Yoshi’s Crafted World hands-on: Egg-pitching platforming is a crack up
Yoshi's fluffy foray onto Switch will have both the young and young at heart glued to the screen.
For the first time in my career, I decided to let my two sons tag along to a game preview event. It made perfect sense to do so: Nintendo was showing off Yoshi's Crafted World, a co-op platformer that's big on cuteness without Super Meatboy levels of difficulty. With my offspring trailing diligently behind me, like Yoshi eggs ready to be flung headlong into the games industry, the journey was made. Hands-on was secured and hilarity ensued.
For the record: they'd done their homework in the days leading up to the event. On any usual day of the week, Luke (9) and Ben (6) have a fairly staple diet of Kirby Star Allies and New Super Mario Bros U Deluxe. I've raised them right, friend – they can leap bottomless pits and butt stomp like nobody's business. Even still, I thought it prudent to expose them to some Yoshi's Story (N64) and Yoshi's Woolly World (Wii U) as a tutorial for this dinosaur's unique mechanics and to gauge their interest levels.
The eldest informed me soon after that he found the series to be egg-ceptional. Ah, awful wordplay. No need for a paternity test. He's mine.
In our Crafted World demo, we took alternating turns – the OG rules of "swap after level finish or loss of life". Our immediate impression was that this is an absolutely gorgeous game, with a 2.5D visual aesthetic that's just as endearing as the fluffy cotton stylings of Woolly World. What's presented is somewhat reminiscent of MediaMolecule's Tearaway – the various forts and bridges you'll trundle through and across look like something made on a kindergartener's arts and crafts day. In a word: adorable.
Setting the action in Cardboardville also allows the level designers to cleverly mask and reveal secrets and items. A blurring depth of field effect encourages you to shift your dinosaur self up and down into foreground and background tracks (when the main left-to-right level path allows). This sharpens your view on enemies and any curiosities set just outside the field of play. From there, holding in the R shoulder allows you to heave a free-aimed egg into something you couldn't otherwise interact with. Essentailly, it becomes the best way to trigger the construction of new pathways.
There's a nice variety of level themes on offer here. Our opening mission was in Tape Trail, where the central platforming conceit is unfurling streamers and pink Poliwag looking creatures who roll back and forth along paperclip rail platforms. There's also a candyland-like level, as though somebody extracted and collaged Willy Wonka's wildest dreams (think macaron bouncy springs and caramel baddies). Later on, we had to ninja-stalk our foes through forest of drinking straw bamboo, desperately dodging shy guys out to paper cut us with origami shurikens. Lastly, it's nice that you can even theme change Yoshi himself with unlockable costumes that augment his stats.
Speaking of trailblazing into new horizons, Crafted World let us view the game from two opposing viewpoints. You can explore the "flip side" of a stage, a process that will allow you to find a ton more secrets and bonus pathways. Usually, this is a good way to find three mini-Poochy pups that can be lost in some levels. Get set for a chase, though, as these flighty little beggars are known to bolt away into new hiding spots. Oh, and there's also a big Poochie available to ride into dog-centric secret areas.
We found tons of bonus stuff secreted away behind diorama-like trees. Shy guys, typically, holding onto precious flower collectibles (5 per level,) red coins or what looked to be inflatable shivs. Sometimes these adorable little sociopaths may be clutching onto pieces of environmental puzzles, too. At one point we needed to circle around an area (or perhaps "square around" is more actuate) in an effort to open new paths and locate chunks of a busted train. Once found, these bits of locomotive fell in behind us and could be pelted at enemies, like unbreakable eggs. Good times.
The single-player is solid, but the two-player co-op was easily the highlight of our Yoshi tour. Actually "co-competitive" is probably a better term for what went down that day. As always, the two on-screen Yoshis can hitch a ride on the back of one another and in this mode, the dino-riding shotgun is imbued with unlimited eggs. Take advantage of this, and you've got a Master Blaster symbiotic relationship.
Alternatively, be a jerk for fun and profit. Use your Yoshi to bodily swallow up your friend and hold them captive in your gob for a while. Or run away from their "respawn bubble" when they desperately need you to pop them back into play. Lastly, you might want to try flinging an egg to disengage a platform they need to avoid falling into a death pit. All's fair in love and war, especially when you're racing to see who can finish the stage first.
When our time came to a close with Yoshi's Crafted World, we were all pretty much hooked. I think other young-at-heart gamers like myself will warm to the single-player offerings, what with their sugary visuals, infectious tunes and that usual kleptomaniac hook of hidden collectibles. Though it's a shame that co-op is limited to only two players, it's set to deliver on-the-go hilarity that'll allow two people to effortlessly melt away any commute. Basically, when this launches, you need to secure and consume it with all the speed of a Yoshi tongue grab.