Review: Kirby's Epic Yarn
Developer(s): Good-Feel/HAL Laboratory - Publisher: Nintendo - Platform: Wii - Release Date: October 17, 2010
The Most Fun I've Ever Had Playing With Yarn
I was never a big fan of yarn as a kid. It’s never been my preferred medium of creativity and while most kids enjoyed the stuff, the most fun I ever got was untangling it from the hair of idiot classmates. So imagine how surprised I was to find that the very string I shunned would be the most exciting thing to happen for one of my favorite video game characters.
After eating a tomato possessed by the evil wizard Yin Yarn, Kirby is turned into yarn and sent to the knitted world of Patchland. Unfortunately, Patchland has been completely unstitched by Yin Yarn leaving the world in disarray. With a new friend in Prince Fluff, you must sew Patchland back together and defeat Yin Yarn before he turns all of Dreamland into yarn.
Epic Yarn proves that a console doesn’t need to be a graphical powerhouse to produce gorgeous games. Everything looks fantastic and the yarn aesthetic lends itself to some of the most visually creative effects you’ll ever see. Yanking pull strings bring distant platforms closer, leaving parts of the world in a wrinkled heap. Tugging zippers cause entire layers of the world to fall apart, revealing hidden areas underneath. The textile world is incredibly pleasing and feels like playing through a relaxing children’s storybook. Kirby’s classic foes look great in yarn form and the boss battles share the same creativity as the world itself. In particular, the fight against Squashini, a pumpkin-headed magician, is one of the coolest boss battles in recent memory.
Kirby can’t hold air in his yarn form, so he’s lost the ability to swallow and absorb baddies. Instead, a new yarn lasso serves his weapon of choice. With it, your wooly adversaries (and friend) can be unraveled, rolled up into yarn balls and tossed at other enemies or obstacles. It’s not as fun as experimenting with different enemy powers, but disentangling everything in sight is pretty satisfying. For a double dose of adorable, second players control Prince Fluff and can drop in and out of the game at anytime.
With a little imagination, a piece of yarn can become practically anything and the vehicle stages demonstrate that better than anything. Whether you’re leaping through rings as a dolphin, shooting down ships as a rocket, or obliterating everything as the world’s cutest tank, these transformations offer nice variety and I had a good time with each of them. They’re not perfect though. Some forms require motion controls and while I appreciate their implementation, a few of them, such as the tank and train, feel a little awkward.
Like all Kirby games, Epic Yarn sits on the easier side of the difficulty spectrum but a new bead collecting system adds a nice layer of challenge. When you reach the end of a stage you’re awarded a medal based on the number of beads you collected along the way. While you can’t actually die, taking hits causes Kirby to lose beads ala Sonic and his rings, thus lowering your overall score. Bead collecting hits a great balance of casual fun and engrossing challenge; anyone can beat Epic Yarn without breaking a much of a sweat, but only the skilled dedicated will earn top honors in every stage. And let me tell you, there’s nothing more agonizing than amassing a gold medal’s worth of beads only lose them to a missed jump right before the finish line.
Beads aren’t the only collectibles out there. Stages are also littered with hidden pieces of furniture. Since Kirby’s a visitor to Patchland, he needs a place to stay, and has rented a room in the local apartment building. Your apartment can be decorated however you like, but the lazy landlord wants you to furnish his other vacant rooms as well. Each room requires specific pieces to in order to bring in new tenants and completing a floor unlocks a new one, raising the building higher. New neighbors give challenge missions such as races or games of hide and seek where you can earn additional prizes. Apartment decorating isn’t much, but it’s a fun little distraction and a solid incentive to search stages for every piece of furniture.
It’s impossible not to smile playing Epic Yarn; those that aren’t either have macho friends in the room or are in dire need of a soul transplant. It’s a blast alone and just as good with a buddy. More importantly, Epic Yarn shows that whimsical design can be just as impressive and eye-catching as gritty realism, if not more so. Don’t let the cutesy visuals scare you away; Kirby’s Epic Yarn is one of the most enjoyable experiences out there.
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