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Blast from the Past Reviews - Kirby's Epic Yarn

7/9/12 9:54pm
tl;dr

Kirby’s Epic Yarn is able to distinguish itself through great level design and a fantastic sense of creativity.

 The Good: Creative level design; gameplay is diverse and very fun; fantastic art direction; superb soundtrack; co-op is very enjoyable and a welcome addition to the franchise.

The Bad: Not long enough to warrant a buy; very easy; apartment decorating is pointless and not at all interesting.

Nintendo has kept some of its most popular franchises under wraps since the Wii came out. While Link did get an early release on the Wii back in 2006, fans waited five years to join him on his new adventure in 2011. Other franchises like Pikmin and Kid Icarus have been surprisingly absent from the Wii’s overflowing library of games, and while almost all of Nintendo’s characters appeared in 2008’s Super Smash Bros. Brawl, It’s sad to see that nearly half of them haven’t had a true game on the Wii. Kirby, in particular, was one character that was in desperate need of an overhaul. This is where Kirby’s Epic Yarn comes in. By completely reworking the formula, Kirby’s Epic Yarn distinguishes itself from the everyday platformer through great level design and a fantastic sense of creativity.

Kirby games aren’t exactly known for their strong narratives, and things aren’t terribly different here. This time, Kirby’s main nemesis is a strange sorcerer named Yin-Yarn. After accidentally eating one of Yin-Yarn’s morph tomatoes, Kirby is transformed into yarn. To make matters worse, Yin-Yarn uses a magic sock to transport the pink hero into an alternate world called Patch Land. It’s here that Kirby meets Prince Fluff, who asks for Kirby’s help in restoring Patch Land after Yin-Yarn separated it into seven different pieces.

The story is clearly meant for a younger audience, but it’s a very charming tale. The narrator is reminiscent of a father telling a bedtime story, altering his voice to fit each character, and the various cutscenes strewn about the story are appropriately adorable in nature.

Since Kirby’s away from home, he’s put up in a small apartment (appropriately titled “Kirby’s Pad”). Throughout the adventure, you’ll stumble upon various pieces of furniture that can be used to decorate your apartment. You’ll also be able to buy new furniture and wallpaper for your apartment using beads: the form of currency in Patch Land. You’ll also be asked to decorate other apartments to attract new tenants who will offer special minigames within some of the levels, such as a hide and seek and bead collecting. Thankfully, these particular quests are not mandatory. Decorating your apartment has no purpose whatsoever, and the minigames, while interesting at first, don’t hold their novelty for long.

In his current yarn-like state, Kirby can no longer suck up enemies and gain their unique abilities. Instead, Kirby whips out a piece of yarn to unravel his foes or ball them up to use as projectiles. This yarn whip is also Kirby’s main link to the environment, allowing him to swing on buttons, pull tags or pieces of thread and unzip zippers. This is what makes Kirby’s Epic Yarn so unique. Sometimes you’ll never know what pulling on that thread or swinging on that button will do, and it’s a delight to see each level respond to Kirby’s antics in their own unique way.

The level design in Kirby’s Epic Yarn is no doubt one of its greatest strengths. Each level is packed with loose threads and buttons that Kirby can interact with, changing the level’s layout and opening hidden areas that contain extra items and beads. The developers show real creativity in each level, and never have you doing the same thing for so long that it gets tiring. However, it’s the levels that allow Kirby to transform that provide the most enjoyment.

Being made entirely out of yarn, Kirby is able to transform his body into a variety of different objects. Right off the bat, Kirby gains the ability to turn into a car to gain some extra speed and a parachute to glide down to earth…err…Patch Land. However, some levels contain special items that transform Kirby into things like a dolphin (which makes the water levels a ton of fun), a UFO, for gliding through space, or even a gigantic Kirby tank that fires missiles at the unfortunate villains residing in Patch Land. Some of these transformations call for you to use the Wii’s motion controls in very simple, satisfying ways. One moment you’re tilting the controller back and forth to aim a fire truck’s hose, another moment you’re drawing train tracks for a small Kirby train. The levels that contain these special transformations are always a delight, and provide much-needed variety throughout Kirby’s adventure.

 

One thing that must be mentioned about Kirby’s Epic Yarn is Kirby’s inability to bite the dust. Try as you might, Kirby cannot die. Whenever Kirby is injured by an enemy or a bottomless pit (which are somewhat rare in this game), a fair amount of beads that Kirby has collected throughout the level will go flying. However, if Kirby is caught without beads and takes damage…nothing happens. Kirby will flinch, maybe turn into a pile of yarn for a few moments, and then get right back into the action. Is this a bad thing? I personally don’t think so. This is a Nintendo game, primarily geared toward a younger audience. In addition, I was only caught without beads once or twice throughout the game, so it’s really not a huge problem unless you make it one. Besides, co-op would be insanely difficult were it not for this particular design choice.

Each level in Kirby’s Epic Yarn can be played by oneself or with a friend playing as Prince Fluff. Both Kirby and Prince Fluff have the same abilities, and there are some areas where a friend can help you reach some out of the way treasure troves, but no level demands cooperation. As in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, you can pick up your friend to get them through a difficult area, or use them as projectiles against enemies or breakable blocks. If one character lags behind, a friendly angel will carry them back to their partner. It’s a simple co-op system, but it fits perfectly within the confines of the game. Playing with a friend makes Kirby’s Epic Yarn twice as fun…and twice as chaotic.

The visuals in Kirby’s Epic Yarn are some of the best in the industry. Simple, yet elegant, the art direction in this game is a wonder to behold. With virtually everything in Patch Land made of fabric and yarn, some of the environmental effects, like water and wind, are subtle, yet genius in their design. The art direction makes even the most threatening of monsters adorable in their design. Kirby and Prince Fluff are animated incredibly well, from the way their bodies of yarn transform into different shapes to their jubilant end-level exultations.

The music in Kirby’s Epic Yarn is also very well done, with simple, yet elegant pieces that fit each environment perfectly. Some remixed classics like Green Greens are also thrown into the sizeable soundtrack for good measure. Not much else to say here, the music’s superb and fun to listen to. Oh, and Kirby sounds adorable…

Kirby games are known for being incredibly short, but Epic Yarn is able to provide a fair amount of levels, as well as bonus areas and collectible items. Co-op is also able to prolong the experience. And although Epic Yarn is quite a bit longer than previous entries, you can still beat it in about three to four days.

Kirby’s Epic Yarn is a great game with a big heart. The level design is fantastic, and the various transformations that take place in some of the levels are a blast to take part in. The graphical style is simply amazing, making even the most subtle things catch your eye. A great soundtrack also helps to draw you into the adventure, and though Kirby is away from home, you’ll have no problems staying in Patch Land for awhile.

 

» Tagged In: #co-op, #Epic Yarn, #Kirby, #Patch Land

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