This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Yoshi's Woolly World.
The continued popularity of Yoshi ever since his, her or its first appearance in Super Mario World provides a lesson for us all: your future is guaranteed if you're willing to let someone important ride you. That particular investment is now paying off with Yoshi's Woolly World, another game to add to Nintendo's growing and still slightly baffling stable of old properties remade in arts and crafts materials. One wonders as to the point; perhaps Nintendo finds some catharsis in retreading its history in a manner that can be easily set on fire.
In this case, I suspect that it's partly because making Yoshi out of inorganic matter cunningly skirts around a couple of lingering awkward questions surrounding the character, such as, "are we literally consuming our enemies and then either converting them into our unborn children or pooing them out as hardened egg-shaped shits?", both of which are equally fucked up in their own way, whereas now we can say, "It's alright, everything's made out of knitted wool. You're just unraveling enemies and turning them into yarn balls! Through your butthole!"
As the game opens, all the happy little Yoshis, most of whom seem to have really gotten into the body-modding scene, are living an idyllic life of hopping up and down and making noises like guinea pigs being trodden on, when the minions of Bowser show up and kidnap most of them, presumably to shut them up for five minutes. What few Yoshis remain - is Yoshi the name of the species or of just the green one specifically? What few cartoon Velociraptors remain must then set off to journey across six worlds of eight levels to recover all their lost friends by gathering the five body parts hidden in each level and stitching them back together. Not weird, it's wool, remember? So begins the usual odyssey of forest-desert-ocean-jungle-ice world-fire world-boss-cunt, or more accurately, forest-desert-candy land-jungle-ice world-boss. Fucking Candy World's always messing up the Mario rhythm as well as my diabetes.
I say "Mario", but despite the fact that we're battling Mario's villains and playing as Mario's favorite arse-cushion, Mario himself is in absentia. That's noteworthy, 'cause the first thing you need to know about Yoshi's Worry Wart is that it's probably safe to skip if you've replayed Yoshi's Island at all recently. It'd be little more than a remake if it weren't for the absence of Baby Mario, which was always a curious case study. We have Mario, one of the most beloved characters in popular culture today, and we have babies, which human beings are hardwired to want to protect. And yet somehow the combination of the two elements ended up creating something that inspired most people to fantasize about stamping on the little shit's face until its jaw came off and its perpetual mewling was drowned out by a throat full of blood and bone fragments.
So now you don't get your baby knocked off every time you get hit, nor are you counter-intuitively forced to chase after it rather than gratefully fist-bump the enemy responsible. But all that relieved irritation has to settle somewhere and it may have not been in Yoshi's best interests to ditch the little scrote, 'cause I'm suddenly hyper-aware of all the repeated vocalizations he makes. Going "MMMMMNNUGH!" every time he's aiming to throw an egg is cute, charitably speaking, maybe twice, and then it starts rubbing against the nerves. Sounds like a chipmunk trying to lift a heavy power sander.
And while we're on the subject, I know the egg-aiming controls had to be kind of shitty on the SNES 'cos they didn't have fancy things like analog sticks in that infamous Dark Age of modern history, but not to put too fine a point to it, we do now. Maybe get some use out of your fancy controller rather than map every control onto at least four buttons on the off-chance that the game's being played at the circus and Billy the Lobster Boy wants to have a go.
Anyway, as well as the five Yoshi body parts, each level has five flowers and twenty special gems, and if you miss any of them, then the end of the level will make damn sure that you know it! "No, of course you don't have to laboriously check every inch of the map for secrets. You can still move on to the next level. Also, you don't have to get As at school, do you? D's still a passing grade, there's no difference. And who cares if your mother weeps with shame every day! At least she hasn't killed herself like your dad did, you fucking loser!"
The point is, there's something rather unreasonable about Yoshi's Whirly Wonk's completionist gameplay especially considering that half the secret pick-ups are flat out invisible until you touch them. It's like we cleaned the barracks from top to bottom but we didn't polish the brass unicorn the drill sergeant hid under the floorboards so we're doing fifty press-ups anyway. After a while, most of the now mandatory Miiverse posts that the game flashed up while loading the next level were along the lines of "Help, I can't find Pick-up 17 of 94!" and "Help, my bottom needs wiping and Mother isn't home from work yet!"
In fact, while the levels of World One have no end of the usual "BEST GAME EVARRR"s hanging off them, by the time I was in World Six, the Miiverse posts were getting a bit thin on the ground. Some levels could only populate the loading screens with six copies of the same post or meaningless scribbles someone probably uploaded by mistake while they were trying to chase a naughty kitten off their touch screen, all of which gave me a What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? "Look, they still love me!" kind of vibe. Do you think Miiverse posts will still be going up on these games in twenty years saying things like, "Wow, looking at these old games really puts Nintendo's recent massacre into perspective."
Yoshi's Weary Wank also adds a badge system where you can choose to spend some of your hard-stolen gems to equip a special buff for the upcoming level. So if, for example, I notice that the level was called something like "Hot Times in Fiery Jeff's Lava Bungalow", I'd cunningly equip the immunity-to-fire badge and turn the level into an absolute joke, which has the warp whistle quality in that it feels like a cheat the game gives you and seems an odd addition to a game designed for psychotic completionists. Anyway, it's a pretty vestigial feature, since I didn't use it under any other circumstances, not every one having the courtesy of Fiery Jeff to signpost the hazards.
Nintendo remake their old tat a lot, and as long as they turn a profit, then anything I say is but the tiny guffs of a bluebottle in the face of Christ the Redeemer. But I wonder if they're adopting the right attitude. They should take the opportunity to re-examine their old games and ask questions like, "Do we really need to feel shackled to an aiming reticle that has to wave back and forth like we're disinterestedly sponging down a beached whale?" rather than questions like, "Do you think we could paint Yoshi's knackers purple this time?"
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