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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Review: Kirby's Epic Yarn

If you hate cute things, this game is not for you
I originally wasn’t planning on getting this game; my Brother gave me a Kmart coupon that he’d gotten with the Fallout: New Vegas preorder and in light of the fact that by using it I’d be getting another coupon that would basically make the game cost me $25. Since that was too good of a deal to resist, I decided to let ‘Kirby’s Epic Yarn’ be my first release date game purchase since ‘Metroid: Other M’.  This title was originally developed without Kirby in mind, rather starring the character that would become the second player avatar, Prince Fluff. Kirby, Metaknight and company were all added in after the That was probably a good idea on Nintendo’s part as I don’t think ‘Epic Yarn’ would have gotten the attention it has without the recognizable pink puff. It's good in another respect as Kirby hasn't really had a good game in quite a while excusing 'Canvas Curse'; this is a series highlight, which is funny considering how the game started out.

This game was developed by Good Feel who previously released ‘Warioland: Shake it!’
 I actually got Epic Yarn to end up saving money on my future planned purchases of ‘Donkey Kong Country Returns’ ‘Epic Mickey’ and ‘Golden Sun: Dark Dawn’. So it’s a good thing that it’s a pretty enjoyable game. It’s not going to set the world on fire with something dramatically new to the platforming genre but it’s an enjoyable title in its own right.
You play either as Kirby wandering a world that looks like the arts and crafts section of a department store exploded all over it, whipping thread to unravel yarn based enemies and obtaining patches to unlock new levels.  The basic attacks consist of that yarn whipping, tapping to unravel an enemy and holding to roll them into a ball which can be used as a projectile. Since Kirby is transformed into a yarn-being himself, he doesn’t utilize his familiar copy ability; rather, the game opts for transformation sequences where he becomes things like a Tank or Dolphin.  Though rare, some of these are the most entertaining bits in the game as the snowboarding and shooter stages are great fun. I wasn’t a fan of the train levels at all though, as laying down track by pointing the Remote at the screen was imprecise and repetitive.

Kirby and second player character Prince Fluff traverse a world made up of places like ‘Hot Land’ and ‘Treat Land’ in order to obtain the Celestial thread that will allow them to bind another piece of the Yarn world together. Each level has 2 pieces of furniture and a music CD to grab as well as a ranking based on how many beads you cleared the goal with. All of the individual maps have 4 levels plus a pair of extra stages you access by beating enough beads out of the boss characters.  The second player element is pretty valuable in the game as this could be a great successor to the 35th round of ‘Lego Star Wars’ for all of you with kids out there. It’s easy enough for kids (and adults) to learn the controls plus there’s enough variety to keep them entertained for a while.

That’s pretty notable as you can’t die in Epic Yarn; when you’re hit you just drop beads. Upon clearing a level you get medals for how many beads you reached the goal with though it’s necessary to point out that both players share the same pool of the collectibles. As a result, when one of you is injured it drains your collective pool of bedazzlement a little, putting you at risk for the Silver instead of the Gold. While I can’t figure out what getting the medals really serves other than 100% completion, getting as much of the beads as possible is important since they’ll help you unlock the extra levels. Sub games are accessed in the games hubworld, a place called Quilty Court, which is where you’ll be using all that furniture. Kirby keeps a room in an apartment building that you’re free to decorate as you please. The place is run by a yarn ball named Dom Wool with two adjacent shops run by his brothers where you can buy extra wallpapers and furniture. You’ll be asked by your landlord to ‘donate’ beads so he can add extra floors to the place, which will give you new rooms to decorate with specific items that will lure in new tenants. They in turn will give you access to the sub games that will let you get 100% as well as possibly make you tear your hair out.

Epic Yarn is not a difficult game but it can very tiresome when you’re replaying a challenge level for the fifteenth time because you made one mistake and were penalized twice as a result.  Still, the boss battles are pretty memorable and you’ll enjoy yourself while finding the game’s most challenging sequences. Squashini, the boss of Treat land, is particularly memorable as he makes great use of the ‘arts and crafts’ gimmick with his magic tricks. The 2 player co-op will definitely make things more fun as you can teach anyone to play this in a matter of minutes. It’s not going to be a party game anytime soon but it’s a pleasant way to spend an afternoon with someone.

This is an interesting category to write about as the game has truly excellent graphics. All of the backgrounds and set pieces look like real crafting material come to life. Kirby and company obviously stand out because they move around much more but they blend into the more realistic elements with little trouble. The game’s aesthetic is one of its strongest attributes though this is admittedly ground that the Paper Mario series has tread before. Still, this is an interesting new take on what kind of elements can make up a gaming world and in that arena it excels.

The game's presentation is top notch; whether or not the aesthetic appeals to you, no one’s going to be able to deny that it’s well done. All the logic that goes into making a world out of crafting material is interesting visually as well as fun to play. While the game originally starred Prince Fluff, it fits in Kirby’s world with little difficulty and it might have been a tough sell without the branding. Still, this is a bright and cheerful game with lots to look at while exhibiting a decent amount of difficulty. It’s at least worth playing through to the final boss as the Cut scene Narrator is one of the game’s biggest highlights plus some of the levels (such as the snowboarding) are just fun to go through on a lark. There’s no reward for getting 100% completion but it’s still enjoyable getting there despite the very repetitive racing and combat minigames; younger players will appreciate the fact that there’s a huge amount of things to collect even if most of them are just various wallpapers for your apartment. Despite the elements of a typical Kirby game being absent, the spirit is still there.

‘Epic Yarn’ walks a steady line between enjoyment when you’re blasting through levels and tedium when you’re playing the race sub games or repeating a normal level to get that gold medal. Still, the good outweighs the bad and this is overall a very fun game. It’s a great rental and might be one of the best investments you can ever make if you have to babysit as kids will just eat it up.  The Boss battles are memorable and the story, while not deep, will keep you amused. The Kirby elements are something of an afterthought but it’s easy to see that Nintendo was very smart to make this an entry in the series; otherwise it may have languished in obscurity. The game would likely be seen as being too cute to be acknowledged, the way something like ‘Mischief Makers’ on the N64 was.

Rating: 7.5/10
This is a good game; if you can find it somewhere for $30 or less it’s worth the money as you’ll be entertained. The simple nature of the game makes it a great game to play with others of all skill levels as well as giving you plenty of content to sift through. Charming, though not outstanding, this is a unique game in more ways than you would expect.

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