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6 Characters Most Deserving of a Playable Spot in ‘Mario Tennis Aces’



If you’re like me, you’ve been having a real good time playing Mario Tennis Aces. Also, if you’re like me, you like a lot of Mario characters. If you’re a lot like me, you might’ve even made a list of the forgotten characters you’d like to see make a reappearance.

And if we continue down this path, you might, like me, probably have a list of characters you’d like to be playable in Tennis Aces. Well, excluding the ones already confirmed as DLC, here’s just such a list that I crafted.

(Warning: If you care, this list contains a minor boss spoiler for the “Adventure Mode” in Tennis Aces)

6. Goomba

Tennis Aces

I mean, this isn’t “Koopa Stomp” (Character artwork from “New Super Mario Bros. Wii”)

The most common, standard enemy in any Mario game, and also the namesake for this very site.  Yes, I speak of a Goomba.

Technically, the very first adversary Mario faces in the first Super Mario Bros. game. Since then, Goombas have grown to become one of the most recognizable characters in video game history, and could certainly be considered the most recognizable enemy in any Mario game

So what gives? Yeah, Goombas appear as NPCs and background scenery in Mario Tennis Aces, but I believe that these little guys deserve more time in the spotlight. Reparations for all the years of stomping need to be made.

Tennis Aces

A Goomba is the first enemy you ever see, and the first character outside of Mario/Luigi you see, in World 1-1 in the first “Super Mario Bros” game — that’s pretty important

But, OK, let’s face it. There’s a problem. Arms. Goombas don’t have them. They do in this one image I found online but I have no clue where the hell it comes from (and kinda don’t want to know?). This hasn’t stopped them from playing baseball with levitating bats in the past, but that’s lame.

Still, if a Chain Chomp can tromp around the court with a racket in its mouth, so can a Goomba. So, yeah, that or duct tape one to its side or give it some sort of racket hat. I don’t care, anything is possible. I just want to see it use its tiny little legs to try and keep up with the ball.

As for type, Goomba could work as a light-weight “defensive” type character, as the game is currently lacking in those types. Plus, it fits how I imagine a Goomba would play tennis. Which sounds like a sight. What also sounds like a sight is if the Special Shot had our Goomba getting on top of a Goomba Tower.

5. Whomp

Tennis Aces

*increasingly Whomp grunt sounds* (Artwork from “Mario Party 9”, Wii)

Hear me out. I know the idea of a living wall playing tennis might sound a little too impractical, and might sound more like squash and less like tennis.

But just think about how great it would be to see Whomp shimmy side to side to reach and whack back a ball. And Whomps aren’t just walls, they’re determined little (big) go-getters, with goofball, often care-free personalities to boot, who just happen to be walls.

Born as a kind of 3-dimensional cousin to the classic Thwomp enemy, Whomps have been around the block quite a lot since Mario 64. While it’s hard to imagine Whomp playable in a game like Mario Party (where it has appeared in one form or another in every installment of the series), Tennis Aces‘s gameplay lends itself really well for this kind of adaptation.

Tennis Aces

We might have to scale his proportions down a little (“Mario Party 9”, Wii)

Whomps come in all shapes and sizes throughout the Mario series, so the character’s exact size doesn’t really matter, either. Hell, it would be cool to see a miniaturized version of King Whomp instead of just a regular Whomp in this role.

If you’ve played Tennis Aces‘s “Adventure Mode”, you might be aware that a Whomp does actually appear in the game as a boss fight, but not as an actual character. Instead, Whomp in Aces is more like a hardly-animated cardboard cut-out that moves side to side in what is perhaps the lamest boss fight in the entire game. So, let’s fix that, please.

I imagine Whomp as either a strong “defensive” type (I mean, it’s a wall) or just a “powerful” brute strength type character. There’s even potential for a Thwomp to make an appearance during a Special Shot.

4. Phanto

Tennis Aces

If Death was personified in the “Mario” universe, it would probably look like Phanto

Anyone who has played Super Mario Bros. 2 (or Yume K?j?: Doki Doki Panic) or knows anything about it, recognizes the Phanto mask enemies as the personification of all that is evil and unrelenting in the world. Who better to invite to your tennis match?

Phantos are perhaps one of the more interesting Mario 2 enemies. They’re like evil guardian spirits that haunt those who touch ancient treasures (well, keys) as a kind of curse. How they move in Mario 2 and come after the player is very reminiscent of the Angry Sun introduced later in Mario 3, but I’m not sure how viable it is for the Sun to play tennis.

Phantos have never been seen in any Mario game outside of Mario 2 and its ports, remasters, remakes etc., which is such a waste. So, I’d love to see a Phanto make a surprise appearance once again.

Tennis Aces

The only real “3D” (as in, not a flat sprite) appearance of Phanto is in “The Super Mario Super Show”, where it looks more like a luchador’s mask

While like a Goomba, a Phanto doesn’t have arms (or a body), it’s not hard to imagine and makes more sense for a levitating racket that would serve that function. I’d imagine Phanto as a fast and “tricky” character type, but a case could be made for it being a “powerful” type. It might seem odd for a floaty mask to be “powerful” but at the same time, they do give off a kind of evil spirit strength vibe.

Beyond Tennis Aces, I’d just love to see these guys show up in any Mario game.

3. Uproot

Tennis Aces

Artwork of a Mario-possessed Uproot in “Super Mario Odyssey”

Despite my well-documented unimpressed take on Super Mario Odyssey (tl;dr: I think it’s a really fun game with a lot of great ideas but it’s not to my liking compared to previous 3D Mario titles), I love some of the neat little enemies introduced in that game. Even if they made their debuts alongside one of the worst designed enemies in the entire Mario series.

A few of these enemies I’ve been hoping to see become new staples in spinoff Mario titles and the most prominent out of those has to be Uproot.

First encountered in the Wooded Kingdom, which we can assume to be their hometown, these little onion guys can stretch to become really tall with their extending root limbs; of great use to Mario and Cappy in Odyssey. And, there’s a whole boss fight centered around making use of a captured Uproot, an honor bestowed on only a few of Mario’s victims.

Tennis Aces

Uproots tend to chill out with a pot over their heads until knocked off by Mario. I think they can ditch their pots for a game of Tennis, though (“Super Mario Odyssey”, Nintendo Switch)

I really like these little guys, enough to say that I’d even want a puzzle game centered around their stretching mechanic in Odyssey. And while that might be a, yes, I’m going to say it, stretch, I don’t think seeing them make an appearance in Tennis Aces is all that unreasonable.

Considering that Blooper is a playable character in Tennis Aces, it wouldn’t be that out-of-place to see Uproot rally a ball back. In fact, it’d be pretty awesome to see them stretch around all over the court.

I’d imagine Uproot would have an incredible reach, so a “technical” character type would be most fitting. Unless we can create a new kind of type for them….”stretchy”? “Elongated”? “Longboy”?

2. Wart

Tennis Aces

Promotional “Super Mario Bros. 2” artwork for Wart

In my article about the 5 Mario characters that I want to make a comeback in the series, Wart reigned number 1, as he deservedly should.

As the main Dream Machine-hijacking villain of Super Mario Bros 2, there was a small period of time where he dethroned Bowser/King Koopa as Mario’s biggest concern, and we haven’t seen him return to that former glory since.

Wart is rather different than other enemies, a shared commonality among Doki Doki Panic-origin character, but also fits really well within the expanded Mario family. Or rather, would fit really well if Nintendo would ever use him.

But as I mentioned, unlike Shy Guys, Birdo and other characters, and similar to Phanto, Wart falls in the camp that hasn’t seen a single appearance since Super Mario Bros 2 (save for the remix-ish sequel thing, BS Super Mario USA, and remasters/remakes of Mario 2, such as Super Mario Advance).

Well, he did make a cameo under his Japanese name, Mamu, in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (fits into the whole dream theme), which was pretty cool since it gave us this amazing official art for that version.

Tennis Aces

Wart’s defeated (and bloody?) body being taken away by muus who’ll do who knows what to him as punishment (“Super Mario Advance”, Game Boy Advance)

I believe he has incredible potential in a game like Mario Tennis Aces. While he’s hefty like Bowser, I don’t see him as a “powerful” type, but rather more “technical” or even leaning toward an “all-around” character. Spike serves as a tiny yet “powerful” type in Aces, so it would be good to have bigger characters that aren’t just relegated to “powerful”.

Sadly, I think this one is perhaps the most unlikely addition to Aces possible, which is why Wart lost the number one spot. He’s still number 2 on this list because I have to dream. It’s what Wart would want.

1. Ninji

Tennis Aces

Ninji in “Super Mario Run”

Yet another Mario 2 enemy character, but Ninjis have a much richer history within the broader Mario world since 2. While not utilized the same amount as say, Shy Guys, Ninjis were one of the few characters from Mario 2 that made an appearance in a mainline Mario game, in Super Mario World.

Since then, they’ve appeared in the Paper Mario games, but their most recent appearance comes in Super Mario Run of all things.

But what are these weird guys really? Aside from being adorable in their onesie footy-pajama looking suits, with those big red nipple buttons, they’re…ninja devil ghosts who are described as haunting the dreams of NES fanboys. I have no clue why or what that means exactly, but that’s what it says in the instruction booklet for Mario 2.

A Ninji as it appears in “Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam”; if you deny this creature’s charm and cuteness, you are a wrong person.

So, yeah, they’re awesome and deserve a bigger spotlight. And what better way to earn that spotlight than by playing some tennis.

Within Mario Tennis Aces, I imagine them as a fast, “Speedy” characters, but perhaps “Technical”, or a tendency toward it would work as well. They’re fast and nimble, but also give the appearance of being childish and clumsy, which would be really great to see in animations. Of all the weird Mario 2 characters I love, I see Ninji as the most probable, hence its spot in number 1.


And that’s for my list, but what do you guys think? Which characters would you like to play as or have a match against in Mario Tennis Aces? Did you like my list or do you hate my opinions? Say what you must in the comments!

Immensely fascinated by the arts and interactive media, Maxwell N's views and opinions are backed by a vast knowledge of and passion for film, music, literature and video game history. His other endeavors and hobbies include fiction writing, creating experimental soundscapes, and photography. A Los Angeles, CA local, he currently lives with his wife and two pet potatoes/parrots in Austin, TX. He can mostly be found hanging around Twitter as @maxn_



  1. Patrick Murphy

    July 3, 2018 at 8:25 pm

    Your top 2 I’m for sure on board with. Never even thought about Ninji until you mentioned it, but those guys are some of the coolest enemies in the series.

    Other than that, I’d like to see Chargin’ Chuck. It would make no sense, which is just how I like my Mario tennis.

    • Maxwell N

      July 4, 2018 at 1:15 pm

      I was surprised to see them return in Mario Run, but then again, Mario Run has a bunch of lesser known enemies.

      Would be kinda funny seeing Chargin’ Chucks in their football gear playing tennis.

  2. Harry Morris

    July 3, 2018 at 8:33 pm

    There are some great picks on here, especially Wart. I’d love to see him as a guest character in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (although it’s ridiculously unlikely given that he seems to be forever chained to Super Mario Bros. 2).

    • Maxwell N

      July 4, 2018 at 1:13 pm

      If he ever does reappear, it’s way more likely to see him in a Mario spinoff game than something like Smash. He was number one on my list of Mario characters I want back, so yeah, I agree that he needs to return in any capacity.

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‘Garden Story’ First Impressions: The Coziest of Adventures

Long-awaited Twitter darling Garden Story just released its first demo. Here’s what we learned after playing through it twice.



garden story

Following the unfortunate (but understandable) delay of Animal Crossing: New Horizons, there’s been a distinct lack of chill, aesthetic games to fill the void. Garden Story’s charming environmental art and animation have earned it a dedicated social media following, but it wasn’t until Picogram released a demo just a couple days ago that anyone with a Steam account could actually experience the game for themselves. So, just how fun is this wholesome little RPG?

Setting the Scene

Garden Story’s demo centers around the newly-appointed village guardian Concord (a grape) and their first steps in rebuilding Autumn Town, a community ravaged by a sinister force known as “the Rot.” Chatting with villagers reveals a bit of insight into the situation at hand; it’s soon clear just how much the other townsfolk need the player’s support.

There are several clear parallels to old-school Legend of Zelda titles here, but Garden Story manages to set itself apart rather quickly. For one, this isn’t a solo adventure; the player sets out with Rana (a frog) and Fuji (a tomato) on a friendly quest to be as helpful to the surrounding community as possible. Seeing friends around and watching cute scripted cutscenes between the crew does a great job of instilling a sense of camaraderie and friendship.

In another pleasant twist, everything here is themed around building rather than destroying. Instead of traditional swords and bows, Concord repurposes his dowsing rod and scavenging pick into makeshift weapons. The combat itself calls to mind Stardew Valley; simple, minimal, and clearly not the main focus. There’s a pesky stamina bar that restricts the number of times Concord can attack and how far they can run, frequently forcing players to pause between barrages. In this way, encounters often come off as more of a necessary evil in Concord’s town rehabilitation journey than a main attraction.

Rebuilding a Community

So, how does one go about aiding the town? The method highlighted in the demo was by attending to a quest board with three different types of requests: Threat (combat), Repair (exploration), and Want (gathering). Each is accompanied by a task that plays an integral part in keeping Autumn Town safe and in good working order (e.g. clearing out Rot, finding sewer access so new resources can flow into town, and so on).

Aside from fulfilling requests, there are a few interesting hooks to incentivize hitting every shiny thing you come across regardless. The more different types of items are scavenged, and the more catalogues are filled by being updated with new materials, the more literature becomes available to give little bits of insight into Garden Story’s world and history. Then, in another parallel to Stardew Valley, any leftover resources can be sold in the pursuit of buying tool upgrades.

While the full game will feature four locations to explore and tend to, there was still plenty to do in Autumn Town itself by the end of the demo. Rana mentioned that villagers will post new requests daily, and the demo even featured a mini side quest (called “favors”) that led me to obtain a brand-new tool. Between daily requests, favor fulfillment, and dungeons spread across four different regions, it’s looking like there will be a good bit of content here for those who really want to hang around Garden Story’s world for as long as possible.

Ambient Appeal

Though it remains to be seen just how enticing its complete gameplay loop and accompanying systems are, Picogram’s latest is already delivering on its core appeal: being a cozy, relaxing experience. The color palette is soft, the lighting is moody, and the soundtrack is right up there with the Animal Crossing series as having some of the most mellow, loopable tunes around.

In fact, it’s the sound design in particular that gives Garden Story such an intimate feel. From the sound of a page turning when entering and exiting buildings to the gentle gurgles of a bubbling brook in the forest, it’s clear that composer Grahm Nesbitt poured a ton of love into making this one feel just right. Here’s hoping the full game more than delivers on all the potential shown here.

Garden Story is slated to release in Spring of 2020 and is available to wishlist on Steam.

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How Asynchronous Online in ‘Death Stranding’ Brings Players Together

Hideo Kojima’s latest game creates a sense of community by aiding other players on the same perilous journey.



Death Stranding

Video games have always been fascinated with the idea of player interactivity as a means of crafting a power fantasy. The player typically goes on a hero’s journey, eventually culminating in them being the one and only savior of the world inside the game. Typically associated with single-player games, MMOs also crafted that same narrative but with the conceit that everyone is going on this journey. Often the acknowledgments of other players are in multiplayer-specific features such as PvP and Raids. Destiny is a great example of a series that takes players on the same journey and makes no promise that the story is different between players by even allowing them to engage in playing story missions together. It all feeds into the larger narrative of Guardians fighting together to save the Light. A game that handles this very similar and perhaps more successfully is Hideo Kojima’s Death Stranding.

While lacking any direct player-to-player interaction, Kojima’s latest game is drenched in the conceit that community is crucial to triumph over adversity. You can read many articles about the game’s ideas of community from fellow writers on the site. What hasn’t quite gotten the attention it deserves is how revolutionary Death Stranding feels in terms of utilizing asynchronous online to greatly affect the game itself. Games like Dark Souls and other FromSoftware titles have included the ability to leave notes (which Death Stranding also offers) that help (or trick) players as they venture throughout the world on their own. How those notes’ effects are manifested are often on a much smaller scale – helpful at times but often to warn players of an impending way they might die. They don’t have a large impact on the player, only a temporary means of cheating death. 

Where Death Stranding becomes something greater in scale is in what it lets other players do to other peoples’ single-player experiences. In the game, you play as Sam Porter Bridges who is tasked with reconnecting America from coast-to-coast. At first, the game thrusts Sam into its narrative, taking the reluctant, isolated character and forcing him to eventually realize the importance of hope and connections in dire times. As Sam starts bringing more and more people onto the Chiral network (which allows instantaneous communication and the transferring of 3D-printable goods), so too does the game open up and reveal its ultimate goal: to bring players together.

Death Stranding

This doesn’t mean players will ever talk to other players, and the game very much avoids any real negative actions that can be performed on players. In fact, someone could play the game without ever actively engaging with online features. Instead, the game will passively hand out “likes” to other players whose ladders are used or roads are driven. If one wanted to fight the game’s narrative and instead keep Sam isolated and away from the community that the Chiral network provides, they could definitely do that – no matter how antithetical it would be to do so. Death Stranding even offers an offline mode that would nullify all of that and keep the experience solely on the player’s impact on the world and no one else’s. 

Yet there’s a reason the online mode is the default mode. It was near the end of Episode 3 (which also happens to be when the game unloads almost all of its mechanics onto the player) when I finally realized the impact I was having on other people’s games. I had spent an entire day playing the game, but focusing largely on delivering premium deliveries – these are optional challenges that essentially boil down to carrying more cargo, damaging cargo less, or getting to your destination in a set amount of time. Death Stranding doesn’t ever tell you the best way to get somewhere. Instead, it places a wide array of tools in front of you and assuming the Chiral network is set up in an area, it can provide a rough guide on places to avoid or infrastructure already built. However, one of the key pieces of infrastructure missing for my playthrough was roads. My efforts immediately became focused on building a network of roads that made their way all throughout one of the larger areas in the game.

The game doesn’t ever make you build roads. It tells you the option is there but it doesn’t force your hand. Often tools will be introduced, like zip lines and floating carriers, but the game never demands that they’re used. Of course, engaging with those tools will make your life easier. There are easy ways to start building infrastructure in Death Stranding: ropes and ladders can help to scale mountains or plummet depths. Those will remain in the world for other players to use and will even appear on their maps as they hook up areas to the Chiral network. So, someone who plays the game earlier than someone else could lay down ropes and ladders, and depending on when the other person starts playing, they will find those once they have progressed to a point where they are traversing that area. Where the game becomes even grander in its sense of community is the realization that the more players commit to building roads or setting up zip lines, the more other players benefit.

Death Stranding

The reality is that ladders and ropes are temporary – they cannot be rebuilt, they can only be replaced. The game’s Timefall – a weather phenomenon that acts as rain but ages anything it comes into contact with – can reset an entire map after a while if there is nothing more substantial placed on the map. So in my game, I decided that whenever I could build a road, I committed to doing so. This could mean going to multiple waystations and collecting materials that have amassed over time from deliveries, or going out in the world and finding these materials like Chiral crystals. At a certain point, I would load up a truck with multiple deliveries that were on or near the roads I had built, as well as with as many metal and ceramic materials I could load into the truck before it reached capacity. As I delivered packages, I’d replace them with more deliveries and more materials from each waystation. Eventually, I’d find myself at a point where a road was not built yet and would then build that road.

Community stands as the strongest component of Death Stranding .

In contrast to a game like Dark Souls, actions in the world such as providing notes on the ground or helping another player with a boss battle is helping them cheat death. The community that is being built is not one that has any lasting effect on the world in the game. No Man’s Sky may let players interact with each other and further their knowledge of the universe within the game, but often that help is relegated to an isolated planet. It’s a more contained impact. Hideo Kojima created a game where players don’t just build infrastructures for themselves, they can intentionally or inadvertently assist other players throughout their games. This leads to players like myself creating strand contracts with other players who have built things I liked in the game. A strand contract is a powerful feature because it means more of that players’ roads or other items built for the world will show up more frequently in my game.

Every Action in Death Stranding Creates Hope

One of the perks of building so many roads is you also get a lot of likes, whether passively given because someone used the road or actively provided by a player because they not only used the road but were appreciative that someone built it. It’s hard not to feel important in someone else’s life when you’ve made their experience less cumbersome because they no longer have to drive over rocky terrain or through enemy territory but instead can take a highway to their destination. What’s better is that more substantial developments like bridges and roads can be repaired by other players and even upgraded. So while I laid the initial roads down, I actually haven’t spent any materials repairing them. Instead, notifications come in and tell me players have repaired roads I’ve built. There’s no real reason to do that unless the infrastructure built was necessary to their journey through the game – making it easier but also providing the same feeling of helping out a larger community. 

Community stands as the strongest component of Death Stranding – a game that doesn’t even try to be subtle in its intentions. Traversing Kojima’s version of post-apocalyptic America is harrowing on your own. With just your two feet and a package to deliver when the entire world itself is trying to stop you from doing so, America isn’t just divided – it’s hostile. Where Death Stranding shines brightest is when it offers a helping hand. Players aid one another to achieve the same unified goal: save the country. All of this is under the assumption that the country can be saved, but there is no denying that seeing someone else’s rope hanging off a steep cliff, or a Timefall shelter where it rains Timefall on a constant basis, is one of the most satisfying feelings. In Death Stranding, it isn’t enough to know that you’re making progress, but that everyone is willing to assist others to reach the same end goal. It’s a game where every action creates hope and is built upon the idea that we are at our best when we work together.

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Game Reviews

‘Woven’ Review: Comfortably Soft and Lumpy

Despite those blurry visuals and stilted gameplay, there’s something endearing about this innocent elephant’s adventure.



With a sincere warmth and fuzziness that conjures up dreamy recollections of 3D games gone by, Alterego GamesWoven mostly overcomes its blurry visuals and technical jankery to somehow create a pleasant, old-fashioned experience. Those excited by modern gaming probably won’t give this lovable hand-me-down a second look, and perhaps they shouldn’t; extremely simple actions and soothing narration support a fairy tale quality that’s probably best suited to younger players. However, anyone willing to look past the well-worn exterior in search of a relaxing break from stressful button pushing may squeeze more fun out of this familiar stuffed toy than they might originally expect.

Woven tasks players with taking control of a meandering patchwork elephant named Stuffy, and guiding him through a sparsely populated knitted world that seems to have met an untimely demise. Because Stuffy has cotton for brains, he is assisted on this journey by a much smarter metal firefly named Glitch (a reference to his role in this story?), who floats alongside the curious-but-clumsy plush toy and provides hints as to how he can use his various abilities. Together, this odd couple will traverse open plains blanketed with colorful yarn grass, maneuver around impassable felt trees and plants, and hopefully discover the secret of where Stuffy’s clueless kin have all gone.

Along the way, the duo will walk great distances (often without much event), solve the occasional environmental puzzle, and generally just keep on keepin’ on.Woven is mostly straightforward in its campaign, merely about getting from point A to B by whatever means the path requires. Most often this involves finding new blueprints that allow players to change Stuffy’s design from an elephant into a wide variety of other animal shapes, each with a set of abilities that come with a new set of arms, legs, and a head. For instance, while the stocky (and adorable) bear can push plush boulders and perform a mighty stomp, the goat and frog can both use their legs to hop, while the kitty cat is able to push buttons on rusted consoles that activate dormant machinery.

However, these abilities are usually only able to activate when context-sensitive prompts from Glitch appear, so don’t expect some sort of platforming freedom. Woven handles a bit clumsily in that regard and others; strolling is definitely the order of the day, as long as Stuffy doesn’t get hung up on the geometry.

But these actions do help provide variety; a tropical bird of some sort (toucan, maybe?) can sing certain notes, while a pelican-thing can fly (sort of) over land and shallow water with great speed. And so, it often becomes necessary in Woven to alter Stuffy’s look with a total reweave. These designs can be applied at various sewing machine-like stations scattered about, which go a step further than just swapping Stuffy the deer for Stuffy the ape. Each blueprint is comprised of five parts, allowing for players to create a Frankenstein Stuffy made up of all the best abilities the player has on hand (or cushioned paw). By mixing certain sets, Stuffy will soon be able to scale mountainside crags, cross piranha-filled rivers, and pick up industrial cogs without the need to make a pit stop and bust out new needle and thread.

Some truly hilarious (or horrifying, depending on your sensibilities) aberrations can be created; seeing Stuffy hobble on hooves as he flaps a wing on one side and swings a muscular gorilla arm on the other, all with the head of a squirrel, is freakishly entertaining. In addition, for those who like to wander off the beaten path, there are a plethora of knitting patterns to discover, tucked away in both obvious and devious locations (and denizens). These cosmetic enhancements can also be applied at the sewing stations, essentially giving players seemingly endless amounts of customization. And these aesthetic changes even get in on the puzzle act every once in a while, especially when a pesky cobra shows up.

But outside the odd ‘connect the power line’ or ‘raise and lower platforms’ objectives, Woven doesn’t throw much at players that even young children shouldn’t be able to handle — and that seems to be the aim. Stuffy’s adventure lives or dies on its wholesome and serene vibe, which players either buy into or they don’t. There’s no combat here, very little to actually do outside hunting down those patterns, illuminating some painted caves, and activating some of Glitch’s ‘memories’ contained by machines hidden in the soft folds. Ongoing narration is pleasant to the ears, often conveying old-fashioned morals and cutesy jokes, but there’s no more story than in a classic fable.

And make no mistake — though the world is certainly bright and cheerful, it’s also quite fuzzy around the edges. The tactile nature of the cloth textures is lessened greatly by the low definition (at least on the Switch version), eliciting memories of the Wii-era. An increased crispness would have really made the world of Woven pop off the screen, perhaps luring in a larger audience who have become accustomed to such. There is still plenty of charm, but it feels like a missed chance at that true magical feeling the game seems to be shooting for.

Other stumbles come when certain worlds try to open up a bit more, which might lead a younger audience to get frustrated by the lack of direction (especially when they keep getting hung up on that geometry!); Woven definitely works better when it’s casually guiding players along, letting gamers of all ages envelop themselves in the easygoing atmosphere instead of requiring tedious backtracking. There’s just something nice about sitting back and relaxing to hummable music, watching the roly-poly amble of a stuffed kangaroo.

Woven will not be for everyone; those who play for challenge or eye candy won’t find either here. And yet, despite those blurry visuals and stilted gameplay, there’s something endearing about this innocent elephant’s adventure. Woven certainly has its share of lumpiness, but somehow remains cozy regardless.

‘Woven’ is available on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch (Reviewed on Switch).

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