Thanks to the ability to switch the difficulty between two settings at any time on-the-fly, Poochie and Yoshi's Wooly World is a true "for all ages" video game. It'll serve up a respectable challenge to older gamers on the default setting, then knocked down to "easy" on the secondary setting it is simple enough for even young gamers to get through the main story of the title.
+Adjustible difficulty for new and veteran gamers alike.
+"Choose your own" difficulty ramps quickly if you're trying to collect all the extras.
+World and character design are incredibly charming and beautiful on the 3DS.
-The gap between the two settings can be a bit extreme if you're OCD about collectibles.
-Definitely a step down in graphics for the 3DS installment of the franchise, losing some of the more impressive wool look of the Wii U title.
Here’s something I never thought I’d say: There are levels in this iteration of Yoshi’s Story that I found myself legitimately stuck on. For the first time in the franchise history, Yoshi is not just Mario for babies (or with Baby Marios). It’s a full-fledged action platformer with some real depth to it if you feel the need to sink your teeth into all the collectibles and bonus levels that the game has to offer.
When I was introduced to the very first challenge level of the game (unlocked by obtaining all the collectibles in the first world) I found myself dying a multitude of times learning the process whereby I could complete the level (while capturing all the in-level collectibles). To that end, Poochy and Yoshi’s Wooly World offers a level of complexity not generally seen in the franchise; though if you want there is an “easy mode” that can be turned on at any time enabling you (or your kids) to clear through the game’s story with ease.
As could be said with pretty much every platformer introduced by Nintendo, the controls are tight and work well. I will admit that the button placement deviates from the traditional, where the lowest face-button represents the jumping ability, electing instead for “B” or the right-most face-button being the jump option, but after a little while of pressing the wrong button it’s easy enough to adjust your brain to the slight change and from there on out everything feels easy to play.
Where the game soars above most side-scroller adventure games though is in the use of those mechanics to complete levels/puzzles. Yoshi’s abilities are easy and recognizable to those who have played with him before: flutter jumps, egg throws, the lot are all here plus a few new tricks (thanks to his wool-centric design) that allow him to shift his form in certain situations into objects like an umbrella to catch updrafts or a motorcycle to quickly speed through long straight stretches.
That’s where things really get interesting. The concepts are easy enough to get your head around, and you’ll quickly establish enough of a grasp on how Yoshi/Poochy work that you can clear through levels simply enough. There are tons of additional collectibles though and there’ always right there in your eye-line. Rarely do you have to go well out of your way to find something, it’s generally easy enough to find and is more about finding out how to get to it with your collection of abilities.
As mentioned, briefly, there are multiple game difficulties which you can switch on the fly. The standard “normal” mode is exactly what you would expect, where you’re given a few chances to get through the level and have a standard “health” bar that’ll expire if you take too many hits/falls in sequence. Of course, falling into a pit can be an instant restart too; bumping you back to the previous checkpoint. However, if you find it all a little overwhelming, or if you’re passing the game off to a younger child to enjoy, there’s the option to set the difficulty down a notch at the bottom of the touch screen. This effectively makes the game a more passive and straight-forwards experience, ridding you of the difficulty spikes due to limited health etc.
The two difficulties being right there makes it seem like Poochy and Yoshi are almost two games rolled into one. The “easy” difficulty feels a little more like I would expect from the franchise; Yoshi’s story has always been almost mind-numbingly dull for adult gamers. The normal difficulty feels more like any other Nintendo platformer though and gives Yoshi and Poochy a chance to stand on their own as a serious platformer gamer that gamers of any age would be able to enjoy.
Speaking of Poochy, there are two ways he comes into play in the game: He has his own levels that you can play through with him exclusively. These play out a little like the recently released Mario Run title on Mobile in that he’s constantly running forwards and then you simply use the jump command to help him either avoid obstacles or reach collectible items. In that way, his levels can be a little more straight-forward than Yoshi’s but as you progress you’ll soon learn that there are optimal paths to take in each of his levels in order to earn the most collectibles and achieve new rewards.
The second way he’s utilized in the game is a sort of side-kick character to Yoshi. Once you unlock the ability to have him join Yoshi in the main-game sections he’ll follow you along and help you complete your goals; generally making it a lot easier to avoid deadly falls, lava pits, and get to higher heights.
In this way, for both Poochy and Yoshi, the game can change dramatically if you spend the time clearing their levels with the idea of collecting everything. Not only does each of the Yoshi levels provide you an option to collect spools of yarn that then weave into new “skins” for additional Yoshi variants, but both Poochy and Yoshi levels can help you unlock new “badges” that add optional (purchased) abilities that you can use for the duration of one level in-game. In an example, Poochy is one of these purchased abilities, paying 500 of the in-game currency allows you to take Poochy with you. He’ll pick up collectibles and bring them to you, act as an additional platform to jump off, and can generally walk across surfaces that Yoshi can’t (like spike pits or lava pools) helping you reach new sections of the game you might not have been able to get to on your own.
There are tons of other abilities you can get as well, like enabling an option to make sure all the yawn-balls you collect (this game’s version of the egg throw) a larger size, meaning that they can strike through multiple items/enemies allowing you to chain hits and trigger multiple items through the world or tie-up multiple baddies at once.
Of course, it’d be impossible to talk about a title called “Wooly World” without talking about how adorable the character and world designs in the game are. Following in the tradition established by Kirby’s Epic Yarn, everything in Poochy and Yoshi’s Wooly World is made from soft-looking wool. This concept extends from the characters themselves, stitched out the super soft-looking material and to the world itself. Like the design of Kirby before, this also shapes how your characters can morph, change, and interact with the world around them. In an example, all the enemies are wool.
When Yoshi consumes them, instead of digesting and turning them into eggs, he simplifies them and turns them into balls of yarn which become projectiles to interact with both the stage and other enemies. You can also take advantage of the wool-designed world to do things like compress pieces of the stage, remove the stitching and open new areas, or even move/remove things like fire by consuming the wool used to make whatever pieces you want to reshape along your way.
Poochy and Yoshi’s Wooly World serves as a new installment in two franchises as far as I’m concerned. With the accessibility of the “easy” mode in the game, it’s a proper follow-up for young fans of Yoshi and the Yoshi Story franchise. You can play and breeze through if you’re not a traditional “hardcore” gamer or have this as an offering to a young friend/child. It also serves as a proper platformer for the older gaming crowd if you’re playing in the default, “normal,” setting something more like a classic Mario game but with Yoshi and Poochy serving as the stars instead of the aforementioned Mario Bros.
It’s a solid platformer/adventure game that gets to work for all ages due to the ability to switch between the two modes/difficulty settings.
Review is based on a retail version for Nintendo 3DS, provided by the Publisher.
Release Date: February 3rd, 2017