"Children are fascinated by real objects," Andrew Davenport, the creator of Teletubbies and countless other kids' shows, told the Guardian recently. "They will be able to see the weave of the fabric, the joins in the wallpaper, the printing on the wallpaper."
Davenport was talking about his new series, Moon and Me, but he may as well have been extolling the virtues of Nintendo's upcoming Switch platformer, Yoshi's Crafted World, whose environment is made entirely out of real, recognizable materials. Yoshi himself appears to be made out of wool, as he was in Yoshi's Woolly World, while the environment around him is constructed out of paper and cardboard.
As with similar games such as Super Paper Mario or Tearaway, this stylistic choice not only looks great, but also helps the game feel real. In a strange way, you can imagine yourself in there with Yoshi, and it's therefore hard not to smile when he sticks his tongue out and makes that silly little "BLANG" noise.
Crafted World attempts to go one further on this by letting you see the stitching in the facade presented to you: nearly every world is playable in reverse in what are dubbed Flipside levels. Here, you hop, skip, and flutter jump through the same level you just made your way through once again, except on the opposite side of the 2D plane. You're brought behind the seams and underneath the paintwork of the crafted world you just beat.
Everything feels cohesive, and it's easy to marvel at everyday objects as you amble past. A train made out of a Coke can, for example, or a house made out of old cereal boxes. For adults, it takes you back to childhood arts and craft classes; for children, it might reinforce the notion that creating anything is possible with enough hard work and a glue stick.
However, in the three levels we played at a preview event, Yoshi's Crafted World makes less of this opportunity than perhaps it could have done--less than Tearaway did, in any case. Media Molecule's game, of course, had the PS Vita's added inputs to further connect you with its world as you tapped into the screen or punched in from the rear touchpad. However, those inputs were married to some truly inventive platforming. Yoshi’s Crafted World, on the other hand, simplifies its mechanics in favour of--thus far--platforming that's pretty basic. There's some rudimentary puzzle solving, but as yet this amounts to little more than simply collecting different pieces of a required construction, while the Joy-Cons' motion capabilities and the Switch's touchscreen were not utilized in these levels.
Even in the Flipside levels, success appears to be a simple case of retracing your steps and collecting three baby Poochies--adorable, of course, but hardly inventive. Seeing the craft behind the levels at work is genius, but whether that exciting feeling will last the entire game remains to be seen.
Exacerbating the problem is that Yoshi's platforming feels somewhat fiddly. It certainly doesn't feel as natural or as satisfying as Nintendo's pedigree would have you expect, and Yoshi himself feels better and easier to control in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe than he does here in his own game. Crafted World is less demanding than the Mario Bros. series, so its platforming drawbacks are less of an issue; however, it can still be frustrating when you misjudge that gap or accidentally collide with that Shy Guy--especially in co-op, where the addition of another player makes things even more chaotic. Nevertheless, Yoshi's Crafted World does look and, crucially, feel real, as if you're constructing a world of your own, and that's an impressive feat for a game about a tiny green dinosaur who lays eggs at will.
"[For kids,] there's a joy in seeing the messiness," says Davenport. Yoshi's Crafted World might be a little messy, but it's also bursting at the seams with joy.