Gameplay

Yoshi’s Crafted World: First impressions

There’s a handful franchises of Nintendo that I really enjoy. Mario is the prime one followed closely by Kirby. However since Yoshi’s Woolly World I have to add the Yoshi franchise to the list aswell. In light of this information it should come as no surprise that I picked up Yoshi’s Crafted World aswell when it came out this week. Unfortunately the Switch screenshots aren’t always that good so my apologies for the one heading this post, I just wanted to give an impression of how the game looked.Anyway I’ve played for a few hours now and wanted to give my first impressions of this game and the things I have discovered so far. I am giving a fair warning now, I am going into some detailed things that I’ve found over the first 2-3 hours of playtime so if you want to stay spoilerfree turn away now!

“Story”
The story like in the previous Yoshi entries is a simple one. The Yoshi’s live happily on their island with the Sundream Stone who makes all their dreams come true. Ofcourse Kamek and Baby Bowser caught wind of this and try to steal the sun stone, breaking it in the process and scattering all the Dreamstones across multiple worlds. You are tasked to find the stones and make the Sundream Stone whole again. Throughout the game you are being thwarted by Kamek and Baby Bowser but you also meet new friends and come across some familiar ones!
All in all it’s  a simple setup, nothing too fancy. It’s a very kid friendly story but that’s something I’ve come to expect from the Yoshi franchise thus far.

Gameplay and levels
The gameplay for this game is the standard Yoshi gameplay. You swallow enemies with B and create eggs with most of them which you can then aim and throw at almost anything in the world. Yoshi’s still flutter when you press A for jumping a bit longer and Yoshi has a ground pound. There’s nothing too fancy about the gameplay, I guess to keep it simple for the kids aswell.
Right at the start of the game you are asked if you want to play the game on “Easy” or “Classic” mode. From what I’ve seen Easy mode doubles the amount of eggs you create when swallowing an enemy and it will let you know when a flower, one of the many collectibles in the game, is nearby. I’ve opted to play on Classic mode myself since the game is simple enough as is so I don’t need it to be even easier. You are free to chose the colour of your Yoshi, there’s 8 total, and you can switch colour any time. As seen on the above screenshot I’m currently playing with the purple variant but I’m thinking about switching to Orange or Lightblue next time I start up the game.

Collectability is a big thing in this game. The levels themselves aren’t hard and you can probably rush through them in two or three minutes but that’s not where this game shines. It shines in the collectibles and replayability of the levels themselves.
On your initial playthrough of a level there’s a few things to collect:

  • Flowers. Flowers are hidden throughout all the levels and it’s up to you to find them and obtain them. Some levels only contain five flowers but I’ve already had a level with ten aswell. Flowers are also the main currency needed to open up new sub zones within worlds, so if you lack them you need to go back to your previous levels and collect more of them if possible.
  • Hearts. Yoshi starts off with about half a heart bar. If you play the level right you end up with a full hearts bar which in turn awards you with a flower.
  • Red coins. Red coins, like flowers, are hidden throughout the level. There’s 20 to obtain each level and some of them can be really well hidden. If you obtain all 20 in a level it awards you with a flower.
  • Gold coins. Gold coins are scattered throughout the level and easy to obtain. When you meet a certain amount required per level you will be awarded with a flower. Next to collecting them for flowers Gold coins are the currency needed to obtain costumes.

Yoshi train costume

So far the collectibles have been quite standard. They’re all known from previous Yoshi franchises and shouldn’t surprise you in any way. However in Yoshi’s Crafted World there are myriads of ways to obtain collectibles and they’ve added a few more things to collect outside of the items I’ve already mentioned.

  • Costumes. Costumes are essentially “armour” that Yoshi can wear as you play through the levels with him. There’s three tiers of costumes, with the golden type being the most rare and awarding the most extra armour. Costumes are obtained from a gumball type machine at the end of each world that you need to feed Gold coins. It’s 100 Gold coins per costume and there’s ten costumes to get per sub zone. Luckily for us you’re not dependant on RNG, you can only get each costume once. You can switch between costumes freely and they are registered in your Scrapbook tab in the menu.
  • Crafts. Crafts are another collectible you can find in the levels, once you have initially played through them. You get assignments to find certain crafts within the levels and if you find (all of) them you get a flower for each turn in. They also register in your Scrapbook.
  • Poochy Pups/Flipside. Once you get a few levels into the game you run into an old friend. With this help an extra layer is added onto the levels: the Flipside. Basically it’s playing the original level in reverse. In the Flipside you are tasked to find Poochy pups and if you do that within a certain time limit you get extra rewards. Again the rewards here are flowers. Once you open up the Flipside of the levels you also get more tasks to find Crafts. The normal levels are then called “Front side”. As sidenote, it’s not possible to collect coins or flowers in the flipside of a level, only Poochy pups and Crafts.

Taking all of the above into consideration it makes the replayability of the levels high. Essentially you are sent back to a level multiple times to gather all the collectibles there are to gather. It’s not necessarily needed to complete the game but it adds an extra layer to the simplistic gameplay that is the Yoshi franchise. It also has you actually look at the levels in more detail than you normally would. Lots of things are hidden in the back (or fore) ground and especially Crafts are sometimes hard to spot. It helps you appreciate the amount of detail the developers have put into the game and it also “trains” your brain in a way because you are constantly looking for things.

Graphics and music
As I mentioned before the screenshots don’t really do it justice but the game is gorgeous and top notch as we’ve gotten used to from Nintendo. The colours are vibrant, the structures are pronounced. I can see how the Yoshi’s, who are made of felt, are in stark contrast to the cardboard world. There’s a lot of detail that has gone into each level so it’s a joy to watch and discover everything as you play through. Even the use of focus/blurring is done very well and makes for a natural flow as you move from the front to the back of a level and vice versa.
The music is cheery and simple like in most games. I like playing with the sounds and music on, it doesn’t grate on the ears so far. I’ve only played through four levels though so the music variety hasn’t been super big but so far I’m enjoying it. The sound effects do add this extra touch to the game that I think would be very bland otherwise. Hitting cardboard structures makes cardboard sounds, Yoshi itself sounds very cute and so far the enemy sounds have made sense aswell. It so far has not made me want to turn my sound off so that’s a big win.

Overall first impression
So far I’m quite happy with my purchase. Although the game is on the easy side there’s enough challenge in it to make the purchase worth while as fan of the franchise. The game is beautiful and vibrant and lifts your spirits as you play through it. The replayability of the levels is high due to the massive amount of collectibles that are present in the game. It’s the perfect game to relax to for an hour or two after work ór when you’re feeling a bit glum and need cheering up.
Is it innovative? Yes in some ways and no in others. Did Nintendo lift the franchise to a new level? Maybe, I think it’s on the same level as Yoshi’s Woolly World when it comes to visuals and gameplay even though they’ve put in some interesting gimmicks in this one and added even more reasons to replay levels.

Would I recommend this game? If you want a relaxing experience and if you think hunting for collectibles is more fun than challenging levels this is the game for you. I fear however that the game is “too easy” for the more veteran gamers who will be done with most of it in a very small timeframe. This is a game you don’t want to rush but that you want to enjoy and take your time on. For a Yoshi game it’s an excellent entry in the franchise and a day one/week one pick up for fans. If you’re on the fence about this game however I’d advise you to wait untill it eventually will be discounted and pick it up then.

No Man’s Sky: First Impressions

Before I get to the point of this post I feel the need to share a bit about my day yesterday, why it was seriously horrible and why it made me not want to write a blog post, thus breaking my Blaugust challenge yet again.
Basically I shook Mr. Murphy’s hand yesterday. I’ve known about his law for a long time, but I never got to experience the full extent of it untill yesterday. Where my day started off with having to unexpectedly bike to the train station in the rain, it ended with me being stuck on Amsterdam Central Station, with no service on my phone (provider had outage) waiting desperately for some sort of bus to arrive to take me home. At home people were waiting for me with dinner aswell, making it even more frustrating not being able to reach them. So yeah, by the time I was finally home I was so tired and pissy that I decided to just play some Overwatch and go to bed.

Now that we have this out of the way, I can start about the actual post I’ve been wanting to write today: My first impressions of No Man’s Sky. I picked up my copy yesterday, which came as a surprise to me since the game was supposed to be released a day later. So after work I hurried along and picked up my copy, hoping to be able to play a lot.
The install procedure took relatively short. The game is actually very small compared to a lot of the other games out there so that’s nice. My PS4 only has a 500GB hard disk so I’m constantly uninstalling games that I don’t play in risk of it becoming too full.
Now be wary, I’ll be discussing the first hour or two of gameplay here so if you don’t want to be spoiled, turn back now!

After the initial installation I got propelled into space and had to do an initialization that would put me on a random planet. I had hoped my first planet would be lush with forests and clear skies but alas, I spawned somewhere on a toxic planet that has acid rains and a very harsh environment. Bummer. It’s still pretty in it’s own way, as you can see above, but still. Also yes my game is in Dutch.
First thing I noticed after I spawned is that the tutorial is very very limited. You basically get pointers that it’s a smart idea to repair your ship and that’s it. It’s a very smart idea to take a good look at your controls from the options menu so you can figure out what all your buttons do. Immediatly as you spawn it’s clear that you’re mostly in survival mode for the first part of the game. Your ship is broken, you’re wearing a spacesuit that sustains you and also makes you not die of toxins. Unfortunately that suit is powered by different materials and the power drains over time. So one of the first things on the list is making sure you never go out of power for your suit. Mostly because hey, you’ll die.
Since almost all your gear is broken except for your suit and your mining laser one of the first things you’ll want to repair is your scanner. With it you can scan for material deposits, which you need to repair and fuel your ship. Be wary though! Your inventory is limited. Only keep what you need and send the rest off to your spaceship.
Initially yesterday I just wandered around, got what I needed to repair my ship and immediatly took off to explore space, I could register the system I was in and the planet I was on so I did. Apparently the person discovering it can get a lot of ingame credits by uploading discoveries, so colour me pleased. I took off into space and immediatly got lost. At some point I figured out I had a pulse drive… After spending a very long time travelling to the next planet. Apparently I’m in a red harsh system, something I got mostly from the music that, at some point, really started grating on my ears. This is also the first big problem I have with the game. I’m pretty sure the ambient music of the system and planets is determined by their type and I landed on a horrible one. I even considered turning off my sound, that’s how bad it was.
After I figured out that I had a pulse drive I activated it and jumped to the next planet. Not knowing how to break I luckily slowed down automatically when I hit the next planet’s orbit… Only to be thrown off course and into a non-stop spiral, causing me to turn off my PS4 in frustration. I’m generally quite bad at piloting stuff though, so this is more of a personal frustration that I couldn’t figure out what to do than a game flaw.
Today I logged back in and was back on my starter planet. Apparently my last savepoint was right before I took off to explore. Everytime you exit your spaceship you create a new savepoint, which is a very usefull thing to remember. Now this time, instead of flying off again I used my little ship to start exploring the world itself. I’ve discovered local fauna already. I couldn’t figure out how to register that at first, untill I looked over my controls again. Apparently if you press your left analog stick on the PS4 you “zoom in” on the world, which is also immediatly the way to register flora and fauna apparently. I think I missed out on some stuff because I hadn’t figured it out immediatly, but I’m sure I can make up for that. In the meantime there was more than enough interesting things on my planet next to the living creatures there were abandoned buildings and signs of a civilization that may have once lived on this planet. I’m finding weird statues and buildings that teach me their language. I’ve also already had to kill several hostile sentinels, expanded my inventory and made some new technology. Every new discovery you do/make you can upload to the servers and it will give you ingame currency this goes for markers, but also for registering flora and fauna. It’s really worth sticking around and exploring an entire planet since it’ll make you rich as hell. So I’ve been flying around a bit towards markers that I hadn’t discovered yet, in the meantime making sure I’m stocked up on all the materials I need to fuel both my tools, my suit and my spaceship and scanning all the local plants and creatures in hopes of discovering something I haven’t yet. I guess the real exploration has more or less started for me.

Now for some more technical stuff.
Graphically so far the game looks fine. I’ve not experienced any glitches of any kind and roaming around in space and on planets is smooth. It’s probably not as pretty as it can be on a high-end PC, but my PS4 is holding up nicely and for me it’s pretty and smooth enough.
Gameplay is a bit confusing to start with, mostly because the amount of guidance you get is minimal. After playing about an hour and a half I can say I’m more or less comfortable with the controls while being on foot on the planet and that I have no issues flying around while still on the planet. I’m still discovering more about what my buttons do and how to get around the planet smoothly. Since the game saves you everytime you discover a new marker or leave your spaceship you’ll never lose a lot of progress if you have to unexpectedly log out. It feels like a very nice game to sink either hours and hours into but also to start up and play for a little, flying around and exploring.
In theory the universe of No Man’s Sky is so big that you should be able to explore it and see no one. Reality however isn’t that pretty. I woke up to a random message and group invite of a total stranger who told me his friend spawned on the same planet I spawned on, and that he couldn’t claim it because hey, I did. Apart from the fact that I don’t necessarily like it if I get messages from people I don’t know on any platform I was rather surprised that this would happen so soon after launch. Ofcourse RNG is RNG but the chance that someone happens to spawn on the same planet as me a few hours later is very very tiny. And I feel a bit meh about it. I’m kind of scared that this person jumped to all the other planets in the system and registered them before I have a chance to. This is my planet and my system damnit! So yeah, that was a mild irritation. Other than that the game has been a great experience from both a story, gameplay and technical point of view.

Final Thoughts (for now)
My first two hours or so with this game have been a confusing yet interesting experience. Having to figure out on my own how a lot of stuff worked was nice but also a bit frustrating. I feel I’ve gotten a bit unlucky with the planet I spawned on, but I’m still set on exploring it the best I can anyway. Controls are good once you figure out how everything works. Inventory is limited at the start so you’ll have to manage a lot! Making sure that you’re stocked on the most important materials to keep you going is a must. Treat it as a survival game more than an exploration game in the start and you have the right attitude.
The only major downside for me was the music/sound for this particular system and planet. Once in space the ambient soundtrack and music got so annoying that I wanted to turn off my sound. Other than that I’m really curious as to how this game will evolve and I will probably sink quite some hours into it.