Kirby’s Epic Yarn is the latest platformer starring Nintendo’s pink puffball. Even before release, the game gained attention for its use of what could be called “thread-shading.” Everything in the game looks as if it is made of cloth or yarn.
The story is simple: Kirby gets sucked into Patch Land by the evil wizard Yin-Yarn, who has torn apart Patch Land into seven pieces. It is up to Kirby and his new friend Prince Fluff to retrieve the golden threads that literally hold Patch Land together.
With his blue color and ‘angry eyes,’ Prince Fluff looks like an “Americanized” version of Kirby. New to the series is a co-op mode where the second player controls Prince Fluff. The game is controlled with the Wiimote held horizontally, like a NES pad, and occasionally uses the tilt function.
The ‘suck in your enemies and take their powers’ gameplay that has been the trademark of the series has been done away with. Instead of swallowing his enemies whole, Kirby now lassos and unravels them with a quick tap of the 1 button. Holding down the 1 button rolls the enemy up into a ball that can then be thrown at other foes. Kirby and Prince Fluff can even roll each other up and toss their partner at enemies or to reach new areas.
Does Kirby’s Epic Yarn knit up some new gameplay to go with the new look, or does it unravel like an old sweater?
FITS LIKE A GLOVE
Looks New - The thread shading used in Kirby’s Epic Yarn gives it a distinct and original look. The thread shading is more than just a fuzzy new coat of paint; it also affects how things react in the game and even extends to the menus and in-game displays, such as the string running across the top of the screen that fills up with beads and medals as Kirby accumulates them.
Double the Fun - The addition of a co-op mode adds to the fun and also makes the game easier. Having a second player means always having something to throw at the baddies and provides bonus abilities during the special transformation sections (see next section). More devious players can delight in tossing their partners into spikes or bottomless pits. The ability to lasso one’s partner also allows more experienced players to give their partners a hand during the tricky parts.
Transform and Roll Out - Kirby’s Epic Yarn breaks up the hop-and-bop platformer action with sections where he turns into a monster truck, a UFO, or even a dolphin. In some instances, both Kirby and Prince Fluff both formed a single large vehicle with each player controlling a different part. These sections required a bit more cooperation between the players. These little breaks in the action help keep the game from getting too repetitive and are loads of fun, too.
Got a Life - Unlike other Nintendo platformers, Kirby’s Epic Yarn does not have a lives system. When Kirby is hit by enemies, he drops beads (ala Sonic the Hedgehog) and when he falls down a hole he is put back into a safe area, but also at the cost of some beads. While fallen beads can be picked up, players will want to be careful if they want to finish each level with enough beads to earn a gold medal. Not having to restart levels reduces frustration during the occasional tricky part and keeps the gameplay moving.
Just Plain Fun - In a gaming landscape filled with aliens trying to take over the Earth, terrorists trying to blow stuff up, and grizzled, scowling, he-men trying to stop them from doing so, Kirby’s Epic Yarn is a breath of fresh air. It’s a funny, silly little game that aims to put a smile on your face as you play. I had more ‘pure fun’ playing Kirby’s Epic Yarn than most other recent releases.
Too Cute For Its Own Good - There are plenty of guys out there that aren’t even going to look at this game because of the cutesy presentation. Frankly, I don’t blame them too much. The narrator sounds like he belongs on Reading Rainbow and the music features lots of soothing piano tunes. Older gamers might find the music reminiscent of the old Charlie Brown TV specials. Younger players should enjoy it, but it might wear a bit thin for older gamers.
Easy Peasy - With the exception of a few tricky parts, the game isn’t very hard. I went through the Story mode in just over eight hours. For those OCD gamers that just have to finish 100%, there are plenty of doodads to be found and finishing a level with enough beads to earn a gold medal is not always easy, particularly in the later levels.
A Bicycle Built for Two - Not having a second player takes some of the fun out of the game, and there are even some bonuses that appear to require a second player to be obtained, which can be frustrating for those gamers without a Player 2 to join them.
Silly Sub-Quests - Early on you are given an apartment by Dom Woole. You have the option of decorating Kirby’s pad with objects you pick up during your quest, or furnishing other apartments. Upon furnishing other apartments with required items, occupants will move in and ask you if you want to play minigames such as hide-n-seek (seriously) or finding a certain number of beads within a time limit. The reward for finishing the mini-games is another pattern that can be used to decorate your pad…yippee. Kids will probably enjoy it, but I didn’t feel too compelled to complete them all.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn is a solid platformer that will provide hours of single player or co-op fun for players willing to look beyond the game’s presentation, which is reminiscent of an episode of Blue’s Clue’s. While the too-cutesy presentation might get a bit grating after a few hours, there are plenty of surprises to be found and lots of fun to be had. Even when I got near the end of the game, the game threw a surprise or two that kept things interesting. I get the feeling that this game was not meant to be played alone, though, because the co-op was very well thought out. Not having to constantly restart and being able to help out one’s partner makes Epic Yarn an ideal co-op game. I would venture to say that Kirby’s Epic Yarn is one the few games that an experienced gamer would actually enjoy playing alongside a newbie.
So put down your plasma guns and sniper rifles for a few hours, guys, and enjoy some pure Nintendo fun.
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