Mario is the greatest hero in the Mushroom Kingdom, but it wasn’t always like that. Mario wasn’t always the hero we all know and adore today. Before defeating Bowser and saving Princess Peach, he was just a little baby boy lost by a stork on the way to his parents, stranded on Yoshi’s Island. Who knows what might have happened to baby Mario if it hadn’t been for the brave Yoshis?
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island was released in 1995 on the SNES, just one year before Mario jumped into the third dimension in Super Mario 64. It was a very unique game back then, and it is still one of the best 2D platformers ever made. The game had a distinct art style that looked as if it was drawn with crayons. To achieve the unique look of the game, the aging SNES hardware was stretched to its limits. The cartridge included the Super FX2 chip, a more advanced successor of the chip that made the 3D environments and spaceships of Star Fox on SNES possible. This time the chip was tasked with 2D sprite scaling and stretching, instead of rendering 3D objects.
Another thing that made Yoshi’s Island stand out from its contemporaries was the slower gameplay and the focus on exploration. The recipe for success in the early ’90s was clear: just take an animal with an attitude (like a bobcat), give it a name (something cool, like Bubsy), make it uncontrollably fast, and place him in an environment full of unavoidable hazards. What could possibly go wrong? In an age when everything was about Blast Processing, and Genesis Does What Nintendon’t, a game that doesn’t have time limit, cheap deaths and a fast running protagonist was a very unique proposition. Instead of being edgy and cool, Yoshi’s Island was just happy and cute. The original game still holds up really well, as it looks, sounds and plays amazingly well, even by today’s standards, but what about the latest game in the series? Can Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World on the 3DS live up to the high expectations set by a game in 1995?
Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World is actually a port of a game called Yoshi’s Woolly World, which came out originally on the Wii U in 2015. Instead of the crayon drawing style, Nintendo went for a handcrafted look with yarn Yoshis and knitted environments. The game looks absolutely stunning on the Wii U and the level of detail is gorgeous making it is easily one of the best looking games on the system. Nintendo games usually have great soundtracks, and Yoshi’s Woolly World is no exception. The music and the sound effects of the game are just as good as its graphics. Playing the game with a good pair of headphones greatly enhances the experience.
Yoshi’s Woolly World isn’t just a joy to look at and listen to, but it is also fun to play. It retains the slower pace and the focus on exploration from the original, but instead of throwing eggs, Yoshi lobs yarn balls to attack enemies and uncover secrets. Baby Mario is absent this time, probably because of other duties. In Yoshi’s Island and Yoshi’s New Island, baby Mario isn’t just a companion, but also an integral part of the gameplay. When an enemy hits you, baby Mario starts to float in a bubble, and you only have a few precious seconds to save him. If you manage to grab him before the time runs out you won’t lose a life. After catching baby Mario, just wait a few seconds until your timer refills again, and you are all good. This mechanic is replaced by a more traditional health system in Yoshi’s Woolly World. Now when you get hit, you lose some of your hearts. If you lose all your hearts, you will be transferred back to the previous checkpoint. This means that being low on hearts might restrain you from exploration until you get to the next checkpoint or at least find some extra hearts. I feel that the mechanic based on baby Mario encouraged exploration more, as you always had the option to just wait a few seconds to refill the timer, and then continue to search for hidden items.
To make up for the change, Yoshi’s Woolly World gives you even more incentives to explore than its predecessors. The stages are filled with secrets and hidden collectibles, and anywhere you go, you will always find something. This makes the exploration very rewarding. You can collect five Wonder Wools, five Smiley Flowers and twenty Stamp Patches on each stage. Collect all five Wonder Wools on a level, and you will unlock a new Yoshi design unique for that stage. Collect every Smiley Flowers in all levels of a world to unlock a special, more challenging course. The game offers six worlds, each consisting of eight fairly long stages to explore, plus one special unlockable level in each world. With collectibles scattered everywhere, the game offers a very high replay value. You could easily put as many hours into the game as you might in a huge JRPG.
The difficulty level is a bit higher than you might expect from a game that looks this cute and harmless. While not the hardest platformer ever by any means, collecting everything on a later stage can be really hard, and even a simple playthrough could be fairly challenging for younger or less experienced players. Luckily, you can buy various power badges with different capabilities to help you find collectibles and survive the hazards. If this still isn’t enough, the game offers an easier option called Mellow Mode. This allows Yoshi to hover in the air infinitely making the platforming much less dangerous. Other advantages in Mellow Mode are that you start every level with the maximum number of hearts, there is a checkpoint at the beginning of every boss fight, and bosses drop additional hearts every time they get hurt. You can always switch between Classic and Mellow Mode during gameplay.
Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World, the Nintendo 3DS port of Yoshi’s Woolly World, is slightly different, and it offers some unique features compared to the Wii U version. The most obvious difference is in the graphics department. While looking great for a 3DS game, the handheld just can’t match the power and screen estate offered by the home console. This means that the developers had to make some sacrifices. The most obvious one is that the 3DS shows only a smaller portion of the stage on the screen at any given time. As the levels were originally designed for a different display size and resolution, on rare occasions you can’t see where to throw your yarn balls because the target is outside of the screen boundaries. Another slight difference between the two games is in how the environment interacts with Yoshi. In the Wii U version the floor gets pushed down a bit by the weight of your character, but this effect is mostly absent in the 3DS version of the game. While this doesn’t affect the gameplay, and most people who haven’t played the original version will likely never notice it, it makes the environment feel stiff compared to the soft and fuzzy feel of the Wii U title.
To make up for the slight downgrade in the graphics department the 3DS port of the game offers a few exclusive features. The most important is that you can craft your own Yoshi in the game. The editor makes it possible to create your own design, part by part, from head to toe. Another cool feature unique to this version is the Yoshi Theatre, where you can unlock a new short film starring Yoshi and Poochy every day. To unlock a movie, you just have to watch the previous one and answer an easy question at the end of the video. The next video will be available in 24 hours from that moment. So pay attention even to small details while watching the short films! You can unlock 31 videos in total, so this is another reason to revisit the game every day for at least a month. There is also an auto-running minigame called Poochy Hut, where you play as Poochy and you have to jump over and duck under obstacles, collect beads, pop balloons, find your three pups on your way, and reach the end of the level.
There are a few additional differences between the two versions that make the game even easier in Mellow Mode on the 3DS. Enemies deal less damage in this mode, and the three Poochy pups will join you on your journey. They attack your enemies, help you uncover the secrets of the level, and you can throw them towards enemies just like a yarn ball. Warning, do not try this at home! This might work in a video game with woolly pups made of yarn, but throwing real dog puppies towards your enemies is definitely a bad idea, and could seriously harm your pet!
Yoshi’s Woolly World on the Nintendo Wii U and Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World on the Nintendo 3DS are both amazing games. They might not as groundbreaking as Yoshi’s Island was in 1995, but they are just as charming and fun as the original. While both versions of Yoshi’s Woolly World are great in their own right, there is no definitive edition of the game. The Wii U version has the better graphics, but the 3DS port offers some exclusive features and content. Personally, I prefer the look of the original Wii U game to the additional content of the 3DS, but I had just as much fun playing it on the handheld as on the home console. This is a fantastic game, no matter what your platform of choice is. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to head back to my 3DS, because although I have already finished the game, I am not anywhere close to being done with it yet.
Poochy & Yoshi's Woolly World
- Graphics - 8/108/10
- Sound - 9/109/10
- Gameplay - 9/109/10
- Lasting Appeal - 10/1010/10
Final Thoughts: EXCELLENT
Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World on the Nintendo 3DS is an amazing game with unique art style, cute characters, colorful environments, great soundtrack, fun gameplay and lots of hidden collectibles. This game proves that the Nintendo magic still works.