Review: Kirby's Epic Yarn

Susan Arendt | 21 Oct 2010 09:00
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Before I tell you why you simply must play Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii), let's get something out of the way: This game is cute. Industrial strength endearing. The kind of adorable that even makes chubby puppies say "Awwwww." Kirby's Epic Yarn makes grown men giggle like babies being tickled. If you are that kind of gamer who would rather die than risk being seen playing a game lacking headshots, your inclination will be to give Kirby a wide berth, but don't. As kid-friendly as it might look, Epic Yarn is one of the most delightfully fun gaming experiences you can have this year and a must-have for anyone with a Wii. Yes, even you, tough guy. Especially you.

An evil wizard named Yin Yarn, who's turning everyone into yarn, runs into Kirby one day when the pink puffball tries to eat Yin Yarn's magicmato. Kirby gets sucked into Yin Yarn's sock, turns into yarn, and finds himself dumped in Patch Land, a world made of fabric and craft supplies. It's a pretty ridiculous premise, even by videogame standards, but it gives Kirby an excuse to meet Prince Fluff and set out on a quest to find the magic yarn necessary to stitch Patch Land back together again.

Kirby's Epic Yarn is set up in familiar platformer fashion, with many levels in different theme worlds accessed from a central hub. Now that Kirby's made of yarn, he can't suck in enemies the way he used to (no body, y'see), but his flexible nature lets him turn into all sorts of things, like a car, parachute, submarine, weight, digging machine, UFO, and firetruck to name just a few. He can also whip his yarn to unravel enemies, roll them up, or grab objects and characters. The abilities are many, but the controls are few; Epic Yarn is played by flipping the Wii Remote on its side, so you'll just have to master the d-pad and two buttons in order to play. No waggling, no aiming, no C button on the Nunchuk getting in between you and the fun.

The fabric nature of Patch Land could easily have been just a gimmicky aesthetic, but instead it's used to enrich the gameplay in much the same way that Paper Mario took advantage of its star material. The entire game environment looks like it was assembled in a particularly gifted session of arts and crafts, festooned with collectible beads and held together with colorful closures. Pull on a zipper to reveal a new area. Hang on to a pterodactyl with an actual belly button to soar to new heights - or at least reach some valuable beads. Wind thread on a bobbin, unravel a button, check out the bulge when Kirby ducks behind the cloth scenery to take a shortcut. The fabricness of everything is positively enchanting but more importantly, it makes the gameplay intriguing and unexpected.

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