A lovely opportunity to catch a glimpse of the series dressed up in a unique coat of paint
Kirby games have always been the source of somehow mixed reactions from even the most avid Nintendo fans; while some gamers will look at his adventures as a fantastic way to chill and have fun in between more demanding releases, others will claim the total lack of difficulty Kirby’s games provide makes it hard to actually enjoy and focus on them.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn does not arrive with the purpose of shattering the arguments of those who were never too entertained by the character. Although its gameplay is drastically different from what most have come to expect out of a game starring the pink hero, it is still as easy to finish as all of its many predecessors. However, it manages – by being a game overly beautified by attention to detail – to build a solid reasoning as to why one should give the series another chance.
On the other hand, and even though it strips the franchise of some of its most famous features, to those who have always had a soft heart for this equally soft universe, Kirby’s Epic Yarn comes in as a lovely opportunity to catch a glimpse of the series dressed up in a unique coat of paint.
It all begins when Kirby is taking a peaceful stroll through the friendly – yet strangely constantly troubled – Dreamland. Taken over by his gluttony, the puffball attempts to eat an apparently harmless tomato. It is revealed, however, that the fruit is possessed by an evil sorcerer named Yin-Yarn, who banishes Kirby to Patch Land, where the hero is turned into yarn. There, he learns Yin-Yarn broke the land into seven different pieces that are now in need of being sown together once again by seven missing pieces of magic yarn. Needless to say, Kirby sets out on an adventure to bring peace to this broken land.
If there is a Nintendo series that has always had a clear lean towards children, it has got to be Kirby, and that tendency is made pretty blatant by some elements in Kirby’s Epic Yarn. First of all, the minimalistic story – filled with silly lines – is developed through storybook-like cutscenes that are combined with a narration that, in its intonation, is extremely reminiscent of a father reading a nighttime story to a child.
Besides, one of the key elements in Kirby’s Epic Yarn is that dying is impossible, which basically means that a child could – with a big deal of trouble and fun – button-mash their way to the end of the game. However, those two details do not, in any way, imply that an adult or teenager would be unable to enjoy the game, because Kirby’s Epic Yarn is a treat to anyone who values creativity and clever level-design in videogames.
Since the game takes place in a world of Yarn, all of its levels and characters are made of different kinds of fabric, yarn, needles, buttons, and other objects of the same category. The most interesting part about that aspect of Kirby’s Epic Yarn is that this world of fabric does not exclusively work as a beautiful artistic presentation for its stages; on the contrary, yarn is a completely integral part of the adventure, and the qualities and properties of the material are brilliantly used as gameplay elements.
For example, when Kirby enters a door, he is actually putting himself in between two layers of fabric; if the stage is apparently lacking a platform for further exploration, there will probably be a zipper around the area that can be pulled in order to make transformations to the landscape; and all enemies share the same weak spot: a button that, when tugged by Kirby’s whip, makes the lines that form their silhouettes unravel magnificently.
Details of ingenious design like those, sometimes integrated into the background and on other occasions serving as smart devices that bridge scenario and gameplay, are everywhere and they make Kirby’s Epic Yarn attractive to every kind of audience: the one looking for a cute kid-friendly title, and the one looking for a display of creative game development.
All of the stages are absolutely mesmerizing and the sheer variety of scenarios built out of fabric is dazzling: snow, lava, sand, water, forests, and all of the average platformer backgrounds are completely reinvented in the form of yarn and feature an attention to detail that manages to go beyond some of the most impressive 3-D games out there.
As Kirby makes the jump to Patch Land, his signature move – swallowing enemies and stealing their powers – is completely lost. He, instead, uses a whip made of cloth as his main weapon. Undoubtedly, long-time fans that have grown used to taking advantage of enemies’ powers to clear the way and obliterate foes in different ways will be disappointed Kirby is no longer the flexible weapon of mass destruction he used to be. However, within the constraint of having to rely on a whip, the game – through the use of its theme – manages to be rather inventive.
The stages are quite varied in their gameplay, and while part of the credit goes to the inventive traps and obstacles that developers crafted, the other part goes to the many transformations the game features. Kirby can turn into a rally racing car, a fire truck, a spaceship, a fish, a digging machine, a train, a dolphin and a few other quirky objects that give designers a chance to expand on what the game could do, and that opportunity was very well explored.
All of the transformations, just like Kirby himself, are extremely easy to maneuver and the controls are as intuitive as they can be since the low amount of buttons present on the Wiimote lets players discover with uncanny ease what button does what.
Bosses are equally well-designed, and although they pose no threat to the invincible Kirby, their varied forms of attack and the different ways through which they can be hit make up for some thrilling combats that show the same uncanny level of dedication and love that is found on the game’s stages and visuals.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn has a total of seven worlds, each featuring six stages and a boss. It is a reasonably good amount of stages, but – truth be told – none of them are considerably lengthy; they can all be completed in under three minutes if players decide to rush through them – something that is very easy to do given the fact that one cannot possibly die in Kirby’s Epic Yarn.
However, the game provides great reasons to explore everything – which is the biggest part of the fun, potentially extending the relatively short adventure to more than twelve hours. All stages have three hidden treasures and thousands of beads. Treasures can be used to furnish Kirby’s yarn house, while beads will influence the rank players gets once they reach the end of the stage.
Losing beads is, actually, the only punishment for being hit by an enemy or falling into a bottomless pit. Therefore, since one single mistake can be the difference between a gold and a silver medal, players who are looking for full completion will spend a lot of time wandering around the stages and mastering them so that Kirby is not hit by anything or drops down a hole thanks to a poorly calculated jump.
As an extra motivation, medals are not just for show. Getting gold on boss battles will unlock a secret stage within its respective world, and beating said level will open up the way to yet another one. Those extra stages are usually designed around Kirby’s varied palette of transformations and are absurdly fun, featuring some of the finest moments of the adventure.
Going for full completion is not a gargantuan task. Still, it is far from easy and it will provide a decent level of challenge to more experienced players, something those will certainly not encounter in Kirby’s Epic Yarn if their sole goal is getting to the end of the game.
Though its adventure is certainly not for everyone, artistically speaking, Kirby’s Epic Yarn is universally irresistible. And while it is unable to create many technical fireworks due to its sidescrolling design, the animation of the characters, enemies, and bosses amazes due to its unbelievable fluidity. Moreover, the game is a feast for both the eyes and ears, because its soundtrack is full of the simple yet catchy tunes one expects to find in a light-hearted platformer.
By applying an extreme makeover on the Kirby franchise, Epic Yarn removes some of its signature quirks but makes up for that by employing high levels of creativity in the crafting of an incredible game that ranks among the finest efforts on the Nintendo Wii. It is very suitable to kids and adults alike, which can enjoy it together due to its fantastic cooperative mode where Kirby and Prince Fluff join forces to sew Patch Land back together, and – on the other end of the spectrum – it lures expert players in thanks to its level design and care for detail.