I got bored playing Yoshi's Woolly World. That's not something I can remember happening before while playing a Nintendo platformer. While a good chunk of the game's 40+ levels exhibit some of the magic you'd expect in a mainline Nintendo title, far too many feel badly designed, deliberately obtuse, and dull. This is a game in which you play as a dinosaur able to convert enemies into bullets by pooping, set in a world made entirely of wool and related materials, where you can be attacked by a scarf monster. Yet I was yawning.
If you're not familiar with Yoshi games, the basics are that he can hover after jumping, grab enemies with his tongue to fire out or convert into pellets (in this case balls of wool), stomp the ground after jumping, and fire balls of wool in any direction via an on-screen, moving, guide line. Gameplay here is entirely 2D, with Yoshi moving across the screen even if the camera occasionally pans out or moves to a different angle. There are also moments when Yoshi can pass through doors to navigate on the flip side of the environment, often tied to some basic puzzles.
In each stage the only essential task is to reach the end, but there are flowers to collect, packets of wool to find, health hearts to round up and gems to acquire. For the most part the challenge is fairly lightweight, even in the game's later levels, but certain annoyances mean it's easy to get frustrated. Take for instance a bizarre reliance on hidden areas or clouds that must be discovered in order to progress, frequently with no suggestion as to where they might be. Or the large gaps between checkpoints, forcing you to replay uninspired sequences again and again as you die due to being given extremely poor directions. Before too long I had all but given up on collecting anything, instead simply trying to reach each stage's conclusion.
I struggled to play Yoshi's Woolly World for more than a couple of stages at a time, my heart saying I should be enjoying the world and inventive art design, but my head saying the often plodding gameplay was dull and the ideas lacking. But then there would be a cracker of a stage, often involving a special pick-up or simply a unique design for Yoshi himself, such as a submarine or aircraft. The fun levels allow you to move at speed and are so much more entertaining than the rest, making me question how so many ended up being as dull as they are.
Mechanically it's all as tight as you would expect from a Nintendo platformer, but if you happen to find the jumping too taxing you can opt to give Yoshi wings that let him fly across (although not up) stages, essentially removing much of the mild challenge the game presents. No doubt designed to be used by more novice players, it might come in handy if you choose to play two-player. Also available to assist are badges, serving as perks that give you access to a variety of upgrades such as unlimited watermelon pellets or immunity to fire. I didn't feel the need to spend my gems on these, but when the game offered me free trials I didn't turn down the generous offer.
Boss fights sadly fall into the same category as many stages: dull. Two crop up in each world, but despite each being based on a different creature you've encountered previously, they all sort of blend into each other like a blanket crocheted out of 10 different shades of blue. It looks nice but a bit more colour would have been appreciated.
Speaking of looks, there's no denying Yoshi's Woolly World is striking in appearance, but again, some levels work better than others. At its best it's as if you're in a jungle or ice cavern knitted entirely from wool, but at other times it all feels a bit botched together, resembling discarded LittleBigPlanet levels. Iffy texture work here and there and some unexpected frame rate stumbling doesn't help, making for some roughness I wasn't expecting.
Nothing sums Yoshi's Woolly World up more adequately than the game's amiibo functionality, which can be described as seemingly substantial but ultimately a bit of a waste of time. Place an amiibo on your Wii U GamePad and Yoshi will transform into the colours of that character. I tried a couple of new character skins for Yoshi and then lost interest.
Excellent occasionally, good in parts and downright dull in others, Yoshi's Woolly World is a disappointment. On the face of it it's everything I expected from a Nintendo game: charming, colourful, fun, and technically on point. This, sadly, is only part of the story, with Yoshi's Wii U adventure unable to come close to Nintendo's usual brilliance.