This past year has seen the continued revival of many of Nintendo’s most well-loved characters. Donkey Kong answered the call of the jungle beat, Samus Aran pursued a trail of conspiracy in Metroid: Other M, and looking to the future, Kid Icarus is set to make an anticipated return on Nintendo 3DS.
Yet in the midst of such iconic characters, there is a certain cuddly pink unsung hero that fans have feverishly been anticipating a comeback for quite some time. Kirby. Thankfully, Nintendo was all too aware of this Kirby’s Epic Yarn was released in Japan and North America last October, yet it isn’t until now, some four months later, that it has finally hit the shores of the European audience.
As you may expect, the central storyline set-up is fairly simple in structure but brimming with all of the usual Nintendo charms. Whilst out wandering the colourful hills of Dream Land, Kirby stumbles across a bright red tomato, his favourite food no less, and tries his best to swallow it. However, as he does so Yin-Yarn, a caped sorcerer, appears crying “Hey! That’s my magic Metamato!”
Gulping the Metamato down, Kirby is instantly sucked into a sock hung around the sorcerer’s neck, and finds himself having been transported into a world made entirely of cloth and yarn. Here, he bumps into Fluff, the prince of the aptly titled Patch Land, where he learns that the evil Yin-Yarn had torn the land in pieces.
All of this is lovingly told through storybook animation, further enhanced by the efforts of a narrator who joyfully guides the player through Kirby’s ventures.
Allowing Kirby’s Epic Yarn to differentiate itself from the crowd is an irresistibly cute art style that consists of patchwork and yarn that provides a distinctive charm throughout the entire game. You’d have to be fairly cold-hearted to not have a smile beaming across your face when you first boot the game up, for sure.
The bulk of your adventure revolves around the usual platforming Kirby-fare of traversing levels, overcoming enemies, platforming challenges and bosses in your continual quest to secure the missing magical pieces of yarn that hold Patch Land together.
Your progression in chasing such a goal is underpinned by tight mechanics and responsive controls that ensure that the gameplay experience is never marred by inconsistency. Kirby retains all his core moves, yet his new “yarn-based” form allows him to transform into a number of useful contraptions, whether it be a parachute to slow his descent, a car for more speed, a submarine to navigate underwater sections or even a tank to tackle certain bosses.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn, therefore, becomes a journey of surprises. With Kirby’s new-found abilities, you are never quite sure what he’ll be able to turn into next and when you do encounter the periods in which his more significant transformations take place, such sections vary the gameplay and provide some of the most memorable and enjoyable moments within the game.
There are eight lands to explore in total, containing an average of around seven individual levels although it isn’t necessary to complete a land in its entirety before moving onto the next. There’s plenty to occupy yourself with here, and to add a further degree of replayability you’re also tasked with finding three treasures per level, which surmount to decorative items that are used to adorn homes in Quilty Square, or even music tracks to listen to at your leisure. Alongside this, you’re also tasked to collect Jewels and Beads scattered through levels whose collection amounts to affect your Medal rating for the level – ranging from Wood, Bronze, Silver and Gold.
Each land also culminates with a boss fight, where Good-Feel and HAL Laboratory once again show their design ingenuity off in full. Lovingly crafted, each were perhaps the biggest highlights for me throughout the entire game. Super Mario Galaxy 2 bosses, you’ve been outdone!
In addition having kitted out flats in Quilty Square, Kirby will meet new friends who will move in to occupy them once suitably furnished. This then provides access to challenges, including collecting a certain amount of Beads or finding friends hidden throughout a level within a set time limit.
In terms of controls, you’re only required to use the standard Wii Remote too in a horizontal position throughout, although there is the odd instance where you point directly at the screen, meaning that even if you don’t own the Nunchuk accessory your time with Kirby remains unhampered. For those looking to team up with a friend the game also incorporates support for up to two players across all levels, with one player guiding Kirby whereas the other assumes the role of Prince Fluff.
There must be some criticism voiced in regards to the ease of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, however. With no life system, whenever you take damage you’ll just find yourself losing Jewels and Beads that can be picked up again quickly before they disappear. Fall to your doom and you’ll be picked up by Angie, an angel, and returned to a safe point where you can try again, once again losing Jewels and Beads dependent on how far she carries you.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn, therefore, offers a deceptive challenge in aiming to complete each level with a Gold medal score alongside ensuring you discover every treasure, yet some may complain that it isn’t as gruellingly taxing as the recently released Donkey Kong Country Returns, or even New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
Still, what remains is memorable platforming experience that is worthy as any in being added to your Wii collection. Full of character, Kirby is back better than ever in a game that many won’t find hard to enjoy.