It’s good to know that 2D platforming is still alive, Nintendo for quite a while decided to deny the awesomeness of this kind of game, ever since the Super Nintendo days were over, but a game that was fun will always be fun. With the Wii Nintendo realized it was unreasonable to go hand-to-hand against its competitors, because they’ll always win, so a more simplistic approach was a great opportunity to bring back fun like we used to have. Kirby’s Epic Yarn succeeds at that, it brings up-to-date graphics with the gameplay we used to have back in the day.
A fear I had, especially because we’re in the Wii era, was that this game would be too much casualized, upon further inspection I realized it is casualized, but not to that point I was afraid for. The style is kids-friendly to attract the Wii’s new demographics, but the challenge is there nonetheless, and the features added to the deep gameplay elements is more than enough to make you forget all the silliness around it. The story, as one might expect, is perfectly skippable, and a must if you’re older than 6 years old, watching the animated scenes might squeeze out a laugh or two, but that’s about it. One day Kirby gets in trouble with a yarn-composed being known as Yin-Yarn, Kirby eats a tomato-like fruit called “Metamato” and Yin-Yarn gets angry about it, so Yin-Yang decides to suck Kirby into a sock he keeps in his waist, inside this sock lies a world known as Patch Land, patch land is composed of various lands patched together with something called Magic Yarn, this Magic Yarn is what keeps the world as a whole, but Yin-Yarn’s malignancy knows no limits, so after saving a prince named Fluff from a yarn monster who was chasing him, Kirby finds out that Yin Yarn has separated the various lands and is now running loose, now Kirby and Fluff decide to stop Yin-Yarn’s evil ways and restore the peace and quiet to the beautiful Patch Land. I know it’s silly, but all you have to do it press a button and skip all that.
The fact that Kirby meets up with this prince named Fluff actually opens space for multiplayer, if you wish so, two players can play simultaneously, pretty fun if you have someone else to play with. The single player continues being the main deal. In this new land, and with his body entirely made of yarn, Kirby has lost his most iconic move, his sucking ability, but another iconic move stays intact, the one Kirby transforms into a weight and falls downward until is reaches plain ground. The fact that Kirby is now made of yarn actually brought many possibilities for new moves as well as gameplay elements, Kirby’s main move is a yarn whip, with which he is able to disintegrate yarn enemies or collect them forming a yarn ball out of their body, with this whip Kirby is also capable of holding onto things, especially buttons around the stages that can serve as switches or grapple spot. If the player presses the forward button twice Kirby performs a dash transforming into a car, another one of the wonders possible by having a body entirely made of yarn. Kirby’s able to crawl through very small holes by simply deconstructing his body and becoming a simple line; a parachute is also possible for our yarn hero, reducing the falling speed.
Aside from the moves you can perform at any time–except the one Kirby becomes a line which happens only at certain spots–there are various kinds of vehicles and animals that Kirby can morph into. Like an off-road truck, a surfing penguin, a train; each of them has its own set of moves, most courses demand a transformation, some are made entirely for them, from start to finish. The difficulty of the courses is not steep, the game doesn’t leave a good first impression though, for instance, you can’t die, no matter how you try, all you get is a decrease of your beads count, if you manage to fall into pit traps too much or get hit repeatedly by enemies and reach zero in the counter, you won’t lose anything; that takes away some of the challenge the courses impose, but if you’re a completionist you won’t allow any beads loss since you get medals at the end of the stage for having many of them, of course reaching gold isn’t difficult even by losing a lot of beads. A similar system is found in the newest Prince of Persia released for the HD consoles and PC, where anytime you fell down a pit you’d get instantly restored back in place, the same thing happens here. The brads I mentioned are found everywhere in the courses and aside from giving you medals depending on how good you did in the course and your final count, they also serve as monetary currency.
The first thing you’ll want to buy in the game is a home, with that out of the way, you’ll help the owner of the spot you purchased expand the business, by giving him beads and helping decorate the newly constructed apartments to allure possible tenants, these tenants are actually a source of side-quests, upon completing the stages on the main game more will become available, they range from races, defeating certain amount of enemies in a limited period of time, collecting a number of beads and so on. One thing you are able to do is decorate your own room with the items you go collecting on courses, of course most veteran gamers won’t find any fun in that, so this is one of those aspects thrown in for the casuals who happen to come across Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Nintendo wouldn’t want to forget about them right? There are quite a lot of collectibles packed in for the 100% aficionados. Items you find in chests around stages will serve as decorating pieces as well, you also have one soundtrack disk in each course, after getting the disk the stage music becomes available for listening anytime you want. The game keeps track of everything basically, items, disks, enemies and characters found, medals; all count for your percentage and will make the completionists dreams come true.
Graphically the game is as beautiful as can get, the velvet-like appearance is not the most ground-breaking idea ever but it’s certainly underused, Kirby’s Epic Yarn is a lesson on how to use it. The musical compositions are excellent as well, even some redone classic tunes make their presence known. A problem I had was some slowdowns in the faster levels, like the one with the off-road truck, it especially happens in multiplayer as far as I can tell, it was bothersome when happened but won’t stop anyone from fully enjoying the experience. Another thing that’s a plus are the boss battles, a lot of creative ways of making bosses are present here, much like Kirby’s Canvas Curse was for the Nintendo DS for 2D platforming in general, of course, overall the Nintendo DS game was much more innovative and challenging, but we can see Kirby in the vanguard of modern 2D platforming, two major releases for consoles and handheld capacitate the franchise for that, let’s just hope Kirby stays a powerhouse of fresh and fun ideas, the formula is known by gamers and widely accepted, it’s just a matter of making it come true.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn might scare hardcore gamers at first glance, for its excessive cuteness, its excessive silliness, and the overall aesthetic, but deep beneath the top surface of its casualized skin hides a pretty fun game to be played, of course it’s not as challenging as most of us hoped but anyone could guess that, you’ll still go through good moments while playing it. The main game will take about 6-10 hours to finish, but if you decide to go for the 100% you might clock 20 hours of gameplay, and that’s good if you ask me. Nintendo seems to have made sure this game would walk the thin line of a game made for experienced gamers and a game made for a casual audience, trying at all cost to blend both, it often feels like it leans more toward the casual side of the rope, but that shouldn’t stop an experienced gamer to have fun with it, of course they have to keep in mind that this is very far from the average shooter and that the real fun doesn’t lie upon its room-decorating tasks or its overly simplistic children-friendly story, or the fact you can not die; its fun lies in the varied gameplay elements and the imaginative level designs, for that, Kirby’s Epic Yarn deserves the praise.