Yoshi's Woolly World preview: The Wii U surprise hit of E3
Much has been said and written about the struggles of Nintendo's Wii U console to sell in significant numbers, some, ourselves included, have even mulled over the possibility that the machine is in its death throes.
Try telling that to Nintendo though, as it put on a very strong showing at E3 2014 in Los Angeles. A mighty swathe of top Wii U titles were on show and there's no doubt about it, in terms of volume, it had equally as many, if not more triple-A games available to play than Sony and Microsoft.
Our favourite of the line-up comes as somewhat of a surprise. We were expecting the updated Super Smash Bros. to be strong and we're not disappointed - as you'll find out from our preview of that game - and new Miyamoto IP Splatoon is a right giggle. But trumping both in our eyes is Yoshi's Woolly World, the new outing of Mario's dinosaur chum that promises to sit alongside Super Mario 3D World and Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze as the must-have platformers for the console.
Yoshi's Woolly World is so called due to its sumptuous art style. Everything, including Yoshi, is made of wool and the Full HD graphics offer great detail to give you the illusion that it has all been knitted together by some very capable grannies. It strikes the game apart from previous Yoshi titles and just about every other 2D platform game in existence (apart from Sack Boy in Little Big Planet and Bubsy the Bobcat, perhaps - there were plenty of wool references in that 90s favourite). Kirby's Epic Yarn was also cloth-based but looked quite different.
We played one level of the game for our preview test, across three split sections, and had a very capable Nintendo staffer along for the ride as it offers great two-player co-op. There is a single-player mode too, and we're sure the game will hold up well for a solo experience, but with two on board it made for a hilarious experience.
Like with previous Yoshi games, the little dino can gobble up and spit out enemies. He can also spit balls of wool and other players, making for some great co-op play - spitting each other to hard to reach places, etc. The initial hint at humour comes when you snatch your fellow player for the first time and press down on the GamePad or Wii Remote - he pops out from an orifice he didn't go in. And while childish, you'll spend a good five minutes or so doing it, while you're friend gets ever more frustrated.
Like all Nintendo platformers, there are secret passages and things to find along your journey, and bonuses to unlock by spitting wool at them (or your partner). Even on a simple level, we found this to be extremely satisfying. And although we were on a tight time scale, it made us want to stop and explore that little bit more.
The game is intuitive and just down right fun. It's coming out in the "first half of 2015" and let's just hope that means early 2015 as we want to take Yoshi out for a spin again soon.