October 21, 2010

Review – Kirby’s Epic Yarn

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Jamie Love @ 6:43 pm

Kirbys Epic Yarn
As the puntastic title suggests, immense amounts of yarn were spooled and stitched together to form Kirby’s long awaited return to proper console platforming. And as far as visual / narrative gimmickry goes, you’d be hard pressed to find a better example of a game that brings back the tactile feel of a classic franchise whilst presenting an entirely new aesthetic to capture the eyes, mixing new and old ideas that preserve plenty of the old time Nintendo charm that keeps me coming back.

Kirby’s a critter of simple pleasures, and this latest adventure matches that philosophy by turning the WiiMote sideways to wax a bit nostalgic on straightforward NES styled controls. The simplicity of the game leaves me feeling far less words are required than usual, though I could certainly go on about Kirby’s cute abuse – his excited arm flailing animation for example is cuter than a basket full of baby bunnies.

All the same, the depth of the stitch work that creates the visuals deserves some words, as does the way in which the game weaves together a toybox of ideas that is simply a pleasure to play with.

Kirby's Epic Yarn
A kindly narrator sets the story in motion, which involves Kirby’s stomach getting him into trouble and an evil sorcerer sticking our pink hero into a sock. It’s there that Kirby discovers Patchland, a Kingdom that recalls SNES memories via stage maps that offer an absolutely ridiculous level of attention to minor details. The amount of craft and care put into this release is evident in the simple actions of moving Kirby alone – pressing up causes his eyes to slant back as if looking skyward, standing on the edge of a ledge causes him to teeter as if he might fall at any moment, and his transformations offer a slew of equally noteworthy observances. The game is filled with animated accentuation I thought to be largely extinct in the 3D age, and constitutes the larger share of the word “charm” that will be thrown around in reference to this release for years to come.

Patchland has been torn apart, requiring boss fights for magic bits of yarn that can tie the Kingdom back together – and if you guessed that each new stage of Patchland has a theme, well then you won’t be disappointed. The stage maps constantly remind me of Super Mario World – remember how the world shifted and changed after each level was beaten? Well so does Kirby.

Completing a level in Epic Yarn rewards players with a badge, which Kirby can then use on the map to open the next level via these terrific animated situations that evolve the landscape on said map. It seems like minor detailing, but that’s what Epic Yarn is all about, minor details that roll downhill like a rampaging snowball of playful visual seduction, until I have the same stupid-happy-intoxicated expression on my face that I wore when I was ten and playing Yoshi’s Island for the first time.

Kirby's Epic Yarn
No preview time seemed capable of stressing just what it meant for the world around Kirby and everything within it to be entirely made of yarn. Visiting familiar environmentally influenced areas helped it sink in finally – everything in this game is seriously made of yarn.

Ice levels have yarn snowmen, water flows with yarn waves, and a futuristic world even has strings of yarn carrying electrical currents. Kirby’s ability to manipulate these rethought environments is absolutely spectacular at times – his whip able to undue the yarn of enemies to dispatch them, or ball them up to use them as projectiles. Kirby can swing from buttons, pull pieces of the environment closer, or unzip sections to reveal other paths.

There’s something immediately eloquent in the simple act of waiting for a dragon to strike and then pulling at a button to undue the beast – ideas which make most of the problem solving in Kirby fairly easy to figure out.

Kirby's Epic Yarn
Maybe there should be an asterisk here about the difficulty of the title, because if you’re shopping for any real old school powered challenge, Kirby isn’t the place to visit. Trickier platforming situations rarely crop up until the very end of the game, and even then a failed jump will simply cost you some gems and a few steps back before trying again. The absence of more frustrating platforming moments never struck me as a problem however, the game entirely upfront about serving as a leisurely stroll through a wonderland of excessively delightful details, always encouraging a second player to join in on the discoveries waiting within each level.

That’s what seemed the most significant draw for me with this release, that I could play and enjoy it with my girl, free and clear of some of the competitive incentives that leave me looking like an ass during sessions of New Super Mario Bros. Wii.

My downplay of challenge might make the game sound boring, but nothing could be further from the truth. The priority simply shifts toward environmental manipulation and experimentation rather than a direct struggle for survival, a playground truly built for two.

Kirby's Epic Yarn
The rest of the game’s discoveries are the various Kirby transformations scattered throughout the levels, which offer several memorable snippets of nostalgic 2D escapism – though they just couldn’t resist making you point the WiiMote straight for at least one of them. As for the rest, you’ll simply reach spots where you can transform into a monster truck and have an Excitebike styled break, or find yourself suddenly controlling a Kirby rocket-powered 2D shooter. There are several others, such as an overpowered tank, dolphin, flying saucer, but I’ve covered my two favorite ones.

Epic Yarn offers some other distractions aside from the main stages. Kirby keeps an apartment in Patchland where players can decorate with the objects they discover through levels, or visit the neighbors for a few straightforward mini-games. Maybe the game is reaching to a far younger audience with some of that, but the bulk of the release is far more about hitting the remains of the child within those of us who have a longer running history with Kirby.

Plus if you have any lingering affinity with 2D game design, you really have no choice but to check out what Epic Yarn brings to the Wii.

Kirby’s Epic Yarn
DeveloperHAL Laboratory / Good-Feel
System – Nintendo Wii
Release Date – October 17, 2010

*A copy of this title was purchased by Gamesugar for review


  1. I’m currently playing The Legendary Starfy on DS and it pretty much reflects everything you’ve said in your Epic Yarn review (not difficult game, charming, fun, relatively long).

    This game is on my list for the “end of the year gaming extravaganza” since the time I have to play is being spent on games I bought in 2008 and haven’t had their chance. To be honest I have yet to start Twilight Princess and I bought that at launch. Guess it will be my Christmas-New Year marathon game.

    Comment by EdEN — October 21, 2010 @ 9:06 pm

  2. Thanks for the reminder Eden, I completely forgot about Starfy but meant to check it out – missed it when it originally released and it just kinda got lost.

    Comment by Jamie Love — October 22, 2010 @ 8:22 am

  3. Basket full of baby bunnies might not be as cute… but put a couple bunnies in some cups, cute explosion!

    Comment by Ujn Hunter — October 22, 2010 @ 11:22 am

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