Delayed Reactions: Kirby’s Epic Yarn – Pass the Controller to your kid
For people who like:
Kirby (series), Winnie the Pooh, Arts and Crafts, Textiles, Reading Rainbow (TV), Mister Roger’s Neighborhood (TV), Rescue Rangers (NES), Little Nemo: The Dream Master (NES)
+ Colorful beautiful environments
+ Varied gameplay
+ Clever use of Fabric and materials
+ Classic Kirby mood
- Little replay value
- Co-op gameplay can lead to easy griefing
- A little too kiddie for the original Kirby audience
I haven’t really been keeping up with Kirby. I played Kirby’s Adventure on the NES, Kirby’s Pinball Land and Kirby’s Dream Land on the Gameboy. With my experience playing Kirby’s Epic Yarn though, I’m happy to say that the same Kirby spirit I enjoyed back then is still intact, even with the various departures from traditional Kirby gameplay fans are used to by now. The odd thing is that this game doesn’t really seem to be made for the original Kirby fans, but rather for a much younger generation to enjoy.
The game starts with Kirby getting sucked into the evil Yin-Yarn’s magic sock, transforming him into yarn and sending him into Patch Land, a world made of fabric. Yin-Yarn has torn Patch Land apart and Kirby must help the native Prince Fluff stitch it back together again.
The story is told in a children’s story time manner, complete with storyteller, very clear exposition, and storybook logic where everything seems to make sense no matter how complicated or fantastical it really is. It certainly tugs at some nostalgic strings for me, thinking back on shows like Reading Rainbow and Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. Still though, I can see that I am no longer the demographic for Kirby in this instance, and a part of that makes me sad. Nintendo has decided to re-establish Kirby specifically for a new generation so that they can grow up with the same fondness of him I found back in 1992, so they’ve allowed themselves to take liberties with the traditional Kirby formula yet keep that old Kirby mood. This isn’t to say that older Kirby fans won’t find a great deal of fun in this game though.
Kirby is well known now for swallowing an enemy and taking their power. This game chooses to go a route closer to the original Kirby’s Dream Land feel before he could steal powers allowing him to whip and destroy the enemy or gather their string to carry and throw later. Kirby can do all of this with simultaneous, drop in and out, cooperative gameplay joined by the equally capable Prince Fluff. This feature helps to provide a nice group family experience and not just a fully one player adventure. I could have seen myself playing this game a lot with my sister were it around when we grew up.
Even though the ‘stealing of powers’ capabilities have been removed, the game still provides a great deal of variety in new ways. The player will periodically find patches in the levels that allow Kirby to transform into a wide variety of things, each with different gameplay styles. Because of this, Kirby still retains the transformative characteristic from the old games, but no longer relies on stealing from enemies to do it. Kirby can transform into an ATV for racing sequences, a dolphin for swimming, a mole for digging, he can grab onto a star for schmup type segments, turn into a tank and quite a few others. There were certainly enough different forms that no single transformation felt overused.
The use of fabric in this game is also superb. It really creates some unique scenarios that feel exactly right for the game. You can bunch up fabric to move platforms closer, jump behind fabric to walk between sewn layers, swing from buttons sewn onto the background and so on.
The only thing that detracted at all from the game for me was knowing that it wasn’t made for me anymore, but that’s certainly not a critique, it’s just a *sigh*. I found it amusing though anytime that Kirby nearly instantaneously figured out exactly what to do without knowing anything about where he was or the logic behind the magic in Patch Land. Someone’s in trouble? Kirby turns into a car and saves him, figuring out on the fly that in this land he can naturally turn into a car… Um, ok? Prince Fluff tells Kirby that Patch Land has been torn apart, Kirby near instantly finds a piece of magic yarn, the very thing Price Fluff has been looking for all this time. It’s all cute and I wish I had a child sibling to buy this game for Christmas, but I don’t, so I’m watching it instead. It gets a touch repetitive as the player stitches together the sections of Patch Land, using the same narration and images each time, but it still provides new events to follow those sequences, so the story never really stops.
The levels don’t really have any major connection to with the story either. It all feels very separate. In fact the over-world tells its own little stories in cute ways. The level selection is reminiscent of Kirby’s Adventure where the player is provided with an over-world filled with doors. The charm of Kirby’s Epic Yarn is that it doesn’t just unlock each new door as you progress, but it gives you a little scene that results in the door patch falling off, permanently changing the look in that section of Patch Land. I found myself laughing out loud at times watching the animations.
There’s also a sub-plot in the over-world where Kirby is trying to help build an apartment complex for the land lord that Kirby can then decorate with things he buys and finds in the levels. I could imagine spending some time decorating here were I much younger, then bugging my parents to come take a looks, but today I’m 27. I don’t really care about it and neither do my parents. There are mini games you unlock for putting up specific decorations in certain rooms though, so I did those just to see what the mini games were. They consist of going back to previous levels and going through alternate goals like playing hide and seek, time trial races and more. They’re some fun if you want to get some extra time out of the game, but they’re not necessary.
Overall, once the game is complete, there’s not a lot of replayability outside of the decorating the apartments. Each level has 3 collectables and you can try to collect enough beads to get a gold medal on all the stages, some of which are really tough to get, but all the completion tasks just relate back to decorating in the end. When you play through the game, you’ll notice that you don’t have to play all the levels to beat it, so it does give you something to go back for if you chose to skip a few. Completing all the levels will still give you a 11 – 13 hour experience, without playing through the mini-games, so it’s definitely enough game even if you don’t care about the decorating.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn is a perfect title to get a family in need of a new Wii game this holiday. If you’re a Kirby fan, then I’d recommend checking it out. Just know ahead of time you may feel old while playing. I enjoyed my time playing this and it gets me wanting to go back to play the older games, hoping that down the line they’ll make a game with a slightly older crowd in mind.