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Yoshi's Crafted World (Switch) artwork

Yoshi's Crafted World (Switch) review


"A competent, attractive platformer — no more, no less"


Yoshi circa 2021 is a character increasingly unrecognizable from the one I met on Christmas Day, 1991. Back then, “Yoshi the dinosaur” -- the marquee gimmick of Super Mario World, the Super Nintendo’s bundled-in launch title -- was little more than a power-up, akin to an invincibility star or fire flower. Mounted on his back, Mario could briefly take extra damage, jump higher, and kill (some) enemies easier. And that was it.

Flash forward 30 years, and Yoshi now comfortably inhabits his own independent franchise with a gameplay and style all its own. Freed from Mario -- both literally and conceptually -- the result has been a string of games built around the ways in which the two characters diverge. “Mario games” are frantic obstacle courses of jumping, stomping, and donning various super suits; “Yoshi games” are slower-paced and all about eating and egg-throwing.

Given they star a second-tier character with less of a brand to maintain, “Yoshi games” tend to be more creative and experimental than Mario ones, but also less engaging. Yoshi, the happy green creature (he has long ceased to be much of a recognizable dinosaur) is simply a much less compelling character than Mario, the heroic human, and the colorful, cuddly worlds he inhabits are visually interesting, but devoid of much ambition beyond that. Absent even the thin drama of Mario’s latest effort to rescue the Princess, or visit new planets or whatever, Yoshi games can never really aspire to be much more than pleasant platformers, a modest goal the competent folks at Nintendo can easily meet.

Yoshi’s Crafted World for the Switch is the latest entry in the distinct Yoshi franchise, which began in 1995 with the SNES platform Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island and has since spanned multiple titles across numerous platforms. In keeping with the series’ fondness for unconventional aesthetics, Crafted World takes place in a universe designed to resemble something akin to a kindergarten art room, with platforms, enemies, items, and obstacles “made” from things like construction paper, sponges, tin cans, twine, and the like. As an idea, it’s not that novel -- anyone who’s played a Little Big Planet game will have immediate deja vu -- but evaluated on its own terms, it’s impressive just the same. Rich textures make the TV screen feel touchable, and Yoshi’s world is constantly folding, collapsing, and tearing up around him as he bops through cardboard trapdoors, swings from yarn ropes, slips down rivers of masking tape, and other ingenious topography that make full use of the paper-craft theme.

Gameplay will be familiar to anyone who has played the original SNES game or its sequels, and Yoshi returns with all his now-standard moves. Slurping enemies with his long tongue produces eggs, which can be aimed and thrown. Holding the jump button while in the air makes Yoshi “flutter” his feet to give an additional boost of air, making gravity feel light. Controls remain intuitive, though shooting eggs continues to use a somewhat cumbersome targeting system that may frustrate younger gamers (the game does have a “mellow” mode for the very young in which Yoshi can fly and takes very little damage).

Any player familiar with platformers will have little difficulty breezing through Crafted World’s fortyish stages; like many games of its kind, the true challenge comes in subsequent playthroughs when a vast tally of hidden items must be collected in each stage to earn a perfect score. Coins and flowers are often well-buried in the various nooks and crannies of the elaborate collage environments, and the programmers fully exploit the game’s semi-3D orientation, sticking secrets in both foreground and background that require focused attention to notice. A between-stages vending machine “mini-game” (a generous description) similarly aims to stretch replay value by giving players a chance to gamble coins and win various whimsical costumes for Yoshi, of which there are nearly 200 in all.

Yoshi is a cute character and gliding him through the amusing, innocent stages of Crafted World has been described as “meditative” (though the squeaky, squawky soundtrack is decidedly not). Yet gamers above a certain age may question why they should care. The visuals are clever, though hardly without precedent, and there’s little in the way of compelling characters or plot to draw the player in to a deeper experience. Baby Bowser, the game’s bratty villain, may be mildly charming to those unfamiliar with his antics, but Yoshi himself remains a personality-starved, bug-eyed creature who’s hard to care about in any real way. His quest to recover the five gems of “the Sundream Stone” is uninspired boilerplate.

Since the earliest days of the series, Yoshi games have been used to show off the graphical hardware of the systems they’re played on, and remind the world that it is still possible to take a gaming format as stale as the left-to-right, two-dimensional platformer and reimagine it as something precious. Nintendo has been doing this for quite a while now, however, and the consumer can be forgiven for expecting more.


3/5

jjmccullough's avatar
Community review by jjmccullough (January 11, 2021)

J.J. McCullough is a Canadian writer, artist, political commentator and YouTube personality. He currently works as a columnist at the Washington Post for the "Global Opinions" section.

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honestgamer posted January 11, 2021:

This is a really strong review, and I'm afraid I don't have much feedback to offer beyond that vague praise except extremely nitpicky stuff.

Yoshi’s Crafted World for the Switch is the latest entry in the Yoshi franchise, which began in 1995 with the SNES platform Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island and has since spanned multiple titles across numerous platforms.

This sentence is technically fine, but the "and has since spanned..." bit feels redundant after you've spent the opening three pragraphs effectively making that point.

Controls remain intuitive, though shooting eggs continues to use a somewhat cumbersome targeting system that may frustrate younger gamers (the game does have an “mellow” mode for the very young in which Yoshi can fly and takes very little damage).

I'm not sure "an 'mellow' mode" is right here, since there's not a vowel sound at the start of 'mellow' to necessitate "an" instead of "a."

Finally, is the white space at the end intentional?

To get back to my point at the start of this post, I don't have much feedback to offer that isn't extremely nitpicky. The writing throughout is sophisticated and hard to fault, providing ample evidence you have a strong writing background and experience with games. I enjoyed reading the review, and thanks for posting it!
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dagoss posted January 12, 2021:

Overall, good review. I've love to play this game but I don't have a Switch. Did you play Wooly World? I was curious how this game stands out from Wooly World.

Just to be nit-picky (again, good review), there are a few points in this reviewer where I think the arguments could use some evidence or backing-up.
Yoshi, the happy green creature (he has long ceased to be much of a recognizable dinosaur) is simply a much less compelling character than Mario, the heroic human, and the colorful, cuddly worlds he inhabits are visually interesting, but devoid of much ambition beyond that.

Could use an explanation of why you think Yoshi is "less compelling" and why that even matters. The visually "interesting worlds" seem to be the main point of this game, so I would have liked to have seen more discussion on that as well. I would like to have read more about how the crafted metaphor plays out and whether it's just a gimick or if it makes the game play fundamentally different from its predecessors.
Coins and flowers are often well-buried in the various nooks and crannies of the elaborate collage environments, and the programmers fully exploit the game’s semi-3D orientation, sticking secrets in both foreground and background that require focused attention to notice.

Flipping the screen to see behind objects looked to be a core mechanic--that's the impression I had from trailers anyway. I was expecting to read more about this, but this was the only mention of it. Is this trick frequently used in the game? The review makes it sounds like it's a minor thing for secret coins and stuff. (If that's the case, that sounds like a weakness in the game you could point out)
Yoshi is a cute character and gliding him through the amusing, innocent stages of Crafted World has been described as “meditative”

Who called it "meditative"? If you personally think it's "meditative", you could just say that (and maybe explain why)
Since the earliest days of the series, Yoshi games have been used to show off the graphical hardware of the systems they’re played on

I'm not sure I agree with this statement. Yoshi's Island pushed the SNES hardware, but pretty much all Yoshi games since have been about style and aesthetics over "showing off". It doesn't really matter, I suppose, but if felt like an odd way to end the review.

Again, overall a good review. I liked that the review didn't only discuss this game but tried to contextualize it within the rest of the series.

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