Kirby's taken the LittleBigPlanet patchwork aesthetic and discovered brand new ways to turn that jaded gamer frown upside down. But can technical flaws and a lack of difficulty prevent us from drinking the sugary pink Kool-Aid?
- It's hard not to smile while playing this adorable
- Takes a style that belonged to LittleBigPlanet and makes it its own.
- Unique worlds merit exploration, plus, there are felt dinosaurs.
- Co-op play can get frustrating. Players who venture away from one another can get trapped.
- Not much of a challenge
- After a relatively short campaign, there's not much else to do here.
In Kirby's Epic Yarn, Kirby’s problems begin as they always do: with food. Believing he’s noshing on a ripe tomato, Kirby accidentally activates a gateway to a fuzzy fabric universe. The “metamato” is actually the property of a yarn wizard (stay with me here), who exacts all types of textile vengeance in Patch Land and Kirby’s native Dream Land. It’s up to Kirby to stop Yin-Yarn and restore harmony to both worlds. Curiously, the poncho, sombrero, and bushy mustache-sporting villain continues the fine tradition of Mexican stereotyping in the spirit of Speedy Gonzales and the Frito Bandito.
Kirby’s LittleBigPlanet-inspired trip to a patchwork dimension is an adorable success. Though a fabric-based game world has been done before (and you will find many of this one’s platforming elements to be quite familiar to the PS3’s modern classic), Kirby’s Epic Yarn will have you oohing and cooing out loud at the sentient-newborns-invade-Jo-Ann-Fabrics aesthetic. If slumbering yarn bears, hefty blue whales squeezing their frames through floating rings, and smiling felt suns can’t warm the charred cockles of your hardcore gamer heart, you are just too far gone, my friend.
As you complete the individual stages that make up the themed worlds (Hot Land, Water Land, etc.), you make progress towards stitching the fractured Patch Land back together again. Before a completed world can be reattached, you’ll need to complete a simple boss battle. Foes include a phoenix named Hot Wings and a magician who lets an evil slot machine to choose his attacks. It’s too bad Kirby only needs a few minutes to dispose of them, because there’s potential for epic battlin’ in most of these bosses’ designs.
Each stage in Patch Land is littered with collectable gems. Rack up enough of these, and your apartment’s Tom Nookian landlord will ask for them to increase the size of his rental property. New furniture you can use to spruce up your living quarters at your discretion is cleverly hidden throughout the stages. Of course, you can always purchase home goods from your landlord’s miserly brothers, who have conveniently erected their businesses next door to the apartment complex.
You will be surprised by how realistic a Wii game based on a magical yarn world can feel. Yarn buckles ever so slightly under Kirby’s little red shoes, individual cotton fibers invite you to rest your weary head, and you should probably kiss your television on the off chance that the sweatband-sporting, grunting yarn cub can feel it, because he is probably sad without his mom anywhere in sight.
As you may begin to suspect, this is not a deep game. There isn’t anything wrong with mildcore—you don’t only listen to Wagnerian opera or read Gogol, do you? The problem is, as sweet as the sleepytime soundtrack is and as much as the realistic fluff physics make you want to climb into your friend-box and burrow under the felt scenery, there’s not much to this brief experience. There’s no death for Kirby, and you will never have to do anything remotely challenging to pass a stage. You’ll want to keep playing to see the adorable new worlds (including one based entirely on sweet treats), but the lack of difficulty will make you lose interest in time. After completing the short campaign (roughly seven hours), you can return to levels for the purpose of uncovering hidden furniture for Kirby’s apartment, racking up more coins, or unlocking a few bonus levels--but that’s it.
If you’ve been trying to get your significant other into gaming, here’s your chance to lure him or her in for good. A second player can drop in any time as the (helpfully contrasting with Kirby) blue Prince Fluff. A denizen of this alternate universe, Fluff has the same moves as Kirby—he just does them while making a bit of a sass face. Co-op doesn’t just boil down to playing the same game at the same time: players can weave their partner into a baseball and pitch him at a bad guy. When Fluff and Kirby find special power-ups that let them change forms, they sometimes control different parts of the same vehicle. As a super tank, Kirby drives and mans the missile launcher while Fluff controls an oversized punching arm. Beyond being cute, these co-op moves give a unique sense of actually playing together.
Unfortunately, co-op sessions are often marred by frustration. Players will get trapped at opposite ends of the screen, resulting in a deadlock that must be resolved in a manner most frustrating or, rarely, that offers no choice but to restart. One player might progress “too far” and be carried back to the lagging second player. This seems to happen nearly as often as the lagging player is brought up to speed, a progress-inhibiting flaw that needs correcting.
Stitch & Bitch
Mario will always have mushrooms and gold coins. Link will always have Zelda and the Triforce. Kirby will always eat things he probably shouldn’t. Yarn Kirby doesn’t nom, suck or blow--if it weren’t for the chubby pink body and the red cheeks, you’d have no idea this was a Kirby platformer at all. Instead, he whips, unravels baddies, and crochets himself into helpful new forms (parachute, good-natured dolphin, Galaga-style spaceship, etc.). It works, but there remain distinct reminders, even with late appearances by familiar Kirbyverse characters, that the Kirby likeness was slapped on some ways into the development cycle. It’s been over a decade since we had an actual Kirby platformer on consoles—imagine if the last traditional Mario or Zelda console games came out on the Nintendo 64—and if it’s a true Kirby game you want, you’ll have to keep on waiting.
Based solely on the artful happy-time presentation, Epic Yarn comes with my unreserved, cherubs-sounding-gilded-trumpets recommendation. Delivered as a video game, it isn’t without faults--faults that rob us of the unadulterated whimsy Ninty wants to deliver by occasionally transporting us from our care-free dream state back to the cold reality of technical snafu.