It's so cute!
Having spent three days rebounding between interviews and hands-on appointments at Gamescom 2014, slaughtering foes in Bloodborne, shredding opponents to bits with dual miniguns in Advanced Warfare and burning down half of London in The Order: 1886, I desperately needed to find a way to relax. The pay-what-you-want masseuses in the business area didn't even get a look-in, because once again, it's Nintendo to the rescue.
Yoshi's Woolly World is custom designed to be the most adorable thing you've ever seen. Taking inspiration from Kirby's Epic Yarn and more real-life wool than you can shake a knitting needle at, it's a colourful world of soft fuzzy floors, warm cuddly walls and bouncing balls of string. Everything is soft, huggable and so cute that you could probably weaponise it with devastating results. A Yarn Bomb of sorts, I suppose, that would paralyse potential threats by making them feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
However, Yoshi's Woolly World is also no slouch when it comes to gameplay, and a far cry from the disappointing 3DS rehash we saw earlier this year. It's not just a ploy to flog a new range of plush knitted toys, but actually, I'd probably buy one.
First things first: there's no baby Mario. Thank goodness. This is very much Yoshi's game, and he goes about his tongue-slurping flutter-jumping business with responsive aplomb. He handles very much as you remember; flapping his feet to cross gaps and attain extra height, sprinting along platforms and delivering a tongue-lashing to any creature tasty enough to cross his path. As per usual, you've got the option to spit the offending creature back out as a dangerous projectile or convert it into a soft woollen egg, which bounces along behind you like unhatched ducklings and oh my god it's so cute focus Jon. You're a grown man. Ostensibly.
Right. Once again you'll blast these eggs out at an angle of your choosing using an aiming reticule, which can damage or debilitate enemies and carve out scenery blocks to reveal new paths, collectibles and secrets. Exploration is once again the aim of the game -- as you can see from the video above, my first hands-on resulted in a pathetic completion rate -- with numerous ways to subvert or manipulate the environment. Rolling spheres, tiny chirping chicks that turn into platforms and so many stars await your attention, allowing you to blast through the levels or pry into all the hidden corners at your own pace.
As such, it's going to be a great game to unwind, especially if a second player joins you mid-session.
The 'yarn' aesthetic isn't just for show, though it does naturally add some adorable unique pizazz to the proceedings. Enemies can get caught up in woollen threads after a perfectly-thrown egg, while Yoshi's form shifts as you go through his abilities. Sprinting turns his legs into wheels, while a ground pound shifts his entire body into a hammer for a few seconds.
It's smooth, fluid and deeply lovely, but underpins gameplay too. The levels are surprisingly layered, allowing Yoshi to strip back parts of the background and foreground with his tongue to reveal a secrets or even trigger crazy new alterations to the level, as enormous woollen creations sprout into life. Sort of like yanking on a loose sweater thread in reverse.
Naturally three demo stages isn't enough to know whether Yoshi's Woolly World is going to be a must-have 2015 must-have, but I do know that I emerged from Nintendo's booth with a big soppy grin plastered onto my face and desperately glad that I own a Wii U.
There's a time and a place for blood-soaked combat, bullet-shredding mayhem, tyre-screeching racing and razor-edged strategy. But, frankly, I'm looking forward to curling up with the videogame equivalent of a great big cuddle from time to time.