Yoshi's Crafted World has been turning heads since its E3 2017 reveal trailer, but like with any Yoshi game, there is the concern that it may be a case of style over substance. It's true that some Yoshi platformers in the past have failed to provide compelling gameplay to match their unique visuals, but Yoshi's Crafted World bucks that trend, delivering one of Yoshi's strongest adventures yet.
Dating back to the first Yoshi's Island game on the Super Nintendo, the Yoshi platformers have been known for their unique art styles. Yoshi's Crafted World is no different, with the game world looking like a child's diorama project. Basically everything in it looks like it's made up of random objects that could just be lying around the house, and the result is a visually-interesting game that stands out from the crowd. Even when the gameplay isn't clicking, players will still feel compelled to keep playing just to take in the gorgeous levels, if nothing else.
The art style isn't just for looks, though, as the diorama-style design has a direct impact on gameplay. The stages have more depth than players may be used to in Yoshi games, with players now able to throw eggs into the background and foreground to hit enemies, find hidden items, and interact with the environment. This adds a brand new dimension to the gameplay and changes the way players think about approaching the otherwise traditional side-scrolling stages.
Discovering hidden items in the environment this way is also where most of the challenge comes from in Yoshi's Crafted World. Players can approach each stage like a sort of relaxing puzzle, where they have to figure out what exactly they need to do to find all of the red coins and flowers. Sometimes these items are well hidden, forcing players to think outside of the box to find everything in any given stage.
There really isn't much challenge from trying to survive the stages, as there is hardly any penalty for dying. Despite the lack of stakes, almost all of the levels are fun to play, and there some that shake things up by providing a different style of gameplay. For example, there is a racing stage, a stage where players control a large Yoshi-shaped robot, and even a couple of horror-themed levels. As far as Yoshi stages go, the horror levels are some of the best, with one in particular being surprisingly dark and actually a little scary.
The level design in Yoshi's Crafted World and the way it challenges players to deconstruct each stage is the game's strongest element. There's fun to be had in almost every level in the game, with the only stages that stand out as weaker than the others being the Poochy levels. Manipulating Poochy through a level is annoying, especially in co-op, as the dog seems to have trouble deciding which player it needs to follow. He also moves pretty quick, requiring players to constantly jump off his back to collect items, which messes with the pacing of the level. The Poochy levels are more tolerable solo, but are still the weakest stages out of the bunch.
While the local co-op options in Yoshi's Crafted World are appreciated, playing the game in co-op can actually be quite annoying due to a couple of specific design choices. There's a gimmick where one player can ride on the back of the other, which is fine in theory, but what ends up happening is that players are often accidentally jumping on each other's backs. Doing this will cancel an attempted egg throw, and in certain situations where quick, accurate egg throws are necessary, this can be very frustrating. Another issue is that instead of passing through or going around each other like in many other Nintendo platformers, Yoshis will walk right into each other, so players will often find themselves blocked by their co-op partner.
Co-op implementation could have been better overall, but as previously stated, it's still appreciated and succeeds in adding more value to the game. There's also at least one way to alleviate co-op frustration, and that is to just have one player sit on the back of the other. That way only one player is doing the platforming, and the second player can focus on hitting things with eggs.
And there are plenty of things to hit with eggs, that's for sure. Yoshi's Crafted World is packed with hidden content for players to seek out and new items to unlock. The main thing players will unlock in Yoshi's Crafted World are the costumes, but we found them be a little underwhelming as they're just recycled assets of the window dressing in the stages. Even so, they're still good for a laugh; there's just something hilarious about Yoshi walking around in an empty coffee creamer cup.
Players may not feel compelled to keep playing the game just to unlock costumes (it doesn't help that some of the better costumes are Amiibo-exclusive), but luckily there is more to do after the credits roll. There are bonus stages called the Hidden Hills that provide tougher platforming challenges than the other stages in the game and will put players' abilities to the test as they don't even have checkpoints. There are also flipped versions of every stage in the game where players play them backwards in a race against the clock to find Poochy's pups. These flipped stages are much faster-paced than the original stages and provide some of the most fun that the game has to offer.
Yoshi's Crafted World is one of Yoshi's stronger adventures. There are still a couple of missteps that keep it from being a top-tier Switch exclusive, but it's still pretty great and works as both a casual gaming experience and a more hardcore one as well. From start to finish, Yoshi's Crafted World is a solid platformer, and it's a worthy addition to anyone's Switch collection.
Yoshi's Crafted World is out now, exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.