Ever since his debut in Super Mario World nearly three decades ago, Yoshi has become synonymous with adorable charm. As his early pixelated rendition gave way to more recent, fuzzier adventures, it became increasingly hard to imagine how the green dinosaur could get any cuter — but Yoshi’s Crafted World pulls it off. The new Nintendo Switch adventure thrusts a woolly version of Yoshi into a handmade papercraft world where you can dress him up with a milk carton or a cardboard cow costume. It’s painfully adorable. Platforming games like this are often built around challenges and inventive design, and while Crafted World has some of this, mostly, it’s just a really pleasant place to be.
The game is structured like most Super Mario games, pushing you through a series of short levels across various themed worlds. Yoshi has his usual array of abilities: he can jump, pound the ground, and use his disturbingly long tongue to eat enemies and turn them into throwable eggs. The levels are simple but playful, with a typically leisurely pace. You clear out enemies, navigate environmental puzzles, and collect everything from smiling flowers to hidden souvenirs. Each stage is designed to be replayable, so you can go back later and search for hidden items or earn more coins. Every once in a while, you’ll control a giant Yoshi or race to kill as many moles as possible.
Much like its predecessor, Yoshi’s Woolly World, Yoshi’s Crafted World is a satisfying, if not particularly inventive, take on the Nintendo-style platformer. Don’t go in expecting Super Mario Odyssey-level creativity. But the game makes up for this through sheer charm. Yoshi and the rest of the characters are cuddly stuffed animals, complete with fuzzy exteriors, while the levels you’ll traverse look like they were made by an especially artistic eight-year-old. You’ll ride on trains made of cardboard, slip into discarded milk bottles to find coins, wear dinosaur skulls made out of clay, and use magnets to climb old aluminum cans.
The new Yoshi is far from the first game to utilize this aesthetic, but what sets it apart is the attention to detail. This is a game where texture matters. The rough feel of a piece of construction paper, the brushed metal of an old tin can, or the scribbled coloring of a young child all give the game a real sense of place. Sometimes, you can see the labels on a discarded box of cereal that now serves as a building, and you’ll run past candy wrapper billboards and street signs made of soda bottle caps. There are a few moments where you’re able to run through levels in reverse, so you can see how everything was put together, with the otherwise hidden bits of tape and string now on full display. The details are especially apparent when you play on your television as opposed to handheld mode.
One of the new features in the game is the ability to dress Yoshi in various papercraft costumes. As you earn coins, you can spend them at a capsule toy machine full of eggs that each contains a new look for Yoshi. They are — and I don’t say this lightly — among the cutest things I have seen in my life. In keeping with the game’s theme, they’re all handmade, so you can make Yoshi look like a cardboard cow or have him slip on an old orange juice box or a Labo piano. My favorite is the trash can, with the lid serving as Yoshi’s hat. These costumes aren’t just there to swoon over, either; they provide some very welcome armor, making it easier to take on some of the trickier boss battles.
Really, what Yoshi’s Crafted World does is show the importance of a well-defined world. The game itself is delightful in many respects, unremarkable in others, but greatly enhanced by the detailed space it takes place in. I kept playing because it was fun, yes, but I was more interested in simply seeing more of the clever handcrafted objects that Nintendo’s designers came up with. The hardest part of the game is picking what to wear.
Yoshi’s Crafted World launches on March 29th on the Nintendo Switch.