Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Kirby's Epic Yarn: Hands-on

Written by pikaby

I hung from a dandelion made of cotton wool. I unzipped an entire building facade revealing a hidden passage. I tied a knot around an erupting felt volcano. I swam through thread rings as a dolphin. I collected beads as a tiny music note. I tore the patch off a crescent moon, revealing a sun. All that in the first 3 hours.

As far as talking about Kirby's Epic Yarn goes, I'm really late to the party, showing up at the door right after everyone has already left. But such a creative, bright and adorable game will always get tongues wagging when someone so much as mentions it. Although I was late at getting the game, I had one chance to breeze through to the 5th world in one 3-hour sitting, and I was as awestruck as everyone else playing the game.

The major selling point of Epic Yarn is the great visual style. Seeing screenshots and trailers simply don't do the game justice- you have to bring the game home and watch it unravel on your television screen to truly appreciate it. It's that thrilling feeling you get when you watch a very cool-looking game being played by someone else and then finally being able to control the game yourself. Creative idea after creative idea was laid out (then dumped in favor of an even better one) in the random, fruity, varied way Mario Galaxy 2 mastered. And just like Galaxy, even though the main gameplay remains the same, the ideas are rarely recycled. One moment you're controlling giant tank Kirby, the next world it's not there anymore, replaced by an off-roader or a fire engine or a skateboarder or a digger...unzipping buildings became pulling platforms with buttons, stitching teddy bears, lighting up Christmas trees with beads...the number of clever things Nintendo found to do with wool and yarn is endless. You could fill three games with this stuff and it won't get old.

And did I mention the game is freaking adorable? Kirby may not be able to use any of his copy abilities, but he can transform into lots of other squishy things you just want to hug. Especially Submarine and music note Kirby! The other characters, like Prince Fluff and Kirby's other Patch Land friends, even most of the enemies, scream copious amounts of cute. Throughout my entire playthrough, from the title screen all the way to powering the Wii down, I never stopped smiling. I dare you to play this game without going 'awww' once. No one I know can.

Then there's the dreamy musical scores composed nearly entirely from the ground up for Kirby's Epic Yarn. Very few classic Kirby tunes made the cut, including the iconic stage clear music and a few other recognizable tunes if you've been a staunch follower of the pink puff. The rest are tinkly, charming orchestrals very fitting with the lighthearted nature of the entire game. The main Epic Yarn theme song and the Grass Land music are especially infectious. Again, I'm reminded of the creative scale seen in Mario Galaxy 2.

Then the gameplay comes to mind. I know Kirby's Epic Yarn split the fanbase into two camps- one who liked the radical new direction and one which didn't. I'll let you decide after describing the changes Epic Yarn made to the series. Aside from no Copy Abilities, the only objective you have in each level is get to the end. The beads you collect are not a means to an end (except during boss battles where they're used to unlock hidden levels), and you cannot die. Yep. If you fall into a chasm or hit a dangerous baddie, all you get is losing half your beads. At first I was averse to the idea of over-simplifying the game, as no dying basically equates to zero challenge, right? But I never felt that way while I was playing. I actually felt like losing beads was a big deal. Seeing them burst all over the place when you get hit or drop to nowhere when you get rescued from a bottomless pit- you feel compelled to collect all over again. And the minigames you play with your friends are actually quite a fun diversion, although again, not a means to an end, except getting prizes and treasures to decorate your apartment room. These are all treats for people who keep playing for the sake of it, and don't think too deeply into the 'purpose' of a videogame other than to have mindless fun.

It's up to you to decide, but any Wii owner who doesn't want Epic Yarn is either really averse to overflowing amounts of cuteness, or just doesn't understand what the console is all about. Similar comments heard from Mario Galaxy, again, for the same reason.
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