Today, Nintendo added saccharine platformer Yoshi's Woolly World to its already plush 3DS lineup. In case you hadn't heard, this time, it has puppies.
Poochy and Yoshi's Woolly World
Poochy and Yoshi's Woolly World is fucked-up cute. I don't even like dogs, but the Poochy Pups slay me. That said, they're not just in the game to melt cat-lovers' frosty hearts — they're your canine assistants throughout the game's "Mellow Mode". And, in that capacity, they hurt a little more than they help.
Released mid-2015, the Wii U's Yoshi's Woolly World fits like a knit cosy atop the time-tried platform formulae Nintendo has mastered for handheld consoles. Despite its appearance, Yoshi's Woolly World pulled no punches. It rewarded good resource management, quick reflexes and a completionist mindset. If you didn't have all three, you'd fail at some of the game's most basic objectives.
Playing on the 3DS, I wondered why the game was even released first on the Wii U. The immediacy of your inputs on a handheld's screen brings a kind of tension I want in platformers. For me, Yoshi's Woolly World works better when the game's display is attached to my controller. Unfortunately, on handheld, the game's knitted and crocheted fabrics aren't as impressive. On the Wii U, I could see every knot finalising a stitch and even the little fuzzy fibres on top of them.
It's hard not to call Poochy and Yoshi's Woolly World a re-release. Essentially, it is. There are a few new features like the "Poochy Hut's" infinite runner bonus stages, where you can collect beads. Those can be traded in for power-ups in the main game. It's mildly rewarding in the same way Miitomo is: Doing nothing really, but still accumulating pretty little prizes paired with reward sounds scientifically-engineered to make me feel awesome.
The Poochy Pups' true purpose in Poochy and Yoshi's Woolly World are as thinking bumpers. Yes, like the kind children use when they bowl. In "Mellow Mode", you can opt into pup support. Throughout each level, three Poochy Pups on your tail will "Help you find secrets, act as your yarn balls, and help you breeze through courses," the game explains.
Basically, you have an infinite supply of yarn-pups you can toss at enemies, platforms that need to be knit-up or any other object. Also, if there's a string you'd pull to access a zone, a Poochy Pup will glom onto it. If there's a hidden area inside a yarn wall, a Poochy Pup will enter it and start barking.
The pups actually neuter (ha ha) what I liked about Yoshi's Woolly World for the Wii U. Despite its sugar sweetness, that game was not messing around. Its boss fights were tough and its level design was, at points, punishing. There, I played a lot of "Mellow Mode", which gave Yoshi wings so he could float over pits and other dangers. But I still had to get yarn balls from baskets or by farting out enemies. And I still had to plan ahead, managing them for future challenges. Hidden zones were still tough to suss out and, often, I found myself running into random walls to investigate. In fact, in Yoshi's Woolly World, it's difficult to get all of the secret items and objectives done on the first play-through.
Essentially, Yoshi's Woolly World's "Mellow Mode" still required quite a few gears turning in your head to get the job done.
There's no problem with taking it easy. And, in Poochy and Yoshi's Woolly World's "Mellow Mode", you still have wings. But right when you enter a new zone and begin to fathom what's ahead, a Poochy Pup will break off, attach themselves to a loose string and bark. It isn't annoying, but it can kill your flow. It's a little mindless. I liked the Wii U version's contrast between stupid adorable aesthetics and hardcore level design.
Also, in this Poochy-rich "Mellow Mode", there are sad, empty yarn baskets scattered across stages. The mechanics to get you to them are still in place, though. I've excitedly ridden a monster to the top of a level only to meet a barren yarn basket. In the original, the colourful little yarn balls pouring out of baskets made the game feel more bountiful, if possible, and lush. Without that, the new "Mellow Mode" is missing out on one of the original's greatest joys.
It's arguable that a good "Mellow Mode" will let players know they're missing out on the game's real fun. But if Poochy and Yoshi's Woolly World's new, daily stop-animation Poochy movies are a clue, maybe the 3DS port's target audience is a significantly lower than the Wii U version's. In the first short, Yoshi throws yarn balls for Poochy in the hope he'll play fetch. At the end, I was quizzed on whether Yoshi used one hand, two or his feet to throw the ball. Then, a prize!
Don't get me wrong — I love this port. It's relaxing to play before I went to bed. Its stage design absolutely thrives on a handheld. The "Poochy Theatre" is like a watching a mini Pixar short. I'll even admit the dogs are cute. The only thing is that, well, the 3DS port's "Mellow Mode" is, perhaps, just too mellow.