If you ask anyone who happened to be standing nearby at the time, Russ and I weren't exactly enthusiastic about the new Kirby game when we got to Nintendo's E3 booth. With new titles in the Zelda, Donkey Kong and Metroid series, not to mention the allure of the 3DS, Kirby only just made it onto our radar. We walked up to the demo of Kirby's Epic Yarn purely in the interests of being as inclusive and open-minded as possible. Once we picked up the controllers for a little cooperative play, we found it hard to tear ourselves away from what is, in my opinion at least, the most enjoyable game in Nintendo's lineup.
The game's unique visual style is the first and most obvious hook. This time around, Kirby will be exploring a patchwork world where the environments are made up of odd bits of cloth and string. The inhabitants, including Kirby and his angry-eyed friend, are made up of bits of colored yarn. The real charm of it all is that everything looks and behaves like you'd expect it to. When you pick up an enemy, they become a little clump of yarn, for instance. When Kirby walks behind an object, you can see a little bulge beneath the fabric. It's all very stylized and very engaging. It's also tied into the exploration of the game. There are zippers and buttons and patches all through the world, and Kirby can interact with these to open up new areas to explore.
The gameplay is just as inventive. Russ and I quickly discovered that this is one of those cooperative games that openly encourage a little friendly competition. You can grab and toss other players around the world. Sometimes it's required to solve particular puzzles; the rest of the time, it's just fun. The demo didn't seem particularly challenging, so tossing each other about wasn't terribly dangerous. I imagine the final game will require players to take things a bit (but not too much) more seriously.
In those cases where it wouldn't be prudent to pick up and throw your friend, you can still get by with lassoing your enemies with yarn. Kirby can't do all the things he's done in past titles, but he makes up for that with the ability to reshape his yarn into the form of a parachute for gliding, a car for racing, and a submarine for swimming. There's even a giant tank mode for Kirby, which allows him to shoot yarn rockets and use a big boxing glove to bash enemies. It's all tied in to the yarn and cloth aesthetic, which makes it all the more awesome to see it in action.
You should be forgiven if, like me, you'd given up on Kirby. After years of no news, and sometimes outright denials of its existence, Kirby's Epic Yarn finally makes all the years of confusion and conjecture worthwhile.