Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World
Nintendo might insist Switch isn’t a replacement for 3DS, but at first glance Poochy & Yoshi’s Woolly World seems like the sort of game that would only be released on hardware in its twilight. Then again, in a few months Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D will be four years old. Consider Super Mario Maker, too – not just a way to squeeze more from existing assets, but an opportunity to reach a wider audience than it ever could on a languishing home console. This sits somewhere between those two: it’s a little more than a compromised port, though its extra features are unlikely to make Wii U owners feel like they’re missing out.
The inevitable visual downgrade has a less debilitating effect than you might expect. The original may have been sold on its handcrafted aesthetic, but Good-Feel has retained much of the tactile pleasure of your interactions with it, whether it be tying up or unravelling enemies or pushing against soft walls and watching them wrinkle as they reveal a cache of hidden gems. Yes, some of the subtler details are absent – the lighting is markedly flatter, for starters – but the 3D effect helps with the illusion of solidity.
It also shifts the focus towards the game itself. The level design is more diverse than we remember: a pleasant side effect, perhaps, of being less distracted by the superficial sameyness. One stage, where a wireframe Chain Chomp becomes a woollen wrecking ball, is a minor classic. In the final world, the same idea is cleverly repurposed as deadly Boos become harmless balloons carrying you to higher platforms. Curtains become a mode of transport on one stage, shooting across rails as if tugged by an impatient, invisible hand, as you shimmy up and down to snag collectibles; later, spectral drapes glide by to reveal platforms in silhouette, turning floating wisps into hungry, demonic nasties.
The new material is cute but inessential. Special gems that once yielded Miiverse stamps now unlock patterns with which you can craft your own Yoshi design. Poochy gets a small selection of auto-runner stages that feel like a dry run for a potential iOS spinoff. And three pups give the Mellow difficulty setting even more of a sedate Sunday-afternoon feel, as they provide a source of infinite ammo while binding nearby enemies and highlighting secrets – though their beady eyes make them look more sinister than adorable. It’s still a reminder that Nintendo is too often tethered to its past – in Yoshi’s transformations alone, Good-Feel borrows from its own Kirby’s Epic Yarn as well as New Super Mario Bros – but this cosy, likeable platformer gives 3DS players a superior alternative to Arzest’s insipid New Island.
Maybe it’s simply better suited to a handheld, but the game seems to move at a slightly brisker pace than in its original guise on Wii U. The knockabout co-op mode of the original is missing here, though