Kirby's Epic YarnlikePEGI3 Developer Good Feel Publisher Nintendo Genre Action Platform Nintendo Wii Release 25th Feburary 2011
Announced earlier this year at E3 2010, Kirby's Epic Yarn, other than having a pretty awful name, looked one of the more original titles coming out on the Wii. Nintendo isn't shy on putting quirky platforming games out there, with the really fun and innovative Super Paper Mario sticking out predominately in my mind. I should tell you that I came into this game with expectations pretty low, I already knew that Kirby had lost his key characteristic of being able to swallow enemies and take their abilities but out the other side, did I come away amused or underwhelmed? Let's find out.

Pull string, stop volcano
Kirby's Epic Yarn, like many Nintendo games as of late opens like a story-book. We meet our old, pink, anthropomorphic oval: Kirby. As usual, he's pretty hungry and upon eating a tomato, angers a strange wizard made of yarn and he imprisons Kirby in a magic sock which is a direct portal to Patch Land, a whole world made of fabric and the inhabitance are made of, as the name implies; material. Seems all is not well in Patch Land as Magic Yarn which keeps Patch Land together has been stolen and the continents of the world have drifted apart. It's now up to Kirby and a new-found friend; Prince Fluff to retrieve the Magic Yarn and stitch Patch Land back together.

The game's story is told like a child's bed-time story book. Don't expect anything along the lines of character development and heaven help you if you've never played a Kirby game before, because all of the characters will mean absolutely nothing to you. It may or may not be a spoiler to you, but just skip this paragraph if you don't want anything spoilt; still reading? Good. Well, you see, King Dedede is in the game and well... He just appears. No explanation who this character is, what role he plays... Just, here he is! Unless you have prior knowledge of the series, you wont know if Dedede is a villain, a friend, a casual acquaintance, some random guy plucked from the world... Same goes for another notable character, but I wont go that far. Overall, the game feels under-developed with just how the story's told, it's very stylishly shown, but style doesn't beat substance, especially elementary storytelling like establishing characters.

Unidentified Flying Kirby
The game plays like an awful lot of Wii games do recently, you hold the Wii remote side-ways and play the game like it was on the NES. The D-Pad controls Kirby, double tap a direction to dash, the 2 button makes Kirby jump, press 2 again to make Kirby float downwards slowly, press 1 to attack, hold 1 to roll enemies into balls to throw around. There's the infrequently used ground-pound ability by jumping and holding down on the D-pad which can take care of enemies or blocks. You can also take care of enemies by throwing rolled up enemies at them, same goes for certain types of blocks.

The main gimmick of the game is Kirby's extending lasso-type-attack which changes use depending on context. This can be used to roll up enemies, remove 'hollow' blocks and do special things such as hanging onto buttons and swing around, pull tabs to reveal hidden objects and open chests to reveal hidden items. You can perform the move in 5 directions, up, down, left, right and diagonally left and diagonally right. There's also the odd instance where you can fold the level vertically or horizontally to get to ledges that would otherwise be impossible to reach. This was quite a touted feature for the game, along with 'unzipping' parts of the stage to reveal a new path to progress, however it's just not that big of a deal. It's rarely used despite the fact it's the most innovative and interesting mechanic in the whole game.

Dropping into the battlefield.
Kirby transformations aren't all lost in Kirby's Epic Yarn, but they're not what you expect. In stages, you'll find abilities to transform into, if you've ever played Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island on SNES/Virtual Console/Gameboy Advance then you basically know how this works only there's no set timer attached to these transformations. You find a spinning vortex with an icon inside it and upon touching it, you transform into either a giant tank which shoots rockets aimed by tilting the Wii Remote, a dolphin which can swim easily through water, a UFO which catches enemies and converts them into electric death which destroys anything destructible on-screen, a mole which digs through wool and a space ship which turns the game into a side/vertical shooting game (or shmup, as you may know them as). These add a welcome break from the norm in some stages, but don't add an awful lot. They're usually set-pieces to end stages with.

Kirby's Epic Yarn is, and there's no way around this; an easy game. Infact there is no difficulty to the game what so ever. Enemies generally have no way of hurting you, you have no life bar, no lives, just a score which certain enemies or the occasional fall from the stage can damage (and in a pretty big way). As such the game's difficulty curve is a slight incline from 'press start to win' to 'just mash buttons, it'll work out'.

Dolphin Kirby
It also has this odd psychological effect on you. You see these adorable, harmless enemies which if you run into them, THEY fall over, not you. They're not even pacifists, they just have no way of hurting you, the worst they can do is flail into you and push you back slightly. You can just walk up to them and their sometimes sleeping compatriots and with a quick tap of the 1 button you can unravel them or roll them into balls and throw them around. Frankly it was pretty morbid. Didn't stop me doing it to literally hundreds of the things, mind you.

The worst thing that can happen to you through the whole game is getting a low score. I like the idea that platformers are moving away from obligatory 'Game Over' screens, it is an archaic remnant of arcade games that wiggled their way into home console games for some inexplicable reason and I'm glad to see the back of it. But there's then just going a step too far to simply remove the concept of, in essence; death. Going back to a checkpoint which is perhaps say a minute away from where you were isn't really all that tedious and it encourages you to get better so you don't have to keep replaying this part of the stage over and over. By giving people the ability to go back say, 4 seconds from any given fall off the stage does none of this. But, I digress.

Your furnature has never been so savoury.
To move onto the next world, you must complete a linear set of levels. After this the boss opens up. Bosses are pretty inventive at times, with no fear of death or restarting a boss, you can take your time to figure out how to defeat the enemy. Generally you'll immediately see how to defeat the enemy once it sticks out an obviously lasso-able object such as a button or you'll have to throw something the enemy spits out or throws at you such as a fireball or star or some enemy they allow to come out. Sometimes you can hit the boss to make extra beads appear, collecting so many beads and retaining them at the end of the stage unlocks additional levels in that world.

The world system itself is quite clever. Much like Super Paper Mario, you have a 'hub' world, here you'll find stages to play. After 'normal' or obligatory stages, you receive a 'patch'. Patches are given to you when you return to the world hub. No idea why, since all you do is just throw the patch anywhere and it'll automatically find it's resting place and unlock another stage for you, doing some ostentatious animation and augmentation to the world hub such as dropping in cake layers, making hills, calling down UFOs and so forth. These are quite fun little places to roam and explore and the animations used are pretty neat, especially ones early on where the hub map is a piece of parchment which has rolled up and it eventually gets unrolled as you complete stages.

The Magic Yarn recovered.
The hub also has some side-diversions you can partake of during the game. You're given your own 'apartment' which you can fill with the items you collect as you progress through the game and you can also help out your new landlord by decorating other rooms to entice new residents to the hub. These residents will offer you little missions in worlds you've already unlocked such as hide and seek. There's very little to this and very little reward for completing the missions, but if you want to squeeze out extra playtime from the game, then by all means go ahead and play these to your heart's content. I got bored after the second mission like it.

As you're most likely aware, Kirby's Epic Yarn looks brilliant. Visually speaking it is extremely striking and there really isn't another game which looks like it. The fabric moves realistically and animations are so fluid. It comes together into one awesome looking game which is clear and concise, cheerful and playful at the same time. You really don't expect the Wii to be able to pull of such visual feats, especially what appears to be some sort of anti-alias applied to just about everything (or some very clever visual trickery). One thing I have noticed is that the game looks a lot better in motion than it does in screenshots, so just keep that in mind.

Mole! Moley, moley, moley.
When it comes to sound, the game really lets you know who's boss and this game is. Although I don't want to spoil too much for you, but know that there is what I suppose you could call "remixes" of older Kirby tunes in the game, but for the most part you'll be listening to a vast array of original tunes in the game. It's a very calm, relaxing and laid-back soundtrack which nicely sets the tone for the game. As the story is essentially 'read' to you like a book, the narrator does a very good job at trying to keep you entertained and is a throw-back to old 90's cartoons where the 'bedtime story' premise was used quite a lot, which should give quite a few Kirby fans unrelated nostalgia, but having said that, you'll also most likely pick up on the same end-of-boss voice clip being recycled every single time you defeat a boss, with only a single variation appearing once you beat the second-to-last boss. Regardless, the game looks and sounds amazing.

In the end, I still can't quite make up my mind if this is a Kirby game. It is developed by Good-Feel, not HAL Laboratories and I think that right there says it all. It's not a Kirby game. It has a lot of charm and enough 'cute' to make you shoot rainbows out of your eyes, but on substance, the game is fairly lacking. The game is obviously meant for an audience much younger than myself and a lot of people who grew up with Kirby, but that was Kirby's thing. It had universal appeal, it was cute and fluffy for little kids but also insanely enjoyable for everyone else. Kirby's Epic Yarn doesn't have this appeal and is strictly aimed at young children and hey, there's nothing wrong with that. Nintendo didn't say otherwise and I think just looking at the game shows you where Kirby's Epic Yarn's audience lies. Just a shame there's not an awful lot anyone outside that audience can really enjoy. If you're a die-hard Kirby fan or just want a simple game you can complete in one sitting (I'm not joking, my Wii never turned off for the entire game, well, entire game minus a lot of the extra levels and the decorating/side-game segments) or you're about 7 years old and are reading this review for some reason then this game is for you. If you're a lot older and think Kirby Superstar Ultra is the best game of the series, stay clear. Stay well clear.
No where near enough depth, predictable and merely strings along the game.
There's no fraying ends, it plays like a dream and is overall a very enjoyable experience.
The game looks fantastic, One of the best looking Wii games the system can cut from it's cloth.
Finding an out-of-place or bad track in the game is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. It's amazing.
9 Hours
Doing just the obligatory levels and seeing the credits roll will give you about 8 and a half hours, 10 if you go back and do the extra stages and perhaps more if you do the side-games as well.