Although we’ve had plenty of handheld Kirby adventures in the past few years, everyone’s favorite pink puffball has been noticeably absent from consoles since 2003 (not counting cameos, of course). Ever since the Wii’s debut in 2006, fans have been waiting for a new Kirby adventure, and while Kirby’s Epic Yarn may not have been exactly what they were expecting, this reinvention of the Kirby franchise and new twist on the Kirby formula pays off in a big way and makes this game one of the most memorable Kirby adventures in existence.
The game starts off simply, with a few simple animations detailing how Kirby got to a world made of fabric (there was a snafu involving Kirby’s favorite food – tomato!) and how he needs to help the ruler of this world defeat a great evil who has unstitched the different areas of the world. After the story is explained (in about five minutes flat!) the game sets some ground rules for Kirby in his new world. Kirby can’t fly around in this world, nor can he use his vacuum powers to absorb enemies’ powers. However, he can change himself into useful yarn objects like a car, a submarine, and a parachute. Longtime fans might be a tad annoyed that some of the standard Kirby abilities have been sacked for this game, but if that is the only thing keeping you from it, please reconsider, as the new elements of the gameplay more than make up for the lost ones.
Each level starts off pretty simply with Kirby popping into a themed area where he has to jump, swim, and swing to the goal at the end of the level. Along the way there will be enemies, puzzle areas, and hidden stages to explore. The level design is very inventive, and though everything is presented to you, the design is such that there are a lot of bonuses and unlockable content hiding in plain sight. For instance, you may notice a stray button or zipper on one side of your screen, which may be used to swing to a hidden area or unzipped to reveal a hidden door. One of the most enjoyable facets of the game is the exploration element, which will give players plenty of reasons to play through levels over and over again in order to explore each level’s secrets.
Strictly speaking, the main story level progression is linear, though there are some deviations depending on the way you unlock bonus content. However, if you are looking to break up the gameplay a little bit, there are some playable extras, including a mini-game mode that can be accessed anytime. The mini-game mode is surprisingly satisfying. It allows you to play through different parts of levels you have already beaten with a new goal. These mini-games also tend to be a lot more challenging than the regular platforming level, and will definitely give seasoned gamers a bigger challenge.
Another side-activity in which you can take part is decorating Kirby’s apartment. It might sound a little weird, but the game’s hub world actually features a space you can decorate for Kirby with wallpaper, furniture, and toys you have either purchased with in-game currency or unlocked in one of the game’s levels. Though there is not really any overarching purpose to the apartment design element, collecting the different objects and placing them in your apartment is a nice distraction and adds some decent replay value to the game.
Unfortunately, finding new things for your apartment is really the only thing that might increase the replay value of this title, as there isn’t much beyond the initial six to eight hour experience. Although it may take younger players a bit longer to complete the game, many experienced gamers will likely finish Kirby’s Epic Yarn in an afternoon, and won’t pick it up again. This is a huge detriment to the game, as the basics here are so solid, it would have been nice to have a little more content to keep players coming back. Although each level can be played co-op with a friend, this doesn’t really change the dynamic of the levels, and I found that playing with a friend was actually a bit frustrating as someone is always waiting for the other player to jump over a hurdle, wait for a platform, or swing on a rope.
Technically speaking, Kirby’s Epic Yarn is a triumph on the Wii. The game’s arts-and-crafts look may not feature high-definition visuals, but the artistic value here is boundless. Yarn, fabric, button, and string all make complex structures, and the way the game creates objects like volcanoes and dragons with items found at a fabric store is pretty staggering. The game is simply the best-looking thing on the Wii, and even though it might not win any awards for technical achievement, the art direction is definitely a thing of beauty.
Similarly, the sound in the game is impressive. Each level has its own theme music (which can be found and replayed as a collectible) and the themes that accompany each level are nicely varied and fit the tone and mood of the level. There is also a fair amount of whimsical voiceover during the game’s plot scenes, which is executed well and adds to the game’s storybook feel.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn is definitely up there with Super Mario Galaxy 2 as a must-have Nintendo game this year. However, what separates Kirby from everyone’s red-capped plumber is that there were some serious risks taken with Kirby, and the result is something totally awesome. From the unique visual style to the new twist on classic Kirby platforming, this title feels like something completely new, even as it retains its core identity as a Kirby game. If you are a Kirby fan, this title is a no-brainer for you, and even if you aren’t the biggest fan of the pink puffball, the game has such solid mechanics that you owe it to yourself to check it out. Kirby’s Epic Yarn may not be the hardest game you’ve ever played, but it is certainly one you won’t forget any time soon.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.6 Graphics
The fabric-inspired visuals impress on both a technical and artistic level. 4.7 Control
The sideways Wii-Mote works perfectly, and the tilt-based controls during vehicle sections is implemented well. 4.3 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The level music is a joy, and the cutesy voiceover sounds just perfect. 3.5
Though there are some collectibles and challenges, but most of these can be found and completed during the first playthough, which won’t take most more than 6-8 hours.
4.4 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.