Ever since the excellent Yoshi’s Island on the SNES, Nintendo has used the adventures of everyone’s favourite green dinosaur to create the impression that we were exploring worlds that might have been created by a child.
From the bright, crayon drawing aesthetic of the original Island games, to the adorable fuzzy textures of Yoshi’s Wooly World, Nintendo has created some timeless looking games in this franchise that have aged wonderfully, helped by the fact that they all look like they might have been put together by a couple of eight-year-olds on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
Yoshi’s Crafted World for Nintendo Switch takes this concept – one that has always fuelled the Yoshi games – and brings it to its logical conclusion. The entire game is essentially a child’s crudely thrown together diorama, and it’s effortlessly one of the most charming and visually striking games Nintendo has ever created as a result.
It’s certainly one of the best – if not the best – looking game on Switch. Every inch of this platformer exudes personality and detail. The underwater levels have coral reefs made out of toilet roll, houses in the background are crudely taped together milk cartons, rocket ships are made from old bottles, and fields of flowers are made from scrunched up pieces of paper and bottle caps.
It would have been one thing to create a perfect looking world of cardboard and old tin that looked like it’d been made by an A level art student, but the half arsed touches – things left unpainted or barely finished – give Yoshi’s Crafted World a sense of childish glee that stays with you for the entire game.
I could quite happily write a book on all the gorgeous little bits and bobs I spotted while exploring this game. The way the cardboard clouds dangle from pieces of string, the silly little costumes Yoshi can strap on and run around in, the fact that the world map that looks like a pop up book… everything is so delightfully tactile I feel like I can reach out and touch it.
Unfortunately, I can’t just talk about how the game looks. While I would happily slap a 10/10 on this game based on the art direction alone, the actual gameplay doesn’t quite match up to the stellar visuals.
That’s not to say Yoshi’s Crafted World is a bad, or even average game. Far from it. It simply all looks so damn good I feel all the more disappointed it doesn’t deliver nearly enough surprises from a play perspective.
The whole thing is about as light on story as you’d expect, but if you picked up a Yoshi game expecting The Witcher 3, you’re a fool. The Yoshi clan (as I shall be calling them) are all having fun hanging out with something called the Sundream Stone, a magical relic with the ability to make dreams come true.
I can only assume the Yoshi clan have never needed to make their dreams come true, because… well, look at Yoshi. That dude is living his best life.
Before long, the evil Kamek and Baby Bowser (not Bowser Jr) show up to crash the party and steal the Sundream Stone. Shockingly, this adorable opening cutscene ends in tragedy, with the Sundream Stone and the Yoshi clan all being flung off to a mysterious new island.
With the Sundream Stone having lost the Dream Gems that power it (God, this is peak Nintendo), it’s up to the Yoshi clan to explore the new world and reclaim the Gems which have been scattered throughout.
Crafted World plays pretty much like every other Yoshi game, except you don’t have a deeply irritating baby strapped to your back that flies off shrieking every time you take a hit, so bonus points for that.
Yoshi can swallow enemies to turn them into eggs, perform long “flutter” jumps in mid air, ground pound to uncover new secrets, and most importantly, toss eggs at various enemies and obstacles.
In previous Yoshi games, you could only aim your eggy devastation within strict 2D parameters. In Crafted Word, you can aim pretty much anywhere, including the foreground and background. This makes for some entertaining moments, as the game begs you to interact with pretty much anything by throwing eggs with wild abandon.
You might see a Shy Guy lurking behind a bush in the background for example, and cracking one right on its bonce will reward you with a hidden red coin. The way enemies and other secrets lurk in every part of every level really encourages you to pay attention to every tiny, glorious detail the game has to offer.
This “3D in 2D” take is what really sets the latest Yoshi apart from its predecessors. While predominately a traditional 2D platformer, Crafted World does add a sense of depth by giving the levels layers, which means Yoshi can occasionally move towards and away from the screen. This gives levels a further sense of depth, but it doesn’t really add anything from a gameplay perspective.
While this is all well and good, it’s a little disappointing that Crafted World didn’t do more with the concept, especially after games like Paper Mario, Link Between Worlds, and Super Mario Odyssey all did some truly ingenious stuff with 2D gameplay in 3D spaces.
That’s not to say that Yoshi’s Crafted World doesn’t have its fair share of delightful and inventive concepts though. Over the (roughly) 15 hours I spent with the game, I was introduced to fun new ideas fairly regularly, which helped to keep things fresh.
The game’s gorgeous world map is broken up in such a way that the next set of levels could be absolutely anything, with the handmade aesthetic offering ingenious twists on tired platforming staples like “lava world” and “underwater level”.
Before the credits rolled, I explored a desert level that was clearly just a child’s sand pit, controlled a giant robot, piloted a plane as I fought off Shy Guys, and ran through a ghost house where genuinely terrifying axe-wielding clown dolls would regularly spring from the shadows to give chase. Believe me when I say that barely scratches the surface of what this game has to offer.
You’ll need flowers to progress as you go, but these are awarded for pretty much every single action in-game, so even if you don’t care to hunt through the levels for every hidden collectible, you’ll never be barred from seeing what the game has to offer next.
What I would say though, is that scouring every level for the hidden red coins, flowers, poochy pups, and optional scavenger hunts is actually a big part of the fun, since it invites you to really pay attention to the delightful details that have gone into the game.
In addition to combing through the game for collectibles, there are also a number of fun costumes to unlock. These range from old milk cartons and trash cans to more elegant creations like a volcano, or a steam train (a personal favourite).
I should also say that boss battles are also a genuine highlight that really make the most of the game’s premise. Never a standard platforming encounter, you’ll never be doing the same thing twice against the bosses, and there’s a great mode that can be unlocked later which allows you to relive these memorable bouts.
The only issue is that you’ll probably not break much of a sweat until the last boss (and maybe even not then if you’re prepared enough). But what these battles lack in challenge, they more than make up for in inventiveness.
That’s actually something you could say about the entirety of Yoshi’s Crafted World. It is undoubtedly a very easy game for experienced players, and there’s a wonderful assist mode to make things even easier for anyone who might need it – but that’s not a bad thing.
This is an incredibly accessible game, and that’s a huge plus in my book. While some of you might roll at your eyes at this being another easy Nintendo game for kids, I’d advise that while getting through each level might not be that hard, finding every single hidden item is a genuine challenge that will keep seasoned gamers coming back for more.
I’d also point out that once you beat the game, you do unlock a string of levels that are as challenging as any I’ve ever played in a Yoshi game. One in particular had me stumped for a good couple of hours before I mastered it.
You’ll get even more mileage from the game’s local-op mode, which brings another Yoshi in on the action. Once you’ve got past the urge to constantly eat and spit out your new ally, there’s plenty of fun to be had exploring the game’s vibrant worlds with a friend, sibling, or kid.
Yoshi’s Crafted World isn’t GOTY material, nor is it a game-changer like Super Mario Odyssey or Breath of The Wild. What it is, is infinitely accessible, endlessly inventive, wonderfully charming, and above all? A whole lot of fun. Another essential Switch purchase, especially if you’re looking for something to play with your kids this Easter.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.