Review: Kirby’s Epic Yarn (Nintendo Wii)

Kirby’s Epic Yarn
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Good-Feel
Genre: Platformer
Release Date: 10/17/2010

Kirby has long been absent from the home console scene, not having made an appearance since Kirby Air Ride on the Gamecube (with the exception of Super Smash Bros. Brawl). It’s also the first platformer he’s starred in on a console since Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. Granted, his home has generally been on portable systems for the most part. He made his debut on the original Gameboy, after all, and just recently, the Nintendo DS has seen numerous releases including Kirby Super Star Ultra, Kirby: Squeak Squad, and Kirby: Canvas Curse.

Now it’s time for the gluttonous pink puffball to tackle another platforming outing on the Nintendo Wii, but this time with a visual twist. Does Kirby’s adventure into the land of fabric pay off, or should it be swallowed into the void of a bargain bin?

Let’s Review

Story/Modes

While journeying through Dream Land one day, Kirby happens upon a Metamato and tries to eat it. You know, those little tomatoes with the “M” on it that restores all your health? This upsets the evil wizard, Yin Yarn, to whom it belonged to, and he uses his magic sock to suck Kirby into a world called Patch Land. During the trip, Kirby is transformed into yarn himself, rendering his absorption powers useless. He meets the prince of Patch Land, Prince Fluff, and joins forces with him in order to defeat Yin Yarn once and for all.

Kirby games have never really been incredibly story driven, and the one presented in Kirby’s Epic Yarn remains consistent with the series’ simplicity. Much of the plot is told via cutscenes that contain very basic animations, and it is narrated as if someone was reading you a story. It’s not an amazing story by any means, but it is rather cutesy and if you enjoy any of Mario’s many exploits, this should feel right at home.

Some classic Kirby characters manage to work their way into the plot as well, so Kirby vets should enjoy the references. In fact, adults who grew up with Kirby games may enjoy the tale the most as it’s very nostalgic and should garner a few giggles just from the cheesiness of the whole thing. Kids especially will eat this up because of its storybook presentation.

Story/Modes Rating: Good

Graphics

The gap between what the Wii can do in comparison to the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 widens with each passing year, so developers have to get really creative if they want to impress players visually. I think they have achieved that lofty goal with Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Remember when The Legend of Zelda went to cel shaded graphics for the first time with The Wind Waker? The art direction here isn’t quite as drastic as that since Kirby has generally been cutesy in style, but it’s definitely a new look for the Kirby franchise and it’s a unique look in general.

You see, everything looks like it has been sewn out of something. The characters are all made out of yarn, and the scenery is a hodgepodge of patches and sewn buttons. It’s not just for show either. In most cases, the backgrounds can be manipulated as well. For example, if you pull on strings, the fabric will unravel or bunch up which in turn will expose secrets or move platforms closer together so you can continue on. Not since the Paper Mario games have I seen a new art style work itself into the game mechanics like it has with this one, which really makes the graphics impressive in my eyes.

Graphics Rating: Classic

Sound

Kirby has generally been a character of few words, and most of what he does say is about as coherent to me as your average baby talk. You’ll hear some more of that both during the course of the game as well as when you make selections or are about to begin new stages. Every other voice of the game is done by the narrator. Seriously, he’ll actually deepen his voice when other characters speak as if he was reading a bedtime story to his kids.

The music is generally pretty good and it includes a few hummable tunes from his older games. For the most part though, the soundtrack in general is very serene. It’s usually not a problem to have a few songs that are very easygoing, but I can’t think of one stage that provided any sense of urgency to what I was doing. Perhaps that’s what the developers were going for, but it would’ve been nice to have a few more exciting tracks thrown into the mix.

Sound Rating: Enjoyable

Control/Gameplay

While still a platformer at heart, Kirby’s Epic Yarn is a drastic change from its predecessors. Kirby can’t fly, absorb enemies, or copy powers anymore. And without those things, what even makes it a Kirby game? However, despite the changes, the game most definitely feels like Kirby and you eventually grow to appreciate the developer’s attempts to deviate from the tried and true formula. Especially considering that very formula has begun to grow stale with some of his more recent releases.

When you begin the game, you are plopped into a hub of sorts that contains doors that you can enter into to start each stage. When you complete a stage, you are awarded an item that allows you to unlock the next. Completing all the stages opens the door to the boss of that realm and further success will reward you with a piece of magic yarn. This magic yarn binds the realm you’re in with the realm next door and you can progress even further.

As with most platformers, your goal is to get from point A to point B. Since Kirby no longer has his absorption abilities, he is instead given a yarn whip of sorts that can latch onto his enemies and pull them apart. He can also roll them up into tiny balls of yarn and throw them into other enemies. As you progress through each stage, you want to be on the watch for beads which add to your overall score at the end of the level. You see, you can’t actually die in this game, even if you fall in a pit. Instead, you lose your beads and lose out on being able to earn gold medals at the end of the stage.

The game is played with the Wii remote turned sideways. You use the directional pad to move, and the 1 & 2 buttons to attack and jump respectively. There are also some additional control schemes that get introduced as the game goes on, since at certain points of the game you will be able to transform into such things as a giant robot, a spaceship, and other miscellaneous objects to get you through each stage. Some of these even rely on motion control as well, so if you were hoping to get away from motion controls, guess again. My personal rule of thumb is that I don’t mind their implementation as long as it doesn’t hinder my enjoyment of the game, and in this case, I think they fit in well.

You don’t necessarily have to wait for certain checkpoints in order to transform though. Tapping the jump button in midair will transform him into a parachute which allows him to float safely to the ground. Want to go faster? Double tap where you’re going and Kirby will become a car and drive forward until he collides with something. It may not be the same as taking your enemy’s powers, but it’s a nice substitute nonetheless.

If you have a buddy to play with you, you can play two player co-op as well. One character will be Kirby and the other will play as Prince Fluff, who due to his nature of being a resident of Patch Land can do all the same things that Kirby can (at least, I assume that’s the reason). You’re both onscreen simultaneously and can interact with each other for all the good and bad that that entails. Much like New Super Mario Bros. Wii, you can pick up your buddy and throw them which can inadvertently send them off a cliff or into an enemy resulting in the loss of your beads. If you were good friends before playing this game, you might not be afterwards.

Control/Gameplay Rating: Great

Replayability

The game itself is as long as your typical Kirby title and can be completed in less than ten hours. To their credit though, the developers try to provide you with an assortment of things to keep you busy, such as unlockable stages, collectibles, and replaying levels for score. There’s even a number of NPC’s that you will encounter that will challenge you to do other things such as time trials and bead collectathons.

After a certain amount of progress is made, Kirby eventually gets his own room that he can decorate with items found in the various stages. This includes furniture, picture frames, lamps, you name it. It really doesn’t have a whole lot of bearing on the overall game, but like Animal Crossing before it, makes a great time waster. Really, the mileage you get from this title depends on how much of a completionist you are or how often you decide to goof off.

Replayability Rating: Above Average

Balance

This is a difficult category for me to judge, because while the game is easy in the sense that you will beat it if you just put in the time, it’s actually quite challenging in some respects. Remember how I mentioned that you lose a bunch of your beads when you get hit or fall in a hole? You need those beads if you hope to be awarded gold at the conclusion of each level and that, my friends, is a challenge. I’d even go so far to say that trying to earn gold medals on each level is several times more difficult than having a set number of lives and a life bar like the other games in the Kirby franchise.

The challenge of maintaining bead count is compounded ten fold if you have a buddy with you, since all it takes is one misplaced throw before you can kiss them all goodbye. The fact that both players share the screen poses its own set a problems too, since scrolling the screen without the other character will cause one of two things to happen: either they will get carried back up to the other player (much like the bubbles in New Super Mario Bros. Wii) or it’s counted as falling down a hole and you lose the beads. Both players really have to stick together if they expect to get far and still get a good score.

Balance Rating: Decent

Originality

Nintendo could’ve released another clone of Kirby’s Adventure and admittedly, I probably would’ve bought it. It really takes guts to tinker with franchise conventions and not only did they do it, but they did it well enough to move the series forward. Kirby’s Epic Yarn is probably the best thing to happen to the franchise since Kirby earned his copy ability. It certainly helps that the visual style is not only unique, but also contributes to the gameplay in positive ways. You won’t find another platformer like this one for some time to come.

Originality Rating: Great

Addictiveness

When it comes to platformers, not only should the level design keep you guessing as to not get stale, but it should offer a variety of gameplay elements and things to do as you progress in order to keep things exciting. Kirby does this in spades and allows you to experience it with a friend if you so choose. The levels are quite varied and even the stages that share the same realm don’t necessarily share the same theme all the time, so there’s a definite creative touch throughout the game.

Boss battles were a definite highlight for me during my quest. Not only were the new additions to the boss roster unique and imaginative, but there were even a few returning villains that had to be defeated in new ways due to the differences in Kirby’s powers. Again, even though you couldn’t die in these battles, that doesn’t make the encounters any less intense. You’ll need to hang onto all the beads you collect during the battle if you want to unlock extra stages during these fights.

Addictiveness Rating: Classic

Appeal Factor

Kirby fans and even kids in general will get a definite kick out of this game due to series conventions and the general cutesy nature of the entire thing. For everyone else, it might be a tough sell, especially if you don’t like platformers. Lately, I’ve been finding it harder and harder to find an excuse to turn on my Wii, so if you find yourself in that boat too, then the game is at the very least worth a look. It may not be the “hardcore” game that some of the more vocal Nintendo fans are always clamoring for, but it’s a damn fun one and worth experiencing.

Appeal Rating: Great

Miscellaneous

There aren’t too many titles on the Wii where I actively notice the loading times and unfortunately, this is one of them. Any time you load up a stage or begin the game, you have to sit through these and although they are but a minor annoyance, they are worth a mention.

While I do enjoy Kirby’s new direction, I can’t help but miss some of his old abilities. I could see why they took away his ability to fly (it would be too easy to float over half the levels) but his copy ability has become one of the biggest staples of the franchise. In fact, being able to combine two abilities and get varied results in Kirby 64 was probably one of the coolest mechanics I’d ever seen in the series and it has yet to resurface. I’m glad for the chance to transform into various objects, but I really hope the copy ability returns in a future sequel.

Miscellaneous Rating: Decent

The Scores
Story/Modes: Good
Graphics: Classic
Sounds: Enjoyable
Controls/Gameplay: Great
Replayability: Above Average
Balance: Decent
Originality: Great
Addictiveness: Classic
Appeal Factor: Great
Miscellaneous: Decent

Final Score: Very Good Game!

Short Attention Span Summary

Kirby’s Epic Yarn is not just a next gen Kirby platformer for the Wii. It takes the lovable eating machine into a land of textiles, bringing with him new gameplay mechanics and an entirely unique visual style. It can be played with a buddy, though it does make the game more challenging in some parts. Not to worry, though, since you can’t die in this game you are sure to get through it. This isn’t to say the game can’t be difficult, as the real challenge will be seeing if you can make gold on all of the stages. It may be a huge departure from previous Kirby games, but the changes are refreshing. If you’re looking for a new reason to turn on your Wii or just an enjoyable platformer that the whole family can enjoy, then it may be time to unravel Kirby’s Epic Yarn.

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