With Nintendo's next retro-centric platformer, Donkey Kong Country Returns (which I have pre-ordered so maybe you'll see a review soon? ... though I do have a lot that still need writing first) on the horizon, it's a bout time that I finally write this review. I mean, it came out on the same day as it's visual polar opposite, Fallout: New Vegas, which I've surely invested more time in. But that's nothing against this game, after all it was my Game of E3 so hopefully my hyped meter was fulfilled... right? Read on to find out!
What else were you expecting from Kirby? One day he's out walking aimlessly, when he spots food and decides to eat it ... but this is no ordinary food, it's made of yarn! Suddenly an evil wizard, Yin-Yarn, appears, angry at Kirby for eating his special food and warps him into a sock ... which happens to be a secret universe were Kirby realizes he is made of yarn and the whole world is as well. But there'sa problem, Yin-Yarn has disrupted the balance of this world and with the help of Prince Fluff, Kirby must literally sew the world back together.
The game's story is presented in a very storybook fashion, with paper/yarn cutouts representing the characters with minimal animation, and a mostly creepy narrator explaing the story and taking the speaking roles for all the character. It's a bit minimal by today's standards, but it totally works for the tone of the game.
What sets Epic Yarn apart from the traditional Kirby games is that there is no inhaling mechanic. To some scoffers, they'd say this isn't a Kirby game then, but if you recall, Canvas Curse on the DS also didn't use the standard inhale/use enemies' powers gameplay either, and it's regarded as one of the best in the series. Instead you are "yarn powered" which allows Kirby to transform into anything at any given moment, and use string to interact with the world and its inhabitants. Want to move faster? Turn into a car. Want float down instead of falling? Turn into a parachute. It's simple, but it works well.
Some if not all levels also feature parts where Kirby can transform completely, instead of just for one task like speed or floating; these include changing into rally cars, surfing penguins, giant tanks, UFOs, space ships and more, which add a lot of variety to the standard platforming, and if I do say so myself, the shmup-style levels are some of the best the game has to offer.
However, there is one gripe I have about the game ... it's insanely easy. Sure, it's a Kirby game, and has an incredibly light-hearted presentation, but having played nearly every Kirby game before it, I'd say this is by far the easiest game in the series. Don't be surprised if you can actually manage to beat this in a day, but unlike games like God of War III which only lasts few hours, theres actually some incentive to replay this game numerous time. There's also 2 player co-op, but I think because the game's already very easy having two players would probably just cause confusion than add any extra fun... and of course there's no online co-op. But, you can arrange furniture and play mini-games! ... yay?
However, the gameplay isn't what sold this game for me. I was sold when I first saw this game's beautiful art-style back at E3 this year, and thankfully it stays completely fresh throughout the game with ever-changing level design and gameplay mechanics that further enhance this game's unique visual style. It's one of the few times I'd actually argue in favor of an HD capable Wii because 480p just doesn't do this enough justice and this game already out-rival's Sony's PixelJunk series (which I also love) when comes to fantastic play, unique looking HD 2D games. HD aside though, this game still looks great on my TV at 480p and sometimes I feel like the game is really made of physical material and not just highly detailed graphics. Whoever is responsible for this style needs a promotion.
You can't have a Kirby game without great music right? Well the its no different this time around, but instead of the surprisingly brutal polka tracks that we're used to hearing from Kirby games we're given a much more lighthearted soundtrack that certainly fits well with the visual style. It may not be for everyone, but for myself, when I was getting frustrated with the glitch-heavy wasteland of Fallout: New Vegas I'd turn on my Wii with Kirby's Epic Yarn and relax my frustrations away, and the music certainly helped.
Kirby's Epic Yarn is definitely one of the best games on the Wii right now, even if it is overly simplistic. Is it going to lure over the Halo crowd from their Xboxes? Probably not. But can you be a grown man and still enjoy a game that looks like it was designed for toddlers, definitely. Epic Yarn is surely a testament to that, and definitely embraces the all-ages approach of the Wii. Whether or not you'll be able to accept the game's incredibly easy gameplay is up to you, but it'd be a shame to miss out on a game that looks these beautiful and still has solid platforming.
Overall Score: 9/10