It’s 1995. I’m in high school. My time allotment to play video games is such that I can still afford to play platform games and still run through a great JRPG. I’m a couple years from Final Fantasy 7 and Final Fantasy Tactics–but I’m close.
But, I had Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island.
The complete aggravation of crying baby Mario aside. this was a brilliant platform game with puzzle elements that literally had me rushing home from school in a way that was only nearly matched by my Super Mario Bros. 3 period. Nearly.
Right up until the very end, new elements are added continually to keep the player learning, but with the exception of the bonus stages
every stage was completely beatable–with some work–with all of the items needed to unlock said bonus stages: five flowers, twenty red coins, full health. The action is tight, the visuals stunning, the boss battles imaginative and varied.
And, while there have been some worthwhile attempts to regain that magic over the years (Yoshi’s Island 2 for the DS and Yoshi’s New Island for the 3DS) and a head-scratchingly odd sequel
none have managed to recapture the magic of the original. Until now!
Despite having far more in common visually with Kirby’s Epic Yarn than with any Mario or Yoshi games, Yoshi’s Wooly World plays almost exactly like the 1995 game. Basically every enemy or stage obstacle one would expect to see is here, all re-imagined with knitting and wool as a theme.
But wait–maybe you aren’t familiar with any of the Yoshi games–let’s give you a rundown!
Each stage is a typical platform stage: part action, part avoidance, part puzzle. Yoshi can eat enemies and turn them into yarn balls, or get them from certain boxes. You can target a ball with a reticle that rotates through an arc; you can immediately press up to shoot up, free fire when the reticle hits the direction you want, or stop it at a specific angle and even move around before firing. Outlined objects become solid when hit with yarn, and big yarn balls keep going when they hit something!
Getting past your foes and reaching the goal is the ultimate point of each stage, but puzzles and hidden areas abound, which can provide you with rewards. There are four collectibles in each stage: gems, health, flowers, and yarn. I’m not sure what completing a stage at full health does for you other than helping you get a gold star for that stage, but the other three collectibles do something specific.
Twenty of the gems in every stage are stamp gems (you can see which on later replays of a stage, if you’ve collected that gem before.) Collecting stamp gems unlocks stamps you can use for Miiverse posts. The gems themselves are not wasted; unlike the coins in other Mario games that provide extra lives and roll over at 100, gems are saved and can be used to buy one time usage badges that provide a bonus during the next stage you play. These badges are unlocked as you progress through the game.
Did I mention that there are no lives in Yoshi’s Wooly World? More on that later!
Flowers unlock bonus stages (more on that later, too) and yarn collectibles unlock themed palette swaps for Yoshi that you can use to play with. The game also has Amiibo support; scan an Amiibo in the Amiibo hut and you’ll get a playable Yoshi based on that Amiibo in appearance.
The nicest thing about the collectibles is that, unlike previous Yoshi games, you don’t have to get everything in one run through to hundred percent a stage; each collectible type can be gathered separately. So, for instance, if you’ve beaten a stage but missed a flower, you can replay it and only concentrate on finding flowers.
Secrets are accessed in a number of ways. Often, a question mark cloud will appear if you walk through or shoot yarn through its location. These can provide alternate pathways or collectibles. Some walls can be pushed; other areas can be passed through completely, and yarn bows can be licked, revealing collectibles or secret areas.
Certain bonus areas turn Yoshi into “vehicles” such as a motorcycle, a mole, an umbrella, and a giant version of Yoshi. Each has characteristics that makes its bonus sections vary from one another. There are always collectibles in these sections, which can sometimes require pin-point accuracy to obtain. Luckily, these sections are timed, and failing to complete one in time lets you retry it. This allows you as many attempts as you need to hone your skills and collect everything inside without having to restart a stage.
The reason that you can try this as many times as you want is, as I said before, there are no loves in Yoshi’s Wooly World. Yoshi can die if he runs out of hearts or falls off of a stage, but all this does is place you back at the most recent checkpoint (with half health, unfortunately.)
Taking a queue from the New Super Mario Bros. series, there is a two-player co-op mode where you are able to help or hinder each other as much as you wish. You can even eat the other player and turn him or her into a yarn ball that only becomes a Yoshi again once it is shot out. A short time after a Yoshi expires, he returns as a floating egg, which hatches when touched by the other Yoshi. Shaking the controller moves the egg towards the other Yoshi quickly. So, as long as at least one Yoshi has a safe place to stand, you’re never in fear of losing progress if one player dies.
Now–how difficult is the game? I can’t really say, having only made it to the second of six worlds. So far, it’s fairly easy, with the exception being the bonus course I unlocked in the first world.
The world one bonus course consists of waves that move up and down with little else to stand on. When the waves recede, you better be in mid hover or you’re toast. Falling off where a wave is damages you, but falling between them straight-up kills you. Many of the waves are also full of enemies, making it a danger to land on them without killing some, but those enemies also provide the precious yarn balls you’ll need to finish the stage.
It was damn near impossible, if not for Mellow Mode!
Mellow Mode, which can be turned on or off at any time, turns your hover into a permanent hover. You can bob up and down in the same spot as long as you hold the jump button, even briefly letting go if you need to drop down a bit. It gives the game an easier mode without substantially changing the game play.
So, in short, Yoshi’s Wooly World is a fantastic game. It hits all the right nostalgia points for me, but even if I had never played Yoshi’s Island, I would definitely recommend this game. Go pick it up; you won’t be sorry.