Kirby’s Epic Yarn Review (Wii)
Posted by Jim Cook, Oct 20, 2010 04:23
If you were to ask various long-time gamers how they felt about Nintendo’s own games on the Wii, you would get a variety of reactions ranging from enthusiastic support, to tolerance, to derisive claims that Nintendo is ’dumbing down’ their games and holding the player’s hand far too much; what next, a game where you can’t be defeated? Yet that’s exactly what Kirby’s Epic Yarn does, giving you control of the pink fluffball in a game where he cannot be killed and you can only suffer brief setbacks, never a genuine loss. Instead of being a challenging game, Kirby’s latest outing focuses on good stage design and a variety of special ways to play through many of them. The end result is surprisingly fun, and may very well challenge our preconceptions of what a platformer game has to be.
As the game’s art and name suggest, the major theme here is yarn. Almost everything in the game world is made of it, including Kirby himself. Since he now only exists as a yarn string shaped like himself, he no longer has a stomach and that means he can’t suck in air or enemies like he normally does. Instead, Kirby takes advantage of his new form by gaining a whole new set of abilities. The end result is a 2D platforming game like most other Kirby titles, but the details are different. You now fight enemies by turning Kirby’s arm into a yarn-lasso to grab and throw them, turn him into a parachute to glide rather than truly fly, a miniature car to run faster, and so on. It works pretty well, though if this was all he did the game would be just a far too easy platformer; fortunately there is much more to the game.
The most impressive part of Epic Yarn is a series of stage-specific forms Kirby can assume. While he can handle most problems with a mix of yarn-lasso and running and gliding, there are times where Kirby needs more. Usually about halfway into a stage, you’ll come across a ball of yarn that when activated turns him into something unusual; a yarn tank, a miniature UFO, a dolphin (for swimming stages), and so on. Each form comes with its own different controls, though a single tap of the Minus button will bring up a few pictures and words that explain them; even a young child could probably understand the instructions and learn any given form in just a few seconds. While some forms are used in more than one stage, you still get a good variety among them.
Controlling Kirby is easy, with the Wii Remote held sideways like an NES pad. The directional pad moves him, and buttons 1 and 2 handle jumping, lasso attacks, and so on. A few forms also use the motion sensors for some controller tilting, such as when you’re aiming the nozzle on Kirby’s fire truck form, but it doesn’t get much more complex than that. While the controls are very ’loose’ and Kirby flops and floats all over the place as usual, he responds to your input just fine and it’s rare to come across a situation where the controls hold you back. Easy to learn and play, Kirby’s Epic Yarn wants the player to have fun with only a minimum of fuss and learning.
Kirby’s inability to die in this game is interesting, since it goes against most of the platforming genre’s ’rules.’ While it’s still possible for Kirby to be hit by enemies or miss a jump and fall into a pit, he cannot be defeated; any mistake on your part is only a brief setback. Miss a jump and you may have to work your way back to the platform or be hauled out of the pit (which happens automatically), but that’s the worst that happens. Likewise getting hit by enemies is not that big a deal; you’ll lose some beads (which are spent on various items in between stages), but they can never outright kill Kirby. This essentially means you can’t lose, though you can get stuck if you haven’t learned the skill the game wanted you to figure out. The skills in question are usually very simple however, requiring activities along the lines of: "lasso this part of the platform just like you would an enemy, then walk backward to tow it into range to reach with a simple jump."
Beyond the yarn transformations and well designed platforming stages, Kirby’s Epic Yarn has a few other traits worth covering. After every several stages, you get to play a boss stage where there isn’t much exploration involved, you simply fight a large enemy until you figure out the trick needed to defeat him; usually it’s something like dodging his attacks for several seconds until his weak point opens up, then lasso-yanking it or returning one of his attacks back at him, and much like regular stages it’s pretty much impossible to lose these fights; you just keep at it until you figure out the way to win. There is also a two-player mode, which lets a friend join in similar to how New Super Mario Bros. Wii handled it and much like that game you can help or hinder one another. Finally, several hidden items and stages can be found; acquiring these leads to even more secrets, so players will have plenty to strive for beyond just beating each boss and set of levels.
Overall, Kirby’s Epic Yarn is fantastic. While clearly designed for children and inexperienced players due to you being unable to lose or die, it should entertain just about anyone despite its lack of challenge. This is mostly due to the yarn transformations, each of which gives you a brief but fun new way to play; solid platforming segments are joined by bits where you get to be a tank, or a plane in an auto-scrolling shooter segment, and so on. Combined with excellent controls, this game doesn’t want you to be challenged so much as it wants you to enjoy an experience and it definitely succeeds on that basis. My only complaints, both of which can be forgiven, are the aforementioned lack of challenge and a relatively short length of play; you can clear the regular stages in about six or seven hours, though playing around with secrets and mini-games will add a few more hours to that total. Those complaints are more than overcome by just how enjoyable and accessible this game is, resulting in a supposed ’kids game’ that is actually fun for pretty much all audiences and skill levels.
Rating: 4.7, votes: 3