I have a tendency to overindulge. So, when I’m in a new place, I’d rather eat at 20 exciting restaurants in four days than do anything touristy; sue me! But after a straight week of doing my best Kirby impression and inhaling every dumpling, taco, and bowl of noodles that dare to cross my path, I always get home and feel just straight-up awful. And when that happens, there is nothing that makes me feel better than something simple but deeply satisfying — a bowl of pasta and butter, some roast chicken and mashed potatoes, or maybe a scoop of Phish Food from Ben and Jerry’s. I share this long-winded anecdote for, I promise, good reason: This is exactly what it feels like to play Yoshi’s Crafted World.
Is it the most dynamic game of all time? No. Is it going to give you 100 billion hours of brain-exploding gameplay? Most likely not. But is it the perfect little electronic bowl of buttered noodles? A pleasant and harmless break from the seemingly endless “game most likely to make you throw your entire television set out the window” competition happening all over the industry? Oh yeah; it’s that for sure.
Yoshi’s Crafted World ($59.99) is the eighth — can you believe?! — standalone Yoshi game to emerge from the game pits of Nintendo, and the first for the Switch. In the game, you control everyone’s favorite green dinosaur as he travels across a taped-together, papier-mache world, trying to take back the dream gems that have been scattered to the winds by Baby Bowser. Whoever assembles all the dream gems back together and places them in Yoshi Island’s Sundream Stone can have their dreams come true. It’s essentially Nintendo: Infinity War. Don’t question; just trust me on this.
The story mode is straightforward, short, and does not demand much emotional investment or mental energy. Truthfully, you don’t have to do much worrying about the plot; it’s not a game that’s going to tax you with complex, multi-tiered storylines or fractured endings that require you to replay the game slightly differently over and over again. To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with these kinds of games; they’re the backbone of the single-player industry, and I’ll happily play them six days a week. But this is the seventh day! God rested — why not you? This is your cheat game! Kick back! Have a vanilla coke!
The real joy of Yoshi’s Crafted World is in the experience; similar to Yoshi’s Woolly World before it, it’s an eye-popping, visual wonderland whose purposeful simplicity belies a ton of care and imagination that has gone into its designs. As the title would suggest, the design centers around a very DIY aesthetic — the world is held together by tape and papier-mache and populated by pop-up enemies and easily topple-able cardboard structures. You can use in-game currency to buy different boxy costumes to slip Yoshi into, and one particularly inspired segment of the game has Yoshi controlling a Power Rangers-esque giant robot as they smash their way through a level.
Playing the game, it’s immediately apparent why it might appeal to someone younger: It’s bright and colorful, it’s easily accessible, it’s quick and well-paced enough to hold your attention without straining it. But — and this has been Nintendo’s greatest, most-impossible-to-reproduce trick for years — it’s just as fun for adults as it is for kids. I was thoroughly caught up in the deceptively deep controls. Running around a map hard-chucking eggs at Shy-Guys who are hiding behind cut-out cows on a faraway cliff is a joy that, luckily, is not gated with an age limit. And for those greedy people who are looking for the best of both worlds, there is a two-player mode, so you can hop on with whatever pipsqueak or squirt is most important in your life.
While the game is not a multi-day slogstravaganza, there is a fair amount of level completion and collection that will keep your friendly neighborhood perfectionist, if not busy, at least sated. Each level has collectible milestones throughout that you find in secret passageways or difficult jumps and challenges. And, in an inspired design choice, each level can be played “backward” after completing it — exposing the unfinished cardboard and taped-together scaffolding holding up each level’s components. These secret replay levels are speed challenges, but I found myself playing some of them through multiple times even after completing them just to experience the thrill of a world totally turned on its head. It didn’t get old.
Unfortunately, I can’t quite say the same about the game as a whole. The game is quick enough to almost fend off any impending sense of exhaustion, but the lack of truly variant worldbuilding coupled with the most linear progress of the plotline means it does begin to wear slightly thin. Nintendo’s great strength is its devotion to its core franchises, but the other side of that coin is that, at times, the more auxiliary franchises get pushed slightly to the wayside. Yoshi has by no means been forgotten — eight games, people! But when you see the care and worldbuilding that goes into, say, Super Mario Odyssey, you can’t help but think, in the back of your mind, “How big could they go with Yoshi?” This game is great, but that question still persists.
Look, we are always on the lookout for the Next Big Game. I have so many Next Big Games on my shelf that I have played for eight hours and then gone, “Wow, this game is So Big!” and then immediately never touched again, scared away by the immensity of the task at hand. That’s why a game like Yoshi’s Crafted World is so nice. It feels weightless to play, and even though it might not blow your mind, it will calm you down after a hard day of whatever the heck you might be going through. It might not be a 40 course $400 tasting menu, but it’s some darn good buttered noodles. And isn’t that enough?