Despite being subtitled Super Mario World 2. it somehow never gets the recognition I truly believe it deserves. It remains the Super NES game I've played more than any other in the years since; the one I always return to.
See, Super Mario World, brilliant as it was, lacked Yoshi's Island's gorgeous, hand-drawn, visuals, as well as its sheer weight of ideas. Most single stages in Yoshi would introduce a gameplay element which entire other games would've been based around, before throwing it aside and moving on.
And talking of throwing... what's the deal with Yoshi and the eggs? He eats enemies, and then lays an egg, and then uses the eggs as projectile weapons? What's the deal with that? Is there another animal in nature that uses its own reproductive system as a form of defence?
Do hens kick their eggs into the faces of foxes, or try to smother them with their cloaca? Do frogs drown predators in their own frogspawn? Do marsupials stick their wet young onto their fists, and use them as makeshift boxing gloves?
I appreciate that I may be overthinking this.
There's no escaping that Yoshi's Crafted World will, to a point, remind many people of Little Big Planet. Its hand-crafted, cardboard-y, fabric-y, aesthetic, is kind of eerily familiar (albeit here rendered in Nintendo's usual dayglo colours and almost cloying sense of character). Another similarity is that you can dress Yoshi up in cardboard costumes you buy from vending machines, using the coins you collect along the way.
In terms of how they play, however - beyond, on paper, both emerging from the traditional 2D platformer vat - they're very different.
The gameplay in Crafted World is more or less on a 2D plane - though the path you're on will branch into the foreground and background at points. Likewise, you can fire eggs at into the foreground and background - taking out enemies, or revealing secret coins and that. The level structure actually reminded me of Sega's long-forgotten Saturn platformer Bug!... albeit done right.
What really marks Crafted World out from its parent franchise is the pace; it's slower, and Yoshi's ability to tread air makes it considerably more forgiving. To some, that might be seen as a negative, but complaining about a lack of challenge misses the point; this is a game that is dripping with joy. It doesn't want the player to be punished, or to struggle. It just wants you to have fun while it lasts.
Admittedly, this does mean that you'll probably not get more than a weekend's worth of concerted play out of it - unless you're determined to purchase every last cardboard costume - but it's a far more pleasurable, and less frustrating, experience than, say, the recent New Super Mario Bros U.
True to the spirit of Yoshi's Island, Crafted World is one surprise after another. While the basics of jumping and egg-lobbing are a constant, there's no default style of level - every time you unwrap a new stage, you're rewarded with a new idea. You can even revisit previously completed levels - but in reverse - to locate the scattered offspring of Yoshi's pet dog-thing, Poochy.
Finishing an area brings a sense of pleasure from the knowledge that you're going to get another straight after.
Crafted World is a lovely little game; friendly, and warm, like a long-desired embrace from a forgotten uncle.
While, it lacks the epic scale of, say, Super Mario Odyssey, it's so charming, and so accessible, that it has the potential to appeal to a wider audience.
Crafted World builds on its origins, ditches the more frustrating elements (the aiming of your eggs is now far easier, and you no longer have to scramble to retrieve a floating, bubble-based, Mario infant), and delivers an experience that's simply a pleasure to play from start to finish.
What it truly made me appreciate is how Nintendo never entirely gave up on 2D platform games. While the temptation must've been there, at some point, to make a properly 3D Yoshi game, for many of us the side-on platformer is a genre apart from your Mario 64s and Odysseys, and one which - I'm happy to note - has never completely gone away.
Nintendo remain the true masters of the genre, and Crafted World - from its beautiful visuals, to its procession of ideas, to the presentation of its adorable characters - is as good as they get. Having had a rotten couple of weeks, which left me struggling against feeling a bit fed-up and drifty, I can strongly recommend Yoshi's Crafted World if you're in the market for a hit of pure, sugar-coated, dopamine.
SCORE: 8.1212111 out of 9.8844444444