This week, Yahtzee reviews Yoshi's Crafted World.
Did you know that the Wii U is remembered by history as a failure? I mean, unless you want to call Wikipedia a liar. There it is, right under the Vectrex and the Virtual Boy on the list of commercial flops. I was a little surprised! I mean, I know the Wii U was a giant, awkward Etch A Sketch that couldn't leave the room or fit into a purse but nonetheless dreamed of being a handheld the way a giant panda dreams of learning to tap dance, and I know there was that whole incident where Satoru Iwata had to dock his own pay and chop off a finger in front of the shareholders, but it's rare for me to feel so completely vindicated by hindsight. The console that brought us Devil's Third, a failure? Surely not!
While far too fucking late as it may be to suggest improvements - like, for example, a controller that didn't feel like holding three classic Game Boys Scotch Taped together - maybe the problem was that it didn't have enough Yoshi's Island sequels that looked like they were made from the contents of your grandma's biscuit tin. Hopefully, now the Switch can pick up where the Wii U left off with Yoshi's Crafted World, which isn't the greatest title in the world, lacking the alliteration of "Yoshi's Woolly World"; "Yoshi's Crafted World" just sounds like the name of a TV show that goes out at about 3 PM on BBC Two, designed to distract retirees from setting fire to themselves for another half-hour. And it doesn't even entirely commit to the "crafting" aesthetic; I spotted at least one slime monster. What's that supposed to represent, Nintendo? The moment when your little brother gets bored and pours jam on the crafting project?
Anyway, the Yoshis are on their island and continuing their carefree lives of skipping about, saying "bum" a lot, when Baby Bowser - who seems to be really struggling for things to fill his time with in these days before puberty hits and he takes an interest in date rape - decides to steal their five magical gems, and one of the Yoshis has to go across the world gathering them all up again, because... I don't know, someone wrote all the Netflix passwords on them.
Look, you have to gather the gems because if you didn't, you wouldn't get to play the video game; the plot hardly matters, although someone should've explained that to the cutscene writer. There's altogether too much dialogue for a game where motivation could be just as easily established by having the villain lean into shot, shake their fist for a second, then lean back out of shot. Dialogue scenes that include dialogue choices, of all things; the villains seem weirdly invested in the opinions of a barely-sentient creature that can just about lick things and say "bum", although I suppose that puts them above most alternative comedians.
I must confess, listeners, that I'm a little bit biased against Yoshi's Island and its present-day derivatives; of all the chapters of what we might as well call the "Original Mario Canon", I like Yoshi's Island the least, not just because listening to Baby Mario cry made me want to vaccinate him against continuing to be alive, not just because of the questionable way in which Yoshi would swallow enemies and then poo them out of his implied cloaca, not even because the aiming controls were shit (and still are shit, despite them no longer having the excuse that the controller isn't full of unused buttons and analog sticks all hankering to muck in like a bunch of guilt-stricken white people at an African house-building project). No, the main reason Yoshi's Island sits poorly with me is that it introduced to a hitherto-perfectly straightforward series of platformers the idea that there can be degrees of success.
See, in Mario World, you can crawl across the finish line as tiny Mario with shards of tortoise shell lodged in your face, or you can break the tape with the tip of your giant powered-up stiffy, and either counts equally as a win; you can find your own level of success. But Yoshi's Island doesn't tick the level off as "properly" done until you find all the invisible secret places and end it with full health, and thus began video gaming's dark history of exploiting the "obsessive instinct", something that set the path that led us all the way to our current apocalyptic age of live service loot box laboring; all it took was for one cunt to realize that that sense of fulfillment one gets from the "Level 100% Completed" jingle is something people might conceivably pay extra for, a cunt who will one day be remembered alongside the dude who fucked the monkey that gave us AIDS. "Mummy, can I watch this funny Internet video about my favorite Yoshi game?" "Of course, darling! There's hardly likely to be a reference to the dude that fucked the monkey that gave us AIDS!"
All right, maybe I'm being a touch hysterical about the game about the silly dinosaur that goes "bum"; I just miss the times when you could be "done" with a game. In Crafted World, you're not even done after you 100% the level, 'cos then you've got to go back to find three hidden puppies and do the scavenger hunts and--fuck me! Baby Bowser's probably going to have the five magic gems threaded onto his anal beads by the time we're done with all this! And of course, even more levels unlock after you beat the inaccurately-titled "Final Boss", where the difficulty rather suddenly lurches upwards like an uptight middle-aged woman being tased. Still, probably shouldn't complain about extra gameplay.
Speaking of loot boxes, Crafted World has a sort of plastic Fisher-Price version so the kiddies can cram it full of fake money for random rewards and pretend they're making themselves financially insolvent for real, just like Mummy and Daddy. Lacking any other use for all the coins you pick up, Nintendo having finally given in and tearfully pressed the pillow down upon the face of "lives" systems some years ago, you instead load them into a toy capsule machine and get random costumes for fun dress-ups, except not for fun dress-ups, because they have a gameplay effect; the super-rare costumes let you tank a frankly insane five additional hits before you start losing health, so why the fuck would you wear anything else?
All aesthetic preference is out the window; maybe you think the bottle cap costume is a sportier little number, but when there's both survival and the extra flower for beating the level at full health at stake, I'll dress up like a fucking cowpat for five free hits. The costume falls off if you use up the free hits, but you don't "lose" it; the game just forces you through the rigmarole of going back to the costume menu between levels to put it back on, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's trying to indirectly teach children the important lesson that should, for any reason, your pants fall off, you should address the matter before continuing with the day's business.
Yoshi's Crafty Wank is soured for me by the little frustrations, but a lot of that comes from my own obsessive standards; I hate how you can't retry a failed timed challenge without restarting the whole vulva-splicing level, and then the obvious gap on the summary screen at the end is a dark, sucking anus in the chorus line of my life. If you just want something to distract your little minges for an afternoon, it'll probably do the job; just make sure they take the right lessons from it, not the one about how the best way to claim something you want is to throw something at it that came out of your arse.
- Stop Having Fun Guys: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- The Yoshis are one of the few species that can still successfully reproduce after swallowing
- Always write your Netflix passwords on your less valuable furniture
Extra: Differently Morphous Edit
My fourth novel, Differently Morphous, is finally available in print and e-book editions! Check in with your local bookseller! They'll probably appreciate it; they tend to be lonely people.