Gentle and generous, Good-Feel delivers its best game yet in this imaginative and breezy platformer.
The key word here, really, is craft. It's there, first of all, in the aesthetics of this, Good-Feel's second outing with Yoshi (or third if you want to be really picky and include the 3DS offshoot with Poochy). This a world of lollipop sticks and sticky-back plastic, where discarded cereal boxes stand in for rolling mountains and cardboard clouds are suspended on lengths of string; a world where Shy Guys blow into straws to keep ping pong balls afloat so that you can skip along them to your goal.
It's there, embedded a little deeper, in what's a meticulously engineered side-scrolling platformer - perhaps the best to have come from Nintendo since 2012's Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. It's certainly Good-Feel's finest creation yet, a world away from the slightly stale Yoshi's Wooly World, a game that ended up feeling as stuffy and insubstantial as a dusty cotton ball. Crafted World, meanwhile, feels fresh and full of ideas, its levels happily rifling through quick sketches and one-shot concepts before it moves briskly onto the next.
Yoshi's Crafted World's best trick is getting to the essence of what made the original Yoshi's Island so beloved. Somewhat incredibly, it feels like the first Yoshi game in nearly a quarter of a century and over five follow-ups that really understands what made the original sing, and it's then bold enough to place its own spin. Yoshi's Island was always a brilliantly tangible, physical game, brought alive by its tactile surfaces - the chalklines, the paper and the clay - and this time out Good-Feel have simply taken to another corner of the stationery cupboard, pulling out cardboard, string and fizzy pop straws to create its own colourful dioramas.
It's a more cohesive, coherent aesthetic than the half-hearted Wooly World, or even of that game's superior predecessor Kirby's Epic Yarn. These worlds feel like they've been constructed over long summer afternoons on living room floors or stretched out across garden patios, with a human touch - and a dash of tilt shift focus - making them feel oh so real. Maybe it's the influence of that corner of Nintendo's Kyoto headquarters that's busying itself with cardboard wonders as it conjures up new Labo creations, as Yoshi's Crafted World displays a mastery of its simulated materials.
And so it presents a world that demands to be played with and poked at, as is underlined by one of the few tweaks to Yoshi's established moveset. You can now aim your eggs at objects in the foreground and in the far distance, bulls-eyeing cut-out clouds or shy-guys peering out from behind the scenery. In another neat trick, levels each have flipsides available once you've completed them, where you track down three poochies while the sellotape, blu-tack and string that holds up the level's primary form is all exposed.
It's a world that invites languid, inquisitive exploration - there are no time limits here, other than in those flipped levels - and each element pulls towards that more laid-back vibe. Yoshi has chilled with age, settling into the stoner rhythm of stablemate Kirby in games that don't really offer any challenge but go out of their way to reward the curious. The challenge here is softer than ever before, but on the flip side the collectibles are more numerous, and often more ingenious
Yoshi himself is a sedate avatar, lacking the agility or momentum of Mario - he appears to have slowed even more since his last outing - but that's almost beside the point. He's there to flutter softly through levels, popping enemies in his mouth before spitting them out in a neat succession of experiments and illustrations of cause and effect. Jump on a foot pump and it'll blast air into an inflatable cat that will scare down the mice in the rafters that are hoarding the key that you need; fire an egg at a boulder in the distance and it'll roll down the hill and clear the landslide that's in your path; stomp a flower encased in ice down into the cold waters below and it'll float across to the monkey waiting by a fishing hole with a rod just down the way who'll then pass it up by way of thanks. This is a video game designed to idly wander through rather than butt up against, and it's all the more glorious for it.
It's not perfect, of course. There's not the jolt of the new that the original Yoshi's Island had, and even if Crafted World is less reliant on old ideas as its immediate predecessor there's no escaping the fact it's riffing off something very familiar. Around the edges there's the kind of flab and excess that wouldn't blight a true classic - Crafted World's eagerness to fill its world with collectibles can go a little too far with the 300 odd crafts and costumes available in gacha machines that pepper the overworld map, and even though there's no real world money involved it's jarring to play a Yoshi game which has folded in the loot box's close relative. The soundtrack, too, is twee to the point of being syrupy, a sweet dirge that grates all too quickly.
Still, that doesn't hold back Yoshi's Crafted World from being a fine achievement. It's a scrolling platformer with an abundance of style and imagination, and a pleasingly laid-back adventure with an ocean of depth to explore. It is, first and foremost, a work born of mastery and a keen attention to detail. This is a game of impeccable, readily appreciable craft.