When Nintendo unveiled Kirby’s Epic Yarn at E3 this year, there were several cases of Cuteness Overload reported at hospitals nationwide. Symptoms ranged from enormous, glazed over eyes, to people trying to knit a model of Patch World only to inadvertently impale themselves on their knitting needles. Now, several months later, everyone has received treatments and the appropriate vaccines and the game has hit store shelves. Unfortunately, it is entirely likely that players of this game, which is Kirby’s first console platformer outing in over a decade, will still suffer some recurring symptoms due to the overwhelmingly adorable pink menace. A whole set of new gameplay mechanics and a visual style that’s never been seen before on the Wii (and it’s so cute you’ll want to spell it K-E-W-T) will ensure that Kirby seems fresh and new, despite being around for nearly 20 years. Pull up a bedpan, and ask the nurse to plug in an insulin IV, because you’re blood sugar is about to spike as we sample this incredibly sweet platformer from the development teams at HAL Laboratory and Good-Feel.
The amount of detail placed into the visuals of Kirby’s Epic Yarn is shocking. All of the environments are built out of pieces of fabric adorned with buttons and gems from your sister’s Bedazzler. Felt looks slightly fuzzy, flannel actually looks like flannel on the screen, and there’s gingham that looks like it was taken right off of a hillbilly’s homecoming gown. Not only that, but these textiles are soft and have give to them. You can often see the ground sagging beneath Kirby as he walks on it, and fabric platforms will only hold Kirby for a limited amount of time before they fold and drop him. The cloth environments may be two dimensional, but they are also layered. If you come across a door in a level, Kirby can use it to go under the top layer of fabric to access previously unreachable areas. You can’t see him anymore, but you can see the bulge he creates as he moves behind the background. Some areas of the levels are even zipped together, forcing you to unzip it in order to reveal a path or beads. The cloth background occasionally can even be cinched together when Kirby pulls on a button. This interesting mechanic allows Kirby to do things like move platforms closer to him, and it works flawlessly. The biggest mistake anyone could make would be to ignore this game because of its “kiddie” presentation; Kirby’s Epic Yarn is clearly using the Wii to its fullest potential. Along with this visual goodness, players are also treated to sweet, simple, and mostly piano-based music which is themed appropriately for the environment, and goes nicely with this arts-and-crafts look. Graphics and sound come together to create a gentle gaming environment that is actually relaxing — which is a huge deviation from the skull-splitting stress fest that dominates so many games these days.
Aside from the fact that this is another fantastic 2D platformer featuring Kirby, you should try to forget most of what you know about how a Kirby game should play. Kirby no longer sucks up his enemies, but rather uses a yarn whip to either unravel them or to wind them up into a deadly yarn projectile he can throw at other enemies or destructible elements of the environment. This new attack method works well once you figure out how close you need to be to an enemy for the whip to work properly. Instead of the trusty Copy Abilities from previous Kirby platformers, Kirby now has the ability to transform into four different forms on the fly. For example, a double-tap left or right on the keypad transforms Kirby into a car (or a sled if you’re on ice) that can cover terrain more quickly. Kirby can also become a submarine, a parachute, or a heavy weight depending on what the situation demands. These transformations are mostly seamless, but there were times when Kirby would unexpectedly turn into a car or wouldn’t perform the change no matter how quickly the double tap on the d-pad was executed. These issues didn’t really seem like a big deal though, because a majority of the time the controls worked perfectly. In addition to these transformations, there are specific spots in some levels where Kirby can transform into other things, like a giant Kirby-shaped tank, or a fire engine that can shoot ropes of water at fires to extinguish them. These “deluxe” transformations provide a fun break from the standard gameplay by mixing up the style completely for a large portion of the level.
Kirby puts this new arsenal of moves and transformation to use when he is traversing the game’s 50 levels. There are the levels we’ve all come to expect — an ice world, fire world, forest world – along with a few new themes that are very fun. In every level you earn a patch which can be used to morph and change the map to allow Kirby access to a new level. Players would be well advised to have the phone nearby and the hospital on speed dial, because even on the maps there is no shortage of adorableness that can easily send you into a relapse of Cuteness Overload. In each level players will have two main objectives: collect all the beads you can manage and keep them by not taking any damage, and find the three hidden treasures, one of which is a CD you can use to play the level’s theme in the Quilty Square area. The beads you collect act as currency to buy fabric and furniture for Kirby’s apartment. Also, having certain amounts of beads at the end of the level will award Kirby a bronze, silver, or gold medal. These medals do little except boost the players ego, and since most players will probably find decorating Kirby’s pad to be a little boring, these beads will eventually seem to have little value. That is, until you get to a boss battle. Not only do you earn medals for retaining your beads, but boss fights will also give you a patch that is used to unlock some bonus levels in a world if you can manage to keep the bead meter full enough. Getting the three hidden treasures can have a benefit outside of decorating — you can use them to help Kirby’s landlord decorate three vacant apartments, so a new tenant will want to move in. Each of the three tenants offers a new mini-game challenge for Kirby, like playing hide-and-seek with some floating anthropomorphic pieces of yarn. These mini-games will provide a solid amount of extra playtime outside of the game’s main storyline.
If you’ve experienced the madness and calamity that can ensue from a multiplayer game of New Super Mario Bros. on Wii, you have a good idea of how multiplayer works with Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Player one controls Kirby, while player two takes control of Prince Fluff (basically a blue Kirby with a crown) to assist in clearing the level. Players can pick each other up and use them as projectiles, and if one player gets stuck they can simply press the A button to be carried to their partner’s location. There is a lot of fun to be had in this mode of play, but if you are on a particularly difficult level, it may be wiser to go solo. Both players share the same bank of beads, so if one gets hurt both suffer.
Some footage of a multiplayer game in Kirby’s Epic Yarn
If you can stop prancing around your living room, trying to duplicate the dance Kirby and Prince Fluff do at the end of each level long enough to actually complete this game, that is a sure sign that you aren’t suffering from Cuteness Overload. That’s very lucky for you, because Kirby’s Epic Yarn will give you a handful of hours to play a game that is probably the most laid-back, easy going and funnest title you’ve experienced in years. Nintendo’s beloved walking pink marshmallow has a whole new bag of tricks too, and is adventuring in a world that is so finely detailed that when you see flannel in the background, you’ll be searching for some granola and Birkenstocks to go with it. Add a solid co-op multiplayer experience and some mini-games to this, and you’ve got a great game that anyone in the household can enjoy.
Kirby's Epic Yarn
|Fantastic graphics and art style that keeps the eye busy and happy, collectible items, mini-games, and branching level paths will keep more mature players entertained, a completely stress free and fun game||Lack of any real penalties and low difficulty curve may make this seem like a game for kids, a couple of very minor control glitches|
|Verdict||This game is a must-have for any Wii owner, unless you hate fun.|