Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World – Review
As much as we hold onto hope, it is now a reasonable assumption that Nintendo will never release an honest port of Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island on the Virtual Console*.
An odd way to begin a review, certainly, but it is important to note that a game that is pitched to a general audience will hit the nerves of those fans that played through Miyamoto’s unusual addition to the Super Mario canon and still revere it. It was an ingenious implementation of the Super FX chip (at time when the industry was crying out for more 3D titles because authenticity), a cunning opportunity to develop a puzzle platformer disguised in crayon, and a beautiful second movement to Koji Kondo’s previous composition project The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.
Whether Nintendo likes it or not, they have not been able to really hit the right ratio of nostalgic exuberance and carefree charm for any of the Yoshi games since. Yoshi’s Woolly World felt like the start of a dialogue to meet a new generation’s needs, but it arrived so late in the Wii U console’s lifespan that many people were no longer around to respond.
This makes the goal of reviewing Poochy and Yoshi’s Woolly World difficult, as it is a port of the original Wii U title, but it is also potentially the first introduction to the game on a more successful console. While there are aspects that are interchangeable, there are additional elements in the 3DS version that provide it with a little bit of extra challenge in comparison to its Wii U version.
The essence of Yoshi’s Woolly World carries on in its immediate successor, with the main goal to encourage puzzle solving and exploration through the levels. Minimal variation in Yoshi’s gameplay characteristics have occurred over the years – Yoshi likes to flutter in the air, Yoshi likes a good poached egg to meet his daily intake of protein, and Yoshi loves an ol’fashioned food fight. What is fantastic is that this is all done at a speed that suits his environment and construction. Platforms unravel in front of you and Piranha Plants are sewn together to grant Yoshi safe passage. Best of all, Yoshi does not need to pander to the economical governance of the Mushroom Kingdom; rather than collecting unusual metal currencies like coins, Yoshi picks up a contextually-relevant legal tender and run island runs on a shiny button economy.
The motivation for exploring areas is the achievements that are waiting to be unlocked in each level – five flowers, five coloured balls of yarn (that contains the essence of other Yoshis who are waiting to be stitched back into existence – not at all terrifying when you think about it), and twenty crafting materials. For achievement hunters, there is nothing more satisfying than a map full of completed icons and resurrected Yoshis waving to you. For those of you who are not interested in significant replay value and are just looking for a good new platformer for the 3DS, the levels hold up well on their own.
Most of the changes to the game were necessitated by the hardware differences of the 3DS (so long co-op), and one was a sad reminder that Miiverse will not be a future presence in the Nintendo world (you collect those 20 crafting materials instead of Miiverse stamps). Graphics were never going to be as crisp as the Wii U version, but the game runs smoothly on the new 3DS and apparently manages a consistent 60fps with minimal fuss. Yoshi’s Theatre further highlights the 3DS graphics and 31 stop-motion animations that are slowly drip-fed to players at a rate of only one a day. Shiny gems and buttons are more plentiful in the 3DS version, allowing players to purchase badges that help to complete a level without falling into a pit or help you see some secret items. While I have not paid for badges yet, I have given the Poochy amiibo a test-drive and was happily accompanied by an adorable pup who helped beat up the bad guys.
In fact, most of the other additions are concentrated on Poochy – Yoshi’s loveable canine confidant, who arrives in the 3DS with an autorunner level for each of the 6 worlds. The autorunner levels have their own achievements to unlock such as gathering a certain number of gems, or finding all of the Poochy Pups, and these complement the push for replay value that is present in the 48 main story levels. The easy “Mellow” mode is still present, but now includes three Poochy pups that run around the level and find all of the little secrets for you. Even with the additional help, a level can take a good 10-15 minutes to be fully explored, so it is not a fast-and-easy way to get all of the achievements without effort. Poochy is a developed character in the 3DS version of the game, as seen in the stop-animations as he playfully tugs at Yoshi’s arm or emits a cute growl when Yoshi steals a strawberry on top of a cake.
While Wii U owners may not give up the original version, Poochy and Yoshi’s Woolly World is a stellar platformer for the 3DS with plenty of challenge and packed full of charm. In between frowns of concentration there was not a moment when I wasn’t enamoured by the enchanting world of yarn that Yoshi and Poochy live in, and delighted in the possibility of just enjoying a platformer again. Of course, this goes back to that time-honoured tradition of Yoshi games – that there is always something to find, that we are encouraged to immerse ourselves in the world and find something more, and that we always do better than the last time in one way or another.
*NO DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT SUPER MARIO ADVANCE 3 BECAUSE SNEAKING IN YOSHI’S STORY SOUND EFFECTS DOES NOT COUNT NO THANK YOU BYE.