“Yoshi’s Crafted World” is capital “C” cute. It’s a confection of brightly colored levels ordered around different gameplay concepts. Recently, I played a bit of it with an old college friend. I was hardly surprised when he wondered aloud if his five-year-old daughter might like it. I imagine the developers intended for him to pose that very question because “Crafted World” seems designed to win over children and young-at-heart-adults. Most levels feature some quirky gameplay idea, whether it’s Yoshi guiding an inflatable plane or donning a dinosaur skull and crashing through walls.
The story line is about as breezy as you’d expect for a game about a dinosaur that gobbles enemies and converts them into (throwable) eggs which pop from his backside. Events are set in motion after Kamek, a wizardly turtle, and Baby Bowser, his young charge, intrude upon the dinosaurs gathered on Yoshi Island and try to steal the Sundream Stone. According to lore, the Stone, which rests atop the highest spot on the island, is capable of transforming dreams into reality. Though a group of multicolored yoshis do their best to prevent the villainous turtles from making off with it, five of the Stone’s encrusted jewels (otherwise known as Dreamstones) are dislodged in the struggle and spread across the island. So naturally it’s up to Yoshi — or if you’re playing the game with another player, the Yoshis — to try to recover them.
Similar to Good Feel’s previous games, “Kirby’s Epic Yarn” and “Yoshi’s Woolly World,” “Crafted World” embraces a handmade crafts aesthetic which beautifies the mundane. Egg cartons, red plastic cups, unfolded paper clips, and tin cans all make for eye-catching background elements. This aesthetic carries over to some of the creatures in the game. There are fish that resemble cardboard cutouts, a snake that looks as if it’s made of accordion paper, and my favorite, a boss that is composed of a train crossed with a box-shaped gator: A Gator Train.
Depending on how you play it, “Yoshi’s Crafted World” can be either easy or moderately challenging. Distributed throughout each level are Smiley Flowers, some of which are much less conspicuous than others. Certain levels have challenges attached to them as well. On Go-Go Yosh, you can pilot a large toy Yoshi that sports Jerry-rigged boxing gloves and punch your way through toy houses, cars, and balloon-riding Shy-Guys looking to make a quick exit. Throw 9,000 points worth of precise punches and you’ll win three flowers. (I’m still working on it.) Or take out seventy-five moles on the stage Monty-Mole-B- Gone for another three Smiley Flowers. Flowers are used to appease gatekeepers that dot the island. So, while it may be easy to breeze through much of the game and gather whatever flowers you come across, eventually those gatekeepers will bottleneck your progress if you’re not hoovering up a sizable number of flowers on each level.
“Yoshi’s Crafted World” is, well, adorable. An adult should recognize that nothing this endearing can be accomplished without a lot of top-notch work.
Christopher Byrd is a Brooklyn-based writer. His work has appeared in the New York Times Book Review, the New Yorker and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Byrd.
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