To traverse a plush new world, Yoshi won’t be going into battle alone. In Yoshi’s Wooly World for Wii U, cooperative plays allows two dinosaur adventurers to take on a new journey that’ll have you pulling yarn strings, collecting gems, and saving the day like you never have before. After my time with the game at E3, I began to wonder why it took this long to have a Yoshi game like this in the first place.
Yoshi’s Wooly World, known as Yarn Yoshi prior to E3 2014, will strike most gamers as a familiar title — in fact, the game seems pretty inspired by a mixture of Yoshi’s Island (SNES) and Yoshi’s Story (N64), all the way down to the prize ring that Yoshi must jump through at the end of each level. The game quickly changes its tune when a second player grabs a controller. While the setting and feel certainly reminds one of the older Yoshi classics, the way you play the game immediately morphs when a partner arrives on the field.
By yourself, a level comes down to exploration, snooping around the nooks and crannies to collect every last flower, coin, or fruit — unless you’re speedrunning, of course. With a second Yoshi, however, the game becomes more about solving puzzles and traversing these areas through cooperative behavior. Wooly World gradually serves more puzzles and more collectables that reward effort and intelligent play.
I was able to get my hands on the demo’s third level, a cruise through a cloudy corridor with plenty of yarn strings to pull and enemies to trounce. The level’s main gimmick came in the form of a familiar batch of baby chickens. When tossed, they leave behind a puffy trail that can be walked on by the Yoshis. Once we had the hang of laying down paths and platforms with this cloudy excrement, we were nimbly nabbing every collectable the level had to offer. However, it couldn’t have been done without the ability to eat your teammate. When everything is made of cloth and yarn, this isn’t as bad as it sounds: you can gobble up an ally and carry them around in your mouth or spit them away. If you decide to swallow, your ally turns into a yarn egg that can be tossed to access normally out-of-reach distances or heights or used against enemies.
It’s sometimes easy to forget about your perilous journey when you start to take in the scenery. Wooly World seems like right out of a toddler’s bedtime story, with its pillow landscapes, buttons lovingly stitched into walls and floors, and yarn eggs plopping to the ground as you slam against floating yarn baskets. The land will invigorate your every step with a contagious cheerfulness that drives you to every checkpoint. With only three levels available in the demo, I was left curious for what the rest of it had to offer.
Your enjoyment of the game will increase as you develop chemistry with a partner. Although Yoshi games tend to have a slower pace compared to Sonic or even Super Mario Bros. platformers, your reflexes and accuracy are still tested as the windows of opportunity to solve certain puzzles can be quite limited at times. Other puzzles, such as opening doors to allow big boulders to knock down walls, are simple enough to test your timing and hand-eye coordination, but little else. With tactics and proper gymnastics, there won’t be much stopping you and another skilled player from clearing most obstacles.
The issue of difficulty once again raises its head. Yoshi games aren’t known for being particularly challenging at face value. Even worse, Wooly World‘s fuzzy spiritual predecessor, Kirby’s Epic Yarn, was criticized for its ridiculously low difficulty. Rest assured that Wooly’s World will be a tougher experience overall — at the very least you can die in this game! — but to what degree remains unclear. For all the things it did right in the demo, guaranteeing the player that the rest of the game will bring harsher challenges or even a steeper difficulty curve was not one of them. I fear that what this game brings to the table as a new title may be lost in its ability to be potentially beaten rapidly by players familiar with the genre, making the experience feel shorter than it should be.
Players will thankfully find a lot of replay value in cooperative play, which kept me and other attendees heading back to the Wooly World demos for more as we figured out new ways to complete levels in less time while earning more collectables. It definitely shone when two players cleared a level completely in time with one another — juggling each other with egg catches and throws, creating cloud paths and leapfrogging over one another to grab collectables, as if the entire play session was a synchronized run.
Like previous installments, Yoshi’s Wooly World seems like a prime candidate for speedrunning, so fans of Yoshi’s Island speedruns should feel right at home here. The potential for this game, however, comes in the form of cooperative speedruns, which could be the biggest draw this game has to offer. Normally individual and isolated affairs, to see a speedrun completed by two players working together in tandem would be a sight to behold.
Even so, no matter how you want to play this new Yoshi installment, the game quickly immerses you with its playful charm and mesmerizing gameplay. It’s almost too easy to grab a friend, jump into a level, and start up your next adventure. It is in this way that Wooly World likely succeeds the most — for such a pick-up-and-play game, there is a lot to be found and enjoyed in the thread and cotton. Whether its new surprises or the fastest times, you’ll surely find what you’re looking for, although that first cushy step may not be entirely what you expected.