Poor old Yoshi perennially overshadowed by Mario. But why has he remained a cult figure rather than an icon? His signature abilities, for example a lizard-like tongue that extends to catch flying objects, plus a penchant for swallowing enemies before regurgitating them as eggs that can be hurled with precision far outshine those of the moustachioed plumber. And the good news is that, in Yoshis Woolly World, he has acquired a starring vehicle which could finally see him join the big-league.
As the name suggests, Yoshis Woolly World appears to be made primarily of wool (with a smattering of other fabrics including felt and leather), as is Yoshi himself. Whats more, he can regurgitate swallowed enemies as balls of wool, which can be hurled with precision at cotton-wool clouds, say, to add crucial elements to the environment or yield vital objects, or thrown at frameworks of platforms or pipes to give them (woolly, natch) form. Yoshi, too, can pull any bows he sees sticking out of the environment, unravelling them to reach new areas, as well as occasionally transforming into, amongst other things, a lobster. Dont get us started on his inimitable jump-and-flutter. The end result may well be pretty familiar side-scrolling platforming, of a type which has been around since the 16-bit days, but as one of the most popular forms of gameplay ever, its a pleasure to see Yoshis Woolly World comfortably elevate it to new heights.
With its all-encompassing tactility (all the materials in the game are exactly as squishable as they would be in real life), and Yoshis little wordless utterances as he shoots out his tongue, jumps or hovers, its simply impossible to overstate how cute Yoshis Woolly World is. Nintendo will struggle to make a more beguiling game, as somehow it makes you want to jump into your TV and squeeze everything you see.
But Nintendo hasnt just gone all-out on the cute front and left it at that. Six worlds with eight levels (and two bosses per world) add up to a properly meaty gameplay experience, which can be shared by two people thanks to drop-in, drop-out co-op (although co-operative players can also hamper each others progress, should they so choose). And a vast store of collectable items (the game encourages you to take as much time as you want) adds plenty of replay value. Each level contains five bundles of wool, usually stashed in fiendishly inaccessible or hidden places, and every time you collect all five, they reconstitute into a Yoshi with a different colour-scheme. There are also five daisies to collect in each level, which bring bonus mini-games, and countless jewels, which operate as in-game currency they can be cashed in for Power Badges which, for example, make Yoshi resistant to fire and lava, or give him an unlimited supply of watermelons, whose seeds he can fire at enemies and the environment.
Physics comes into play, leading to some wildly inventive sequences Chomps, for example, appear as frameworks, which Yoshi can flesh out with balls of wool, then push downhill so that they flatten incoming enemies, and end up sitting in holes providing access to otherwise unreachable areas. There are also puzzles (often involving finding hidden keys) to solve, and the gameplay avoids repetitiveness in impressive fashion.
Amiibo support is basic but amusing scan an amiibo and Yoshi takes on the colour-scheme of that amiibo character. And it feels a bit churlish to say, but the bosses are a tiny bit disappointing, since they are easier to dispatch than you would expect given the general difficulty of the game, which ramps up satisfyingly in the later worlds. Yoshis Woolly World is one of the most immaculately constructed side-scrolling platform games ever, and one of the most enchanting games ever, full stop. Once again, the unloved Wii U has acquired a top-notch game to bolster an increasingly high-class back catalogue of games which is thoroughly at odds with the consoles lack of popularity. One day, thanks to its games, the Wii U will be revered mark our words.