At a time when it seems that realism and grittiness in games is all the rage seeing something bright and cheery definitely feels like a nice change of pace. It’s hard to look at a game like Kirby’s Epic Yarn and not be immediately taken in by its charming looks. While using a unique art style in a game isn’t anything new, taking everyday pieces of fabric, cotton and wool to create a living, breathing world full of vivid colours certainly sets Kirby apart from the rest of the pack. But is it just all looks and no depth?
The story itself is extremely cute not to mention very odd. Kirby ends up getting sucked into a magic sock and finds himself turned into yarn… literally. With the help of a blue looking Kirby named Prince Fluff the two set out to save the land and get Kirby back to normal. The story is silly as is the cut scenes in which it is told but really it all takes a back seat to the awesome fun that lies ahead.
As soon as you start playing through the opening stage you may begin to wonder just what makes this game so special. Sure you can run, sure you can jump, but what sets this game apart? Since not only the entire world but Kirby and Prince Fluff themselves are made of yarn and fabrics they also have the same properties. Kirby can lasso himself like a piece of string at enemies, platforms can be yanked and folded across to become reachable and even buttons can be used as swinging points. While Kirby’s Epic Yarn uses relatively basic platforming mechanics the way they are implemented into this rich tapestry gives them a fresh new feel that will constantly see you amazed at every new stage.
And if that doesn’t sound like enough of a reason to give Kirby a try then surely transforming into a dolphin, dune-buggy, UFO and surfing penguin does. You heard right, a surfing penguin! At the end of most stages in the game you’ll see yourself converted from pink ball to a number of things. Like the platforming they are simple additions such as racing and timing jumps as a buggy or the aforementioned penguin, swimming underwater with extra finesse as a dolphin and even drawing a train track ahead for you to ride on with the Wii remote pointer. They are neat little moments that help break up the gameplay.
Along your epic journey you’ll make your way through eight differently themed worlds each with a handful of smaller stages and a boss battle to defeat. The variety is large taking you through scolding volcanoes, candy lands, tropical beaches and even space.
Furthermore all this can be played with a friend. One of you will manoeuvre Kirby while the other will take control of Prince Fluff. While this certainly makes things a little more hectic (since you can lasso and throw each other around) it’s great fun to work together and traverse difficult stages as a team.
As well as these main stages you’ll also come across a bunch of challenges. These range from collecting a certain number of gems within a time limit to finding five small friends in a game of hide and seek. These are great should you want a break from the adventure itself and also reward you with wallpapers to accompany any pieces of furniture found when tackling the main levels. All collectables can be used to decorate Kirby’s apartment which while may not amount too much is still a decent enough distraction between levels for younger players.
While it’s impossible to actually fail during a level, the game instead rates your performance based on how many gems you collect. These can be found lying around, by unravelling enemies or discovering hidden areas. The more you find the better your ranking will be. Get hit however and you’ll lose gems scattering them everywhere. It’s a great risk/reward system that definitely makes certain levels very unpredictable. If you wish to just play through each stage and not focus on the gems then you can but this can make the game a lot easier. Too easy in fact and that may be where some gamers are put off. The first few worlds offer some of the easiest platforming I’ve ever seen with little to threaten the player. It’s a shame that Epic Yarn takes so long to get to a decent level of difficulty. However achieving every gold medal and unlocking all collectables is quite a task. Those wanting a challenge are definitely covered even if takes it’s time.
Sadly looking at screenshots doesn’t do this game justice but rest assured when you see it in motion it is simply astonishing. Leave it to Nintendo to once again prove (much like they did with Super Mario Galaxy) that you don’t need HD nor a powerful console to make a brilliant looking game. Everything looks like it is actually made of yarn and this gimmick is often used to brilliant effect. Sinking sand is simply several long strands of yarn that move downward, water is a single piece of string that sways as you swim through it and cotton clouds look as though they’ve been taken right out of your real life bathroom. The music too is surprisingly pleasant too. Soft melodies accompany the action and suit the overall look and feel of the game perfectly.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn is one of the most charming games I’ve played in a long time even if it is a little easy. Don’t let the kiddie exterior put you off as when unravelled, you’ll happen to find one of the Wii’s most charismatic and lovable side scrolling platformers.