Every time I think I’m out, they pull me back in.
In the 8- and 16-bit days of yore, you might have thought that header would be a better pun for a Kirby game if it said “they suck me back in”. Alas, those days are long gone and no longer relevant, at least until the next sequel comes along. Kirby’s Epic Yarn removes both of the trademark Kirby mechanics: floating through the air and sucking stuff up.
[image1]But out with the old, in with the new. The king is dead, long live the king and all that. Kirby’s Epic Yarn still feels like a Kirby game, even if it doesn’t really play like one. The new core mechanic is a very simple yarn lasso that Kirby uses to pull buttons and zippers, unravel enemies, and in general tear his way through Patch Land.
Why Patch Land and not Dream Land? The evil sorcerer Yin-Yarn has invaded Kirby’s usual stomping grounds and starting sucking all of the normal Dream Land cast into a magic sock that he wears around his neck (there’s a self-gratification joke to be had here, but this is an 'E' game and I have integrity). Inside the sock, Kirby meets Prince Fluff, who’s basically just a blue Kirby with angry eyes and a crown.
Kirby and Fluff set out to restore Patch Land’s severed continents before bringing down Yin-Yarn himself. All of this cutesy tale is told through storybook cut-scenes and a narrator who sounds straight out of a PBS Kids show. The uber-kiddiness of the presentation won’t help to attract older gamers, but they’d be missing out on an amazing-looking platformer.
Epic Yarn has some of the most original and, shall we say, impressively limited visuals of any game (Wii or otherwise) in recent memory. It’s reminiscent of Yoshi’s Story’s patchwork quilt environments but ramped up to a completely different level. In this game everything follows the yarn and quilt motif — the characters and enemies included.
[image2]But it’s the interaction with the motif that makes it so damn compelling: grabbing an enemy and unraveling them into a ball of yarn to fling as a projectile, yanking a loose button in the background to make some platforms collapse into reach, hopping behind a hole in a wall, and running around as just a little bulge popping out of the fabric. And every level seems to do something new and creative with the environment that makes you smile.
The gameplay is also mixed up quite a bit when you reach the metamorphosis parts of most levels; Kirby will turn into a vehicle or animal of some sort and use a different set of controls for each (albeit equally as simple as the normal controls). The range of these transformations is quite extensive — a tank, dolphin, fire truck, digging machine, and UFO are just some of the things our multi-talented puff ball can turn into. There are even a couple “shmup” segments as a starship.
The biggest downside to Epic Yarn is that there’s no difficulty. Notice I didn’t say little difficulty, I said no difficulty. Kirby and Fluff are literally invincible; once you start a level or boss fight, the only way you’re going back to the hub world is by finishing it. Take a hit and you’ll lose a bunch of beads (think Sonic’s rings), but even if you have no beads, you won’t die. Fall down a pit and you just get lifted back up by a helpful yarn-buddy.
There’s nothing wrong with a game like this having a forgiving difficulty level, but when there’s no threat of death there’s much less satisfaction from beating a level. If you’re not a completionist, you could theoretically just charge blindly through everything without a thought as to what’s in your path.
[image3]Of course, the incentive to get through as unscathed as possible comes in the form of the beads. Your bead count at the end of a level determines what medal you get for completing it, so the aforemetioned completionists will have a reason to think about their safety. In addition to the beads, there are also three hidden items (well, two items and one musical track) in each level. They’re very similar to the star coins in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, although not usually as difficult to reach.
The other page that Kirby’s Epic Yarn takes from New Super Mario Bros. Wii is in the two-player co-op. It’s a bit more fun in this game than it was in Mario because the action is a little less hectic and the levels are a lot less difficult to navigate. It’s still, however, easier to complete levels and collect items with one player rather than have a buddy getting in your way and accidentally losing your hard-earned beads. But if you’ve got a friend who wants to play, the co-op is still enjoyable, and at least it won’t turn you into bitter enemies.
A standard playthough is short, spanning six hours at most. But there are a lot of extra levels that are completely optional to finishing the main quest, not to mention all the collectibles hidden away in them. On top of that, there are several mini-games to complete from the hub world, with simple objectives like reaching a certain spot or collecting a certain number of beads in a short time. And for those that care (read: not many), you’ve got an apartment that you can decorate with the furniture and fabrics you collect in your quest. The extra content significantly exceeds the length of the main adventure.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn delivers fun, solid platforming with incredible style. The presentation and lack of difficulty may be a turn-off, but any platforming fan would do well to get wrapped up in this ball of yarn.