Developer: Good-Feel, HAL Laboratory / Publisher: Nintendo / ESRB: Everyone (Mild Cartoon Violence) / Played on: Wii / Price: $49.99
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Okay, try to stay with me on this one: Kirby, whilst wandering around Dream Land, finds a tomato. Given that the tomato is his favorite food, Kirby inhales the fruit with his typical disregard for a well-rounded meal. Immediately, we are introduced to the game’s antagonist Yin-Yarn who claims the tomato as his prized “Metamato.” From there, a sock worn around Yin-Yarn’s neck begins to glow, Kirby is sucked into the magic sock (because, of course, this game has a magic sock) and finds himself in a world constructed entirely of cloth and yarn. Subsequently, Kirby meets Prince Fluff and it’s up to you to stitch up the Patch Land and undo Yin-Yarn’s evil deeds.
The story in Kirby’s Epic Yarn is significant as it dictates the entire presentation of the game, and may result in a point of contention amongst players. From the opening minutes, Kirby’s Epic Yarn is presented in a storybook style complete with a narrator acting out the voices for the entire cast of characters. The presentation here demands a certain surrender and, honestly, might turn off a particular cross-section of gamers. You know if Kirby’s Epic Yarn is for you. Hardcore Modern Warfare players may not appreciate its whimsical nature but if you’re open to the notion of a lighthearted, even child-like approach to a platform game, this story will satisfy.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn is about as much of a complete overhaul to a franchise as you can imagine. Gone are the traditional Kirby techniques. No longer does Kirby inhale baddies to absorb their powers. He’s been stripped to a few steadfast mechanics. A lasso satisfies as your primary weapon, and alongside a ground pound and parachute, a fast-moving car rounds out a pretty limited list of abilities by Kirby standards. Instead, the transformative nature of the game has been placed upon the level design itself.
Traditionally Kirby has been transformed and manipulated by the environment that surrounds him. With Kirby’s Epic Yarn that format is turned on its head. In Patch Land the levels are constructed entirely of cloth, yarn, and a various malleable material that will be collapsed, pulled, stretched, and otherwise manipulated as you progress through the levels. That’s not to say that Kirby is left without any surprises. Almost each level boasts a section where Kirby transform into a tank, dolphin, rocket ship or any number of different forms to complete what could aptly be described as a minigame within the level.
The exploration and interaction with this newfound approach is the driving force behind the gameplay in Epic Yarn and supplants a traditional challenge element. Especially since you cannot die. At all. This is sure to be another point of contention but I truly found it refreshing. It’s a testament to the gameplay for it to supersede the fundamentals of staying alive to still keep you engaged. Yet that isn’t to say Kirby’s Epic Yarn is entirely devoid of challenge altogether. In fact, I would argue that it’s exactly as difficult as you want it to be. Throughout the game, you’ll collect items to decorate your apartment building. Furniture, fabrics, wallpapers, and music tracks are scattered throughout each level, and with a lengthy list to complete you could be at it for a very long time. Decorating rooms in your apartment building will then attract new tenants who will, in turn, provide new challenges and requests that extend the game far past its initial five-hour play through. While many will take issue with the lack of challenge in the traditional platforming sense, Kirby’s Epic Yarn does an outstanding job in its accessibility to all ages and levels of skill.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn, as with any Wii game, faces an uphill battle given the limitation of the hardware. This has a particularly difficult challenge given that Patch Land is created from materials that actually exist in the real world. Luckily, Kirby’s Epic Yarn looks terrific. The textures and movements of the fabrics are spot-on while Kirby and his yarn-crafted foes tangle and reform flawlessly. It was vital that the aesthetic of the environments and characters remained consistently compelling, and Kirby’s Epic Yarn retains its strong visual style throughout.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn stuck me as a bit of a gamble. To take some of the fundamental tenets of the franchise and throw them out the window was no small move. However, at its core, the interesting thing about the Kirby franchise has always been the ability to change and alter gameplay elements. Developer Good-Feel managed to maintain that basic appeal while giving audiences something new. While it’s not a perfect game (the initial play through was too short and I typically prefer more challenging platformers), Kirby’s Epic Yarn pays off big time. With high replayability in collecting furniture and fabrics as well as an entertaining two-player mode, there’s plenty to do here long after you defeat Yin-Yarn. If you give it a chance, you’ll find that Kirby’s Epic Yarn is, well, a pretty epic yarn.