It’s hard to come up with an introduction to Yoshi’s Woolly World that isn’t just the words ‘cute’ and ‘adorable’ typed over and over again in caps. It’s irresistible. The colour! The yarn! The Poochy pups... In a desperate attempt to de-cutify proceedings, I carefully spray-painted every knitted inch of customisable Yoshi black (well, a really dark grey), to try and bring some darkness to this technicolour extravaganza. Of course it didn’t work. Somehow Yoshi looked even more touchable and adorable than ever before, like a tiny hand-stitched bat that just wanted love. Not only that, but the egg he springs out of into each level actually changed colour to match in some kind of insane double charm offensive. Urgh.
Poochy and Yoshi’s Woolly World is a 3DS re-release of the Wii U original with some cute bonus extras layered on top like hand-stitched sprinkles. If you’ve already played on console, the majority of the main game is exactly the same. There’s still six adorable - and huge - side-scrolling worlds to explore, Yoshi still eats enemies and excretes them as tiny bouncing balls of yarn to be used as projectiles - more on that in a bit - and, once again, there are more collectibles than you can shake a knitting needle at.
Poochy the stitched d’awwwwg’s promotion to titular hero is all down to a selection of fun infinite runner levels where you collect beads to spend in the main game. With multiple objectives for each unlockable level, it’s a lot more handheld focussed and more like a glossy Nintendo-made Alto’s Adventure or Tiny Wings as you pop all the balloons in one run, or catch all the falling beads. The beads themselves come in handy as currency for buying powerup badges before you go into each Yoshi level. Want unlimited watermelon to spit at enemies or giant yarn balls following you? A few runs through Poochy levels in the, errr, Poochy Hut should sort you out. It’s a nice addition and as someone who never played the original game, makes a pleasant bonus to the substantial main campaign offering. It’s a rare example of something truly new - if you’ve played the Wii U version, there isn’t too much here that you haven’t squee-d over before.
But for those just starting out in Yoshi’s Woolly World, welcome to some genuinely happy making and inventive platforming. The green - well, grey in my case - dinosaur joyously skips through a plethora of handsewn worlds, each carefully crafted around the woolly theme. They’re all standard Nintendo tropes - desert, haunted house, watery tropical paradise - but Piranha plants can be tied up with yarn, enemies wander with needles and scissors, flames are tiny flickering strings. Everything has been painstakingly sewn together to create a beautifully touchable world full of tiny extras to make you smile. Yank on a tied bow with Yoshi’s tongue and you’ll unravel new parts of levels. At one stage I pulled on one of these and instead of revealing something there and then, the bow fluttered into the air like a butterfly and led me to a new hidden location. See what I mean? Sickeningly charming.
And there’s just enough to mix things up too. While there’s, of course, the now rote Nintendo-style boss and mini boss for each world (seriously, bored now) there’s also charming mini games between levels. Here Yoshi transforms into an umbrella or becomes Godzilla-sized and there's sections where he’ll learn to breathe fire, or turn into a motorbike.
During regular play Yoshi's enemy eating and yarn excretion stays satisfying throughout. Grab a patrolling foe with your tongue with a satisfying ‘glub’ and you can either hold it in your mouth and spit it out immediately as yarn or, with a quick press of down, he’ll poo it out as a sentient ball of wool that bounces along behind him. You can then use it to aim and shoot at enemies or even fill in empty platforms. Add in the fact that you can have up to six of these little stringy pets following in your wake, just waiting to be used as projectiles, and the result is a delightfully ridiculous follow the leader of bouncing yarn leaping across the screen. Yes, adora-ball.
So far, so charming but that doesn’t mean Yoshi’s Woolly World is particularly easy. Some platforming challenges get especially tricky and even with Yoshi’s extra panicked flutter to reach ledges, things can get a little frustrating. This is largely down to some frankly dire checkpoint positioning that’ll toss you miles back from the most deadly traps. Even wool can lose its charm eventually as you land on spikes for the sixth time and are sent back to find all the collectibles you’d painstakingly uncovered. At one stage I was even tempted to run on ‘mellow mode’, available at the bottom of the screen at any time, to give Yoshi permanent wings and a constant supply of Poochy pups to use as wooly bullets (woolets?).
Then there’s the not-so-small matter of collectibles. Each level is positively drowning in things. Five balls of Wonder Wool hide in each level, Smiley Flowers lurk out of sight and there are no less than 20 Stamp Patches per level hiding in various beads. Collector’s beware, you’re going to be here a long time and it’s almost overwhelming. If you want to up the difficulty though, this is where you’ll find Yoshi’s biggest challenges as you reach impossible ledges with perfect mid-flight firing of wool balls to fill in platforms or flutter just long enough to reach perilous ledges that can only be stood on once. It’s worth noting that this is where the Poochy pups come in most useful, attaching themselves helpfully to places you’ll find secrets and hidden items.
There’s genuine joy to be found in Yoshi’s Woolly World. Under that charming knitted exterior, there’s an inventively solid platformer that’s bound to melt even the stoniest of hearts. While Wii U players might not have much they haven’t seen before, this wooly dinosaur fits like an adorable knitted glove on 3DS and makes for a perfect pick up and play experience. Knit bad at all.