Overall, it's been a dark year from a game standpoint. "Resident Evil 2," "Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice," "Devil May Cry 5," "Metro Exodus" and other M-rated bloodbaths have dominated the new releases since late January when "Kingdom Hearts III" allowed us to feel a twinge of innocence.
I think this made me really ready for "Yoshi's Crafted World," the latest game featuring Mario's favorite dinosaur.
"Crafted World" plays like a traditional side-scrolling platform game, with beautifully animated 3D characters running through levels that resemble dioramas created in an arts and crafts camp.
The graphics appear as cardboard, paper plates, plastic cups and tin cans are staples here, along with tons and tons of construction paper and invisible tape bringing the levels to life.
The different worlds incorporate an impressive variety of styles, including some crafting techniques that you don't see every day like quilling (Google it).
In each of the more than 40 levels, Yoshi must run through the world searching for flowers, red coins and more. His usual ability to flutter/float in the air is necessary to navigate each level's obstacles and of course he wouldn't be Yoshi if he didn't flick up enemies to spit out or turn into throwable eggs.
The game never becomes overly difficult, even its standard setting, allowing fans of all ages and skill levels to enjoy the experience.
Player's will likely not collect every flower and red coin the first time through a level, as some are quite well hidden. Collecting flowers is important, since they are used to unlock levels further in the game. In addition to the ones scattered throughout the levels you'll earn them for finding all 20 hidden red coins, for collecting 100 gold coins and for finishing the level with full health.
After you've run through a level once, you'll be given other special goals, like finding animals or objects within a level. These objectives will also yield more flowers, giving players plenty of ways to fill out their stock.
You don't have to complete 100 percent of each level in order to progress, but it's easy to get obsessed with finding every last coin and object. And the fun doesn't end there.
Completionists will need to learn the game forwards and backwards.
Most of the levels can be played on the flip-side, in a devious mode combining a mirror mode, scavenger hunt and time trial.
When going through flipped levels, you'll get to see the unfinished parts of the decorated dioramas. The back of boxes uncovered by paper and art, allowing you to see where a cookie box was chosen over detergent, or the bar codes scanned in the packaging's previous life.
It's another dimension to the art that really brings the game alive, inducing quite a few giggles along the way.
While running backward through these worlds you'll search for missing Poochy Puppies — three per level — each worth a flower of course, and a fourth flower for beating a specific time.
Designers have used mirrored levels many times before to extend a game's playability, but never has the effect worked so well. I genuinely looked forward to seeing the backside of each level, soaking in the incredible amount of detail the artists poured into the game.
If there is one complaint about the game it's that ideas are abandoned too easily. Rather than introducing skills for players to build upon and use throughout the game, such features are specific to a level or two before forcing you to learn something new for the next few.
There are plenty of ideas to go around mind you, but it seems like some of the game's better ideas could have been put to better use. Perhaps we can hope for an actual sequel to explore this untapped potential.
Overall, "Yoshi's Crafted World" fulfills it goal: to provide a fun, accessible, family-friendly platform game with plenty of objectives and reason to replay. While it's not the most innovative Nintendo game on the Switch, it is a fun and beautiful romp.
'Yoshi's Crafted World'
Who it's for: Any one who like a fun, accessible platform game