The first time you see the main title screen of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, depending on who you are, you should have one of two distinct reactions. The chainsaw wielding, zombie bashing, alien crushing, headshoting crowd will take one look at it and promptly throw up, take the Wii to their backyard, pee on it, then burn it with napalm just so they can wash themselves of the saccharine cuteness they’ve just witness. The rest will either be ambivalent about it or go “Aaaawwww.” Either way, that crowd will actually start playing and discover something wondrous.
The ultra cute aesthetic of Epic Yarn is undoubtedly a giant turn off for many gamers who are not 10 year old girls, but cute doesn’t necessarily mean boring gameplay and uncreative levels. Epic Yarn holds dear the idea that what makes any 2D platformer any good is its level design and creativity. As the title implies, Patch Land, that’s the name of the world you’ll be spending most of your time, is made of yarn, fabric, and buttons. All your enemies are just yarn outlines with the occasional buttons for eyes, and the world is made of patches of fabrics with patched together and zippers keeping layers or fabric together.
This isn’t just an excuse to make everything look adorable. Epic Yarn plays with the idea that everything is made of yarn and fabric. The ground you walk on gives just a little bit as you walk over it. Enemies die not in a poof of smoke but a mess of yarn and buttons or raveled into a ball of yarn for your tossing pleasure. Levels can be altered at the pull of a string or by unzipping zippers to reveal a hidden set of platforms. Some places allow you to go underneath a layer, and it bulges to signify where you are. If that isn’t enough, the actual levels themselves are the most creative and fun I’ve ever seen in a game without Mario in its title. Each level has 3 hidden items to find, and every so often, they are placed just a little bit higher than you can normally jump tantalizing you and daring you to find a way to reach it. And you will take up that challenge because, if it’s anything like the previous ones, it’s hidden in a very creative manner.
In addition to the world and enemies, Epic Yarn also plays with Kirby being made of Yarn as well. At certain points in the game, Kirby can transform into various things including a tank, a UFO, a fire engine, and even a dolphin. The tank lets you fire off missiles and is probably the most satisfying of the bunch. That’s not to say that the others aren’t any fun at all. Each one adds a small, wonderful wrinkle in the usual platforming you’ve been doing all along. Instead of just jumping around, now you’re putting out fires as the fire engine. Now you’re hovering around and “abducting” enemies as a UFO. Now you’re racing against other enemies as a racecar. Like the regular platforming, each of these transformations comes packed with level design that’s just dripping with imagination and fun.
That childlike joy of the levels extends to the other portions as well. Both the story and even the music are amazing. Not to say that the standard evil bad guy trying to take over the world is anything new or remarkable, but it’s the presentation of it that really makes the difference here. The story is told like a storybook complete with a still background with moving characters like they would in a pop-up book and is very whimsical. How did the bad guy come to Dream Land from Patch Land? A magic sock. What did Kirby do when he came across a giant cake? He starts eating it until it collapsed unto himself. All this is accompanied by what I can only describe as music with a very old-school sensibility. It’s not like it’s in 8-bit or anything. It’s that it’s usually very simple. Usually it’s just a piano piece. Sometime there are some drums as a backbeat. The emphasis on some of the catchiest melodies I’ve ever heard kept me humming it long past after I stopped playing. For added fun, some of the later levels use music from the Original Kirby games, and I can’t remember them sounding this good.
Click Play if you want to hear what’s been playing through my head the past week!
The only portion that’s even remotely disappointing is the co-op mode. Perhaps it’s because the levels are fundamentally easy, that adding another player just makes them a little too easy. Oddly enough, that’s mitigated if you’re playing with someone who isn’t adept at playing platformers or games in general. Unlike the co-op in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, it’s a little bit harder to actually screw over your friend. It’s possible, but it’s not something you can do by accident so easily. Co-op really should be called the Gateway Mode. This is how you’re going to get someone who normally doesn’t play games to play with you.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn brings something that most games don’t even bother trying to do anymore these days. Charm. With levels that can only be described as lovingly crafted, a whimsical story and a hauntingly, unforgettable music, I haven’t been able to get this game out of my mind ever since I finished.
- Imaginative level design
- Whimsical story
- Beautiful music
- “Aaaaawwwwww!” factor up the wazoo
- Not much of a challenge (but frankly, just enough)
Confused about our score? See our Ratings Guide.