Yoshi can simply float through each level without a care in the world. Although the jilted gamer may look at the title and bypass it on the premise of a game too cute and easy to conquer, the challenge presented in Classic Mode as the game progresses will keep even the most advanced gamers attention and sometimes frustration in regards to the difficulty those levels present. The game also carries the classic Mario game traits of hidden levels, special areas, and power ups.
In an era of epic exploration/FPS games, this game breaks from the status quo as a classic platformer that will keep every level of gamer entertained. If you want a break from the depth an exploration game can take you, the whimsical world of Yoshi’s Woolly World may be just what you need.