It was clear to me from Kirby’s very first cut scene:
I am nowhere near this game’s target demographic.
The cutesy music, the narrator clear out of a Curious George cartoon and the bright patches of color everywhere all combined to make me feel completely out of place. As a hardcore gamer, it’s good for me to realize on occasion that not everyone needs a game with wanton destruction, death, and sadistic difficulty in order to feel complete. Some ask for lighter fare; many gamers are young and just looking to get into the hobby.
That being said, Kirby’s Epic Yarn is a fantastic game for the first time young gamer.
The patchwork and string design of the game make it the most visually unique platformer I have ever played. The use of zippers, patches and the like to dynamically change the environments really made the tangible elements of the game come alive. It looks and feels like a world made of cloth, and not one of pixels. Given these visuals, it’s not surprising that it’s also the most attractive game you’ll find on the Wii.
The yarn affects the game play at a few levels. Kirby, string being that he is, can turn into a variety of different forms. He can turn into a parachute and glide, into a fish and swim, or into a car and drive. There are also transformational points where he can change into more exotic objects like a massive tank (which, oddly, is the only part of the active game play which uses Wii motion controls), a UFO, and in a tribute to Space Invaders, a star ship. I found these sections (combined with some unique boss fights) to be the highlight of the game play. Kirby comes equipped with a new array of special moves moving beyond the classic inhale and projectile vomit techniques of the past. In Epic Yarn, Kirby can yarn whip and turn enemies into spools which make nice projectiles; another neat trick is that he can also squeeze into tight spaces as a long piece of string.
I was unsatisfied however, with the majority of the platforming. It was sadly, pretty generic. Despite the unique patchwork design, the levels were pretty standard to platformers. There was the lava world, the water world, and the ice world. It seemed as if for most of the game they had simply wall=papered new level design over old game play. While this was broken up by the occasional transformational sequence, it still grew tedious. This was exacerbated by the fact that it was far too easy. To say the game play is forgiving is an understatement, you could launch Kirby into the sun and you still wouldn’t die in Epic Yarn. Epic? Not really. Most of the enemies can’t hurt; if they somehow manage to you’ll lose a few of the collectible beads, but always survive. Even falling down a hole isn’t an issue as your guardian angel will pick you up and carry you to safety.
The developer’s solution to add difficulty was to create a medal system, whereby the number of beads would give you a bronze, silver or gold at the end of the level. The problem was that even this system was too forgiving. I found myself getting gold medals on nearly every level no matter what happened. The beads were simply too easy to acquire.
Lengthwise, it took me about 5 hours and 20 minutes to play through the entire game the first play through. If you were to track down all the secret levels and find all the collectibles, you could stretch that out to 10 hours maybe. There’s a story (in the sense of things happen), but it’s more of a framework than a defining element.
If I were to rate this game for a young first time gamer, this would be an easy 5 out of 5. It’s certainly the first game I’d want my son to play. The problem for me is that I’m not 8 years old anymore. I ask more out of my games than pretty scenery. I found some of the sequences in the game to be quite delightful (the Space Invaders section really brought me back), but much of the game play is mundane and simply too easy to present any sort of challenge. Platforming is about more than just going through the motions, and I spent too much time “level grinding” (if such a thing is possible in a platformer). That said, it’s quite a spectacle, and if patchwork and soothing music is your thing, then you’ll be more than satisfied with Kirby’s Epic Yarn.
3 out of 5