When Nintendo released New Super Mario Bros. on the DS in 2006 and New Super Mario Bros. Wii in 2009, it ushered in a new age of 2D platformer games. It was a genre largely abandoned (even by Nintendo) in the mid-90’s as Sony’s PlayStation took command of the videogame market bringing the age of 3D polygon displays. Well, what’s old is new once again as we can see from Kirby’s Epic Yarn (watch the Japanese commercial for Kirby’s Adventure on NES to see just how old its inspiration really is).
It’s the first Kirby on a Nintendo home console since 2003’s Kirby Air Ride for Gamecube and the first home Kirby platformer since 2000’s Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards for Nintendo 64. This was a significant move since the Kirby series spends a little more time on handhelds than at home on the TV set. But don’t expect the usual Kirby adventure in your living room from this HAL Laboratory/Good-Feel production.
When it made its impressive debut on stage at the 2010 Electronic Entertainment Expo this past June, the most stand-out feature was its unique art style. ‘Yarn’ is the operative word here and it is detailed in EPIC fashion with a world made entirely of string and fabric. Land, sea, and sky compose a patchwork of beautiful colorful pieces of cloth and thread. Wind gusts look like strands of silly string blowing through the air, enemies are straight from the loom with little buttons for eyes, clouds are made of cotton stuffing, quicksand is interwoven scraps of fiber. It’s perhaps the most original art direction since Super Nintendo’s Yoshi’s Island, Nintendo 64’s Paper Mario, and PlayStation 3’s LittleBigPlanet.
Kirby joins this world of twill early in the game’s story thanks to run-ins with Yin-Yarn, a nasty wizard from Patch Land. Gone are Kirby’s famous abilities to inhale everything by mouth and float upward like a balloon. Our cute but ride-or-die hero becomes a circle of pink yarn that luckily retains his lucrative and handy transformation powers. He lassos buttons and baddies to get across obstacles or open new paths with secrets inside. He transforms into a threaded car to pick up the pace (you’ll love doing this) and floats downward from great heights as a laced parachute. He swims through the jean-colored water as a ropey fish. But never fear! As he jumps and hops, he still comes down as heavy as a spool to his string bean foes.
But the really fun stuff begins once you find these little swirly vortexes called metamortexes. There’s no telling what you will become once you uncover these power-ups. It might be a missile-shooting Kirby-shaped tank, a flying UFO, a zip-zortin’ ATV, who knows? But you won’t be lost at what to do with convenient road signs that give quick visual instructions on how to operate your many corded contraptions. And where are we going with these behemoths in the first place? To pick up all the assorted jewel-like beads and fancy furniture you find along the way while recovering the magic yarn that sews together Patch Land. That Yin-Yarn guy, he ripped apart the social fabric, tore it at the seams, such a nasty fellow.
Lucky for you, Nintendo gave you control in the NES format to get the job done. One simple regular Wiimote turned sideways played with control pad and the (1) and (2) buttons. Luckier still, you don’t have to do this all alone with simultaneous 2-player help in the form of the blue-stringed, golden-crowned Prince Fluff, prince of Patch Land itself. He operates just like your Kirby ropin’ ‘em in and transforming into all kinds of things. And even luckier than that, you don’t die in Patch Land. Unless an enemy has a weapon or shoots a projectile, you can bump into them all day long. If you just so happen to run into some hazard by either enemy or environment, you just drop a good portion of your collected beads onto the ribboned streets. All it does is effect your end score and certain end score medals. Besides, you can pick up what dropped out of your pockets. Don’t let needles put holes in those. Be sure to patch up that situation.
In between missions to sew together Patch Land, you can hang out at Quilty Square. In this little village, you can check your collected possessions at Patch Plaza, arrange furniture at your apartment in Dom Woole’s Quilty Court (he must go to the Tom Nook school of business). Interior design can be done with a control switch to Wiimote flashlight style by button press. Help Dom out with furnishing his empty apartments and you may discover brand new neighbors. Dom may have other favors to ask you which can benefit both of you so be ready. Oh and at any time, feel free to pause the action and take an in-game picture. The game’s photo album holds up to 10 pics and you can send those pics to your Wii message board whenever you want (which from there can be sent to friends if you choose).
The appeal of Kirby’s Epic Yarn is its imaginative style and play. This is a choice title for beginning players to get a handle on fresh 2D platforming. Experts trained on Mario and ol’ school Mega Man are going to find this a frosting walk, never-mind the cake. But despite its ridiculous easiness, I would recommend platforming veterans to give it a try if for nothing else but its presentation and general fun factor. This game is soaked in charm and will make you smile! The well hasn’t run dry with this genre yet and Kirby’s Epic Yarn proves it. Come on tough guys – don’t get so unraveled at the color pink. Have some fun!