As a Wii system owner, for a time I could easily be pegged as either a cute motion-detecting game lover or a cute character game lover. Well, now that the other main systems are releasing their own motion-detecting enhancements, I’m stuck with that character label. It doesn’t help my cause when I have poured at least ten hours into fighting non-threatening enemies with an adorable, pink blob that emits an enthusiastic yell as if he’s Chun-Li from Street Fighter II. If only Kirby had legs like Chun-Li… oh well, maybe the sequel.
Kirby is like Mario and Link in that he has been a mainstay across many of Nintendo’s various gaming systems, so it was inevitable that he would show up on the Wii. His first system title has him battling an evil wizard named Yin-Yarn who has inconceivably turned everyone and everything into yarn. Bowser and Ganon are certainly kicking themselves over this evilly aesthetic idea. Kirby, along with the companionship of Prince Fluff from the yarn world, valiantly uses his yarn lasso to defeat enemies in an aim to stitch Patch Land back together.
Each land has an assortment of locations for Kirby to travel through. Although Kirby’s world is in 2D, the colorful and creative locations make one easily forget that there isn’t a third dimension to be found anywhere. Each location level pits Kirby against foes that are, admittedly, not too difficult to tackle. In fact, the first few levels could make one believe that they have the difficulty setting much too low. The enemies literally fall over in the first stage! As levels proceed it is apparent that, like many games on the Wii, everything early on is a transition towards a better understanding of the controls. By the time that a gamer gets to the land that looks like a giant cake he or she is falling into pits and getting blown up often.
What makes Kirby’s Epic Yarn so wonderfully imaginative is the way that a yarned-up Kirby can interact with his environment. His lasso can tug on strings that can either reveal new sections or stitch seemingly unapproachable sections closer. If one finds a large zipper in their travels, don’t be surprised if Kirby can actually unzip a few tapestries of yarn to reveal something. Finally, the lasso can be used to swing from buttons or unravel enemies of their yarnful existence. As the game continues through its stages, new uses for Kirby’s lasso tend to pop up and surprise.
Along with the lasso’s ability to change Kirby’s surroundings, there are points in the game where Kirby is creatively transformed into various vehicles. Depending on the situation, Kirby’s yarn-like texture allows him to change into everything from a spaceship to a fire truck. One of the more fun transformations is when Kirby converts into a missile-wielding super tank that nukes pretty much everything in its path. Granted, some of these Kirbymobiles are a bit tedious and frustrating to control, but overall they present a welcome change to the typical, side-to-side adventure.
As an incentive to spend more time at each location beyond going from start to finish, a reward system is instituted. Like Mario’s coins, shiny and colorful beads are everywhere for Kirby to collect. The amount of beads one earns after each level will earn Kirby a medal and will allow the user to then spend these beads at a store to buy special items. What kind of items? Ah… would you believe furniture and fabric?
A curious aspect of the game, and certainly a unique discovery into Kirby’s interests, is that one will spend a lot of time perfecting one’s interior design skills. Kirby actually has his own apartment, which can be freely decorated by the user. There is no game play value in decorating Kirby’s place, but one can have fun making his apartment as garish or as stylish as one wishes. One can reupholster furniture with leopard skin designs or utilize the wide array of furniture found at shops and during levels. Like the design of Miis, this designing aspect of the game may cause more of a time suck than one may expect!
Another way to spend one’s free time away from adventuring is to partake in the mini-games to earn fabric. Some of these mini-games involve finding hidden characters, collecting a quantity of beads in a limited amount of time, and racing a character to a finish line within a previously conquered stage. A few levels of these mini-games can be quite challenging, so there is a benefit to taking a break from them to continue with the storyline (and vice versa).
One of my favorite aspects of the game is the quaint music for every level. Accompanied mainly by a piano with some extra effects, the lands and locations all sound as bright and cheerful as the colors in display. Title screen tracks tend to set the mood for a game, and the main title song is no different, with its delicately playful tone. These simple tunes may make one think that one is playing a children’s game, for some of the compositions sound as if they could lull a two-year-old out of a tantrum. However, I find that they blend in exceptionally well and never cause a distraction during adventuring.
As much as there is to praise about Kirby’s Epic Yarn, there are a few minor quibbles regarding difficulty. As mentioned earlier, the enemies mostly serve as obstacles instead of true threats. With some patience all of them can be easily dispatched through well-timed lasso whips. The bosses of each stage aren’t too bad after a few moments comprehending their abilities, so one may be able to breeze through the game rather quickly. Truthfully, the increased difficulty was only noticeable when Meta Knight makes his appearance later in the game.
Another aspect of the game that showcases its accessibility to all ages is the ways that Kirby can die. He can’t. The worst that can happen is he falls into a pit or is struck by an enemy. This causes a multitude of collected beads to explode out of Kirby in all directions. Sure, some of these can get lost somewhere, but the user has ample time to re-collect those beads. Unless one is going for a bead-related medal there is no incentive to worry about these mishaps, for one can complete a stage or beat a boss without any bead-related penalty. Essentially, one can finish this game by just hurtling from the beginning to the end of each stage and beating each boss. This also points towards the minimal difficulty of getting through Kirby’s latest venture.
The multiplayer aspect of Kirby’s Epic Yarn allows another user to play as Prince Fluff and join Kirby simultaneously on each stage. This extra player also partakes in transformations and can be an added weapon against foes, like when Kirby becomes the super-tank and Prince Fluff is an extra rocket arm of pain. I imagine that young players would be thrilled to be able to tackle levels together, but as levels increase it can be difficult for both players to stay on the same screen. Regardless, it is a cute feature to have when friends are over and, after hours of decorating Kirby’s apartment, one can set off on a bead-collecting hunt with a pal.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn can be completed in ten hours if one is in a hurry, but an extra five or so hours can be tacked on if a user wishes to fully complete the game by collecting all of the items and fabrics. This can prove to be difficult for any over-achieving gamer due to the increase in difficulty as each stage of a mini-game is completed. For instance, when one gets to the final stage of Beadrix’s mini-game one will experience a new level of frustration trying to collect 1,200 (!) beads within the time limit. Expect one’s fondness for the cute, pink blob to wane a little bit when challenges get tough.
As I mentioned earlier, I enjoy these types of games. The easy-on-the-eyes graphics, the straightforward game play, and the creativity of the design make this a game that people like me will come back to often. Any flaw that is found in this game is easily dwarfed by the multitude of engaging stage designs and adventuring challenges. Kirby’s Epic Yarn deserves to be noted as one of the best Wii games of the year for young and old gamers alike.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Mild Cartoon Violence .