Yoshi’s Crafted World review – Making Magic

Yoshi’s Crafted World is delightful. The Yoshi games have long been the more whimsical counterpart to Mario Bros.’ antics, and Crafted World takes that idea to its zenith with a world that looks like one very ambitious arts and crafts project: folded paper and repurposed rubbish are the stars here, and they perfectly capture the playful nature of the game.

Rolling green hills—a common motif in the early parts of any Yoshi game—are this time made up of coiled construction paper. Clouds, roughly cut from cardboard and hung from an invisible ceiling decorate the sky; throw an egg at one, and it’ll soon around, revealing the unpainted other side and sellotape that keeps the clouds clinging to the string that holds it afloat.

In lieu of aquatic visual effects of video games, Yoshi’s Crafted World‘s underwater level is set against a large piece of card that’s painted to look like the depths of the ocean. You’ll spy crabs made from red paper cups stuck with straws for legs, paper cut-out fish swimming about in the ends of pieces of dowel, and corals made from colourful pipe cleaners.

This design sense runs throughout Yoshi’s Crafted World, giving new life to familiar settings like lava-filled caves, haunted mansions, and deserts.

Some levels take that a step further, with elaborate craft contraptions and vehicles offering a break from the usual platforming action. In one such stage, you’ll step into a giant Yoshi-shaped junk robot armed with massive boxing gloves, before punching your way through a stage full of targets in an effort to get the highest score you can. A couple of levels have you riding an empty tin can turned into a train, while you throw eggs at various targets as you pass by. You’ll race a solar-powered go-kart, and fly a plane that is, naturally, made from the empty cardboard tube you find at the centre of a roll of paper towels.

Bosses are the epitome of this sense of craft creativity. From the Tin-Can Condor to Baby Bowser’s own ridiculous junk robot, each boss is a fantastic vision of what a bit of imagination can do with scraps of cardboard and bits of rubbish. Before each fight, you even get to see the craft assemble itself (with the help of some magic from Kamek, Baby Bowser’s evil wizard babysitter), giving you a glimpse of how everything fits together. That’s crucial to selling the vision of a hand-crafted world—everything you see is something that could quite feasibly be made in real life.

That’s one of the things that makes Yoshi’s Crafted World so delightful: it looks and feels like a real-life arts and craft project. People think of “photorealism” as simply striving to make a game’s environments and characters look as lifelike as possible, often for no purpose other than technical achievement and polygon count arms race. But Yoshi’s Crafted World is photorealistic too, just in a different, more deliberate, more effective way: it authentically recreates the textures of different materials to sell its artistic vision.

Yoshi isn’t a lifelike picture of what a Yoshi-like creature would look like in real life; he’s a lifelike picture of a Yoshi plush toy stitched together from felt. The bits and pieces that make up the environment aren’t perfectly rendered biomes with a level of detail that goes right down to the veins in a leaf; they’re rough cut-outs from cardboard and plastic, sometimes adorned with paint and stickers, but with a level of detail and realism in how those materials themselves are rendered.

You see this throughout the whole game, but nowhere is it more clear than on the alternate “flip-side” versions of each level. These flip-sides, unlocked after completing the normal version of a stage, aren’t simply a mirror image of the originals; rather, they put the camera on the other stage, giving you a sort of behind-the-scenes look at the pieces that make it up.

Where the front of a stage might have platforms made from cereal boxes that had been painted or papered over, the flip-side shows you the “hidden” view, complete with fictional brand logos. You see the bits of tape holding crafts together and the various objects used to prop things up. Every now and then, you’ll see a pair of scissors or bottle of glue in what is, in the flip-sides, the distant background—a space hidden from the perspective of the regular stages.

The truth of the sort of craft projects that Yoshi’s Crafted World emulates is that unless you’re especially practised and meticulous, they’re messy and imprecise. That’s part of their charm. In going beyond just a pseudo cardboard aesthetic to actually capturing that messiness, Crafted World banks on that playful attitude.

The final piece of the puzzle is the relaxed style of play. For the most part, Yoshi’s Crafted World is a classic platformer—jump over gaps, solve simple puzzles, headstomp enemies, find myriad collectibles—but with a deliberate move to pose little challenge. There are no time limits, life counts, pixel-perfect jumps to worry about, and Yoshi has enough health to weather more than a few accidental run-ins with his felted foes. Even falling into a hole doesn’t come with the usual instant death; instead, you just take a minor knock to your health bar and respawn a few feet back from the hole. The optional “Mellow Mode” takes that even further, by allowing Yoshi to fly (though not any higher than he’d normally be able to jump) and making him take even less damage than usual.

Some may scoff at how easy Yoshi’s Crafted World is, especially compared to the surprisingly punishing early games in the series, but it works. The point here isn’t to overcome difficult challenges or test your platforming precision; it’s to stop and take in the sights as you leisurely make your way through the game, with the light platforming and simple puzzles simply being a way of interacting with this adorable world. That said, there are some optional challenges for those who want them: a handful of more trying levels unlock after completing the main game, and finding all the different collectibles takes some effort.

Whether you care about gathering every last smiley flower or just want to come along for a whimsical ride with one of Nintendo’s cutest characters, Yoshi’s Crafted World has plenty to offer. It’s a world of craft paper and old rubbish given new life through imagination and playful energy, and that just feels like the perfect fit for a Yoshi game. Simply put, Yoshi’s Crafted World is delightful.

Matthew Codd

Matthew is a writer based in Wellington. He loves all things pop culture, and is fascinated by its place in history and the wider social context.