Tag Archives: Kirby’s Epic Yarn

Kirby’s Epic Yarn Review

Ten years. That’s how long it took Kirby to get another console entry after Kirby 64. Hal’s pink hero featured in a number of handheld games during that decade-long interim, but the only title starring Kirby on a home console during all that time was the racing game Kirby’s Air Ride on the Game Cube. Sure, Kirby began life on the Game Boy, but it seemed strange for him to suddenly be entirely confined to handhelds after appearing in a quartet of memorable games on the NES, SNES and N64. But in 2010, Kirby finally returned to a home console, when Kirby’s Epic Yarn arrived on the Nintendo Wii. Epic Yarn wasn’t your normal Kirby adventure, however, and did away with most of the series’ usual elements. Despite the changes, Kirby’s Epic Yarn quickly garnered critical praise. Though in typical Kirby fashion, Epic Yarn seemed to just ad quickly fall under the radar. This is a crying shame, because Kirby’s Epic Yarn remains one of the best entries in the series, and one of the Wii’s unsung gems.

Developed by the aptly-named Good-Feel (who previously made the gorgeously animated Wario Land: Shake It), Kirby’s Epic Yarn is quite likely the most charming video game ever made, and a rare instance in which striking visuals actually enhance the gameplay.

Naturally, the story begins in Dream Land, where a sorcerer named Yin-Yarn – hailing from the parallel world of Patch Land – has invaded, turning everything and everyone into yarn as to take control of Dream Land (for reasons he himself is not sure of). Yin-Yarn stumbles across Kirby, and transforms our hero into a yarn version of himself, unable to inhale objects and enemies. The sorcerer then banishes Kirby to Patch Land – which Yin-Yarn has unstitched – in order to move on to Dedede’s castle. In Patch Land, Kirby meets Prince Fluff, who teaches Kirby his new yarn body allows him to transform into a variety of shapes and sizes. Kirby and Prince Fluff then team up to find the Magic Yarn needed to stitch Patch Land back together, find a way back to Dream Land, and stop Yin-Yarn from wreaking havoc. It’s an appropriately simple (and even silly) plot that adds to the game’s charms, as does it’s narration, which evokes a grandfather reading a storybook.

Cute though the story may be, the fabric theme also adds to both the visuals and, most importantly, the gameplay.

In the world of Patch Land, everything is made out of fabric. Whether it’s the fuzzy environments, string-like enemies, or zipper-laden castles, Kirby’s Epic Yarn is one of those rare titles where you can imagine everyone involved with its production had a blast thinking about how everything in the game world comes together. It’s an absolute joy to look at, and dare I say Kirby has never been cuter.

What ascends Kirby’s Epic Yarn’s visual aesthetics into the realms of all-time great video game art directions, however, is how it integrates into the gameplay. Kirby can often zip, stitch, and patch up the environment around him. And his new yarn form allows him to change shape to glide as a parachute, ground pound as a weight, and take the form of a car to move faster. Many of the game’s puzzles are built around the aesthetics, making Kirby’s Epic Yarn the first game to turn the concept of knitting into an engaging gameplay mechanic.

On top of all this, certain sections will see Kirby full-on transform for a limited time. Throughout the adventure, Kirby and Prince Fluff can take the forms of a robot-tank, a UFO, a train, a surfing penguin, a dolphin, a mole, a fire truck, and a race car. With the variety of ways the developers used the fabric motif, Kirby’s Epic Yarn would already be a game full of variety. But with the transformations added into the mix, the game stays fresh throughout its entirety (though some may find the motion controls of the train form a tad cumbersome).

Another twist to the Kirby formula – and video game conventions as a whole – is that Kirby can’t die in Epic Yarn. Being the overpowered character Kirby is, his games have always tended to be on the easy side, and you might say Epic Yarn increases the ease ten-fold now that Kirby is essentially invincible, which won’t sit well for everyone. That wouldn’t be an entirely accurate claim, however, as Kirby’s Epic Yarn does manage to give a challenge for completionists in the form of beads.

Beads are scattered throughout every stage, and depending on how many beads Kirby manages to hold onto by the end of a stage, players can earn bronze, silver and gold medals. Even a single hit from an enemy will result in Kirby’s collected beads being scattered about Sonic rings style, disappearing completely after a short time. Some players may find themselves restarting a level should they fall down a bottomless pit, and see bead after bead fall into the abyss as Kirby is brought back to safety.

Additionally, every stage also hides two secret objects and a music CD to find, making for an extra challenge for those seeking that elusive 100% completion. The objects in question can be used to decorate Kirby’s new apartment at the player’s leisure (bringing a little taste of Animal Crossing into the mix), and certain objects can be placed in other apartments in the same building to get new tenants to move in, with each new arrival providing their own series of time limit-based mini-games (like trying to find friends hiding within a stage, or defeating a set number of enemies). So in case the adventure itself somehow weren’t enough, the collectibles and mini-games give Kirby’s Epic Yarn some great replay value.

“Though the bosses lack difficulty, they are consistently creative. This includes my main man, King Dedede, naturally.”

The game features seven worlds in total, each with four mandatory levels and a boss fight, along with two additional levels that can be unlocked if you collect enough bead during that world’s boss. Though it may not be the most difficult game out there, Kirby’s Epic Yarn still provides a hefty and undeniably fun adventure for one or two players, with Prince Fluff joining Kirby in the game’s co-op mode.

To wrap the experience up nicely, Kirby’s Epic Yarn features one of the most memorable soundtracks in the series. Fittingly, the music is softer and more relaxed than most Kirby soundtracks, with beautiful live band and piano pieces ranging from cute and sweet to surprisingly beautiful. This makes hunting down those aforementioned CDs well worth the effort.

Kirby’s Epic Yarn is a rare kind of game, one that happily defies the status quo of its time. The 2000s were riddled in video games aiming to be as ‘mature’ and violent as possible, starring parades of angry bald dudes seeking vengeance on one thing or another who, in retrospect, almost seem to be making fun of themselves with their edginess. Meanwhile, most games released during the 2010s have tried their damnedest to replicate the look and feel of cinema out of a misguided means to earn legitimacy. Kirby’s Epic Yarn defied the decade that came before it, and still stands out in the years that have followed by emphasizing sheer joy and creativity over all else. Kirby’s Epic Yarn takes most of the trappings of what normally constitute ‘good’ video games and disregards them, aiming instead to simply leave a smile beaming across your face. It’s all the better for it.

 

9.0

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Yoshi’s Woolly World Review

Yoshi's Woolly World

If someone were to ask me what I think the most charming video game of all time is, my answer would probably be a toss up between Yoshi’s Island on the SNES, and Kirby’s Epic Yarn for the Wii. It is very fitting then, that there should be a game that serves as a spiritual successor to both titles. Yoshi’s Wooly World comes from Good-Feel, the same studio that created Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and combines that game’s visual aesthetic of a cloth and fabric world with gameplay reminiscent of Yoshi’s Island.

Here players take control of a Yoshi made out of yarn. He can still flutter jump, ground pound, and gobble up enemies. Only now, balls of yarn take the place of Yoshi’s eggs. Though they function more or less the same as the eggs of Yoshi’s Island – being thrown at enemies and out of reach objects – they have a few additional uses as well.

Wire frame platforms can be made whole by tossing a ball of yarn into it. Chain Chomps – who are little more than metal wire here – can become bean bag-like Chomp rocks when struck by yarn (changing them into the color of the yarn thrown, for some added visual fun). Some enemies that can’t be jumped on, like Piranha Plants, can get tied up in the yarn, rendering them vulnerable.

These may sound like little changes, but it is these little details that make Yoshi’s Woolly World stand out. Whereas most games starring Yoshi since Yoshi’s Island have failed to establish a meaningful identity of their own, Wooly World is able to make the established elements of the Yoshi series feel new again because of the makeshift makeover. It’s a rare instance in which the visuals really do add to the gameplay.

Yoshi's Woolly WorldBoth the environment and characters are affected by the art direction: Snow becomes lumps of cotton, the lava Blarggs are now red and yellow scarfs, and those pesky crab enemies from Yoshi’s Island are transformed into purses with scissors for claws.

To put it simple, the game looks as stunning as it does adorable, and the visuals are used creatively to add some new spins on the gameplay. It’s more extravagant than Kirby’s Epic Yarn, and really runs with the yarn gimmick to make for a very beautiful game.

Yoshi's Woolly WorldThough the standard mechanics are borrowed from Yoshi’s Island, many levels introduce their own fabric-themed gimmicks into the mix, ensuring that the experience remains fresh throughout its six worlds. There’s a level where Yoshi hangs on to sliding curtains that echoes Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze. A later stage sees Yoshi sticking to conveyor belts of velcro, which send Yoshi in every which direction. And on one of the game’s best levels, ghostly curtains float in the foreground, revealing silhouette platforms every time they pass by. The platforms are non-existent whenever they aren’t blanketed by the curtains, so Yoshi has to stay in the curtains’ shadows.

Each level presents a new take on the formula, with many of the gimmicks being exclusive to singular levels to prevent them from overexposure. This adds a great sense of variety to the gameplay and keeps the levels exciting. It should be noted, however, that the levels can get a bit lengthy. While most of the stages are enjoyable and introduce fun mechanics, there are a couple that might over-stay their welcome. Thankfully, these are in the minority, and if you don’t fancy what one level has to offer, its features will be discarded in favor of a new batch of ideas in the next level anyway.

As is the series’ tradition, a host of collectibles can be found within every stage. Yoshi can collect beads throughout every level, which can be used to purchase Power Badges, which grant Yoshi special powers when going into a stage (such as being recovered from falling into a pit, or being aided by Yoshi’s dog Poochy in stages where he isn’t normally available). Small bouncing hearts, similar to the starmen of Yoshi’s Island, serve as Yoshi’s hit points.

Every level has five flowers and five pieces of “Wonder Wool.” The flowers give Yoshi the opportunity to play a bonus stage at the end of a level, and finding every flower within a world unlocks that world’s secret stage, while finding every piece of Wonder Wool within a level unlocks a new Yoshi to play as (every Yoshi plays the same, but provide some fun visual variety). Each stage also houses twenty Stamp Patches, which are hidden in some of the beads. Finding enough Stamp Patches allows you to use stamps in Miiverse.

Yoshi's Woolly WorldAs was the case with Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Wooly World is not a particularly difficult game if you only wish to blast through the levels (though it is more challenging than Epic Yarn, seeing as Yoshi can actually die). But hunting down every last collectible proves to be quite a challenge even for veteran players (in my first playthrough of the game, I didn’t unlock any of the secret stages). This makes Woolly World a very versatile game. It’s challenging enough for younger players as it is, but those who might be able to beat it without breaking much of a sweat will still find a hefty challenge trying to claim all of its hidden trinkets.

This is why I question the necessity of the game’s “Mellow Mode.” Mellow Mode gives Yoshi wings that allow him to fly indefinitely, essentially making every level a non-issue. This mode can be switched to at any time in the pause menu, and is intended for really young players. But again, the game itself only provides a few challenging levels, and players always have the option of using the incredibly useful Power Badges, or a second player in co-op mode, to help them out. So Mellow Mode ends up feeling unnecessary, and maybe even insulting to less experienced players.

Yoshi's Woolly WorldThe game’s other big drawback are the boss encounters. As was the case in Yoshi’s Island, every world features two castle stages that end with a boss fight, one in the middle of a world, and one at the end. But whereas Yoshi’s Island was always introducing a new and creative boss fight with every encounter, Woolly World instead recycles the same two mid-world bosses for every world. After Captain Toad and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse already had repetitive boss fights, you kind of wish that Woolly World would have broken this recent trend for Nintendo, instead of following it. The end-world bosses are a bit more fun and varied, though not particularly difficult.

In the end, Yoshi’s Woolly World may not be the masterpiece that Yoshi’s Island was, but in the two decades since that game’s release, it is the first game to feel like a worthy follow-up to it. By combining the essence of Kirby’s Epic Yarn into the Yoshi series, Woolly World becomes its own entity that does both sides of its inspiration proud. It’s beautiful to look at, and it’s rather impressive musical score also makes it a joy to listen to. The gameplay is simple and fun, and the collectibles give the game a nice dose of depth and replayability.

It may not be perfect, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more huggable game out there.

 

8.5