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• Kirby’s Epic Yarn

developed by Hal Laboratory & Good-Feel, published by Nintendo
1~2 players / Nintendo Wii / 2010.10.17

Kirby, Nintendo’s lovable pink puffball, stars in a game unlike any of his usual adventures in Kirby’s Epic Yarn.  His trademarked ability to inhale enemies and steal their powers disappears when an evil magician transforms him into a string of yarn.  It turns out this affliction isn’t without it’s perks, and Kirby is quick to take advantage during his stay in Patch Land.

A second player can join Kirby for some cooperative fun as the newcomer Prince Fluff.  You won’t need to worry about health, lives, or Game Over screens as these concepts have been abandoned.  Instead, the idea is to collect as many beads and jewels as possible to earn a gold medal in every stage, which can be tricky because Kirby drops them instead of taking damage.

Keeping It Simple

The Wii remote is held sideways like a classic Nintendo controller when playing this game, which keeps things very simple.  Kirby’s suction ability has been replaced by a whip which can grab enemies and objects in a variety of directions.  Pressing and holding the jump button transforms Kirby into a parachute to slow his descent, and pressing down after a jump turns him into a weight that smashes through blocks and enemies.  Double-tapping left or right causes Kirby to transform into a faster-moving car.

At various points in his adventure he’ll turn into a dolphin, a firetruck, a UFO, and several other forms.  These each have their own unique abilities and forms of control, including some that take advantage of the Wii’s gyroscope and pointer functionality.

A Marvelous Tapestry

The game’s art direction is wonderfully inspired, with Patch Land taking on the look of an arts-and-crafts universe.  Everything is made out of various types of fabric, buttons, trails of yarn, and stuffing but they all share one thing in common: cuteness.

It’s a great looking 2D game with fluid animation and inventive visual design ideas just about everywhere you look.  The sound design fits the child-friendly mood perfectly, with storybook-style narration and melodies straight out of early morning programming.

Patchwork Puzzles

The game’s unique presentation is probably its biggest hook, but the levels themselves are even more inspired.  They’re full of clever little puzzles and can be challenging if your goal is to attain the highest ranking.  Clearly, the Kirby games are aimed at children and yet despite the fact you cannot die in this game, you will still find yourself returning to stages to better your score or ferret out hidden treasures you missed the first time through.

The variety of different transformations makes for some of the game’s best levels.  When Kirby transforms into a steam locomotive, you point at the screen and draw tracks for him to follow.  As the firetruck, you tilt the controller to adjust the pitch of his hose and shoot blue string to douse “fires”.

If the main game is a bit too easy, mini challenge stages await.  These can be quite difficult, and involve collecting a certain number of jewels, racing to a finish line, transporting a character to the goal, or finding hidden characters scattered throughout the level, all within a time limit.

A Stitch In Time Saves Nine

I’m sure there are plenty of adults who wouldn’t be caught dead playing it, but Kirby’s Epic Yarn isn’t just a baby’s game.  It’s fun to explore each new stage and there are plenty of mini challenges for those hankering for a greater difficulty.  I never did get a chance to play it with another person, but it seems like the perfect game for parents to play with their children to introduce them to gaming.

Personally, I was blown over by its presentation and surprised by its depth.  It may be the best Kirby adventure yet, and certainly one of the most impressive 2D games available.  The only drawback is that it is a fairly short game at around 10 hours (15 if you complete 100%), so had I picked it up at its original MSRP I may have felt a tad burned.  Nowadays it can be purchased for around $20, and for that it’s practically worth owning for the art style alone.

Quick Run Down

PROs:

  • Beautiful, unique presentation
  • Simple, intuitive controls
  • Two-player cooperative mode

CONs:

  • Cute graphics might turn some off
  • Challenge is mainly limited to optional stages

One Sentence Review: A great 2D platformer with an incredible art style and optional challenges for seasoned veterans.
One Word Review: Cute!

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