Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island is my favourite game of all time. It represented the pinnacle of platform gaming: awesome soundtrack, charming personality, a distinct art style, and, most importantly, it featured some of the most inspired and creative level design I have ever seen in a video game. Since then, each game in the Yoshi series has, for the most part, followed this formula, focusing on the novel gameplay opportunities created by Yoshi’s egg-targeting system and making sure Baby Mario is safe in Yoshi’s saddle. While Woolly World ditches this last aspect, it makes a conscious effort at upholding those qualities that makes the Yoshi series special, and that will be the context of this review: how does Woolly World measure up as a platformer?
First of all, I played through the entirety of Woolly World in co-op. I am what you might call a social gamer. Growing up with two siblings, and frequently visiting cousins who had Mario Kart and Street Fighter, has made me appreciate games that offer same-couch multiplayer. Yes, Playstation 4 and Xbox One has better graphics and bigger titles, but they’ll never create that feeling you get from sitting down with friends and family over a game of Goldeneye 64, Smash Bros. Melee, or Mario Party 3. That is why co-op is somewhat of a selling point for me, and admittedly that also holds the game to a higher standard; designing a game for one player is different from designing a game for more than one.
With that out of the way, I can safely say Woolly World is an excellent co-op game. Unlike the New Super Mario Bros. (U) games, co-op here is in no way restrictive or frustrating. Part of it may be that players are willing to go a bit slower in this game, because there are way more collectibles to be keeping an eye out for, and because the level design here is less straightforward than in traditional Mario titles, requiring patience, precision, and oftentimes teamwork. This is actually something I’m only realizing in retrospect; often we had to stop and think about how to navigate the environment, get that extra yarn/flower, or get around the baddie. Most importantly, however, is the fact that we both had fun while playing it, and this is chiefly due to the level design.
In a perfect example of complementary game design, the art style of Woolly World is what allows for its creative stages. While eggs have always fulfilled the same function (shooting winged clouds, defeating enemies), here the eggs are balls of yarn, and you literally get to knit a level together as you proceed. Since the entire world is made of yarn and felt, the level design becomes subtle, and consequently makes the game more immersive. This is most evident in the boss battles, where the method of defeating the boss is often unique and challenging.
There is a caveat, however, to this praise. Outside of the special levels, Woolly World is not a very challenging game. For Mario veterans, 99% of the levels are a cakewalk, even when playing solo and abstaining from badges (this game’s power-ups). Yes, the difficulty goes up a bit when you’re trying to find all the collectibles, but it’s more annoying than it is challenging. Fortunately there aren’t a whole lot of instances where the flower/yarn is hidden in so obscure a spot as to be called unfair, but secrets in games have become this thing where if it isn’t obvious then let’s just look it up on YouTube, so this isn’t really Woolly World‘s fault.
Honestly speaking though, the lack of difficulty didn’t really bother me. The gameplay and level design was solid enough for me to enjoy it regardless, and this may have been because I was playing co-op, but the game was fun as is. (Warning: the special levels are a different beast altogether. It’s like the developers were saving all their angst and rage for the hidden levels. Life ain’t all rainbows and sunshine, after all.)
Yoshi’s Woolly World is a slightly above-average gaming experience. You’re getting a solid platformer with thoughtful level design and a charming presentation. Not a bad way to unwind and distract yourself for about 7-10 hours, but definitely do not go in expecting a challenge. While Yoshi’s Island DS was a bit too hard, and Yoshi’s New Island was a bit too easy, Woolly World seems to get it just right, putting casual fun as its top priority.
This has been a gamobo review.