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Kirby's Epic Yarn Review


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On 10/18/2010 at 11:26 PM by Chessa DiMola

Mix classic Kirby elements with outstanding gameplay and awesome art direction, and you have one of this year's best games.
RECOMMENDATION:

For everyone.

Ah Kirby, the adorable pink squishy ball that captured the hearts of millions back in the day with his inhalation and flying capabilities as well as his unique copying ability. Despite the mainline Kirby series being on hiatus for numerous years, the little round protagonist has exploded back onto the gaming scene with an experience that is utterly fantastic. Kirby's Epic Yarn is a testament that good games aren't about fancy 3D graphics or flashy cinematics, but rather it is innovation and passion that are the cornerstones of a mind-blowing gaming experience. Put simply, this game has it all; fantastic gameplay throughout dozens of beautifully unique locations, an unbelievable amount of side-quests, and an art direction so full of personality and charm, it just might literally blow you away.

The start of this tale begins with Kirby, who is on a leisurely stroll through Dream Land. Hungry, he spots his favorite food, a Metamato, and goes to pick it up. To his surprise, the Metamato is actually part of the evil sorcerer Yin-Yarn, who then sucks Kirby into his magical sock and transports him to Patch Land. After the confused Kirby comes to terms with his new material self, he meets Fluff, a prince of Patch Land. He explains to Kirby that Yin-Yarn has disconnected the eight parts of Patch Land and he must find the golden thread in order to sew them back together. Thus, Kirby offers his assistance and the two set out together in order to reunite Patch Land.

Before even entering the first level, players will undoubtedly be mesmerized by the incredible graphics. Obviously every element of the game, from locations to the characters themselves, was designed to look as though they were made of yarn. But what's initially fascinating, is that the yarn actually looks real. Take a moment to look closely and you really can distinguish the individual threads and fibers. While the yarn itself looks fantastic, the way in which the fabric visually responds to interaction is even more impressive. Jumping on a thick bunch of fabric will cause little wrinkles to form, whereas jumping on a single thread of yarn will cause it to ripple realistically.

Happily, the amazing art direction isn't merely confined to the levels themselves. The overworld is just as stunning, featuring entertaining animations when new levels are opened up. As you explore each world, keep an eye out for seemingly out of place items and creatures curiously located around the area, as they will undoubtedly be the stars of these fantastic little displays.

As impressive as the graphics may be, the gameplay is truly the star here. Though not without its flaws, Kirby's Epic Yarn manages to deliver a varied gaming experience, wherein certain levels are great for single person play, and others are definitely made for two people. This factor adds an incredible dynamic to the gameplay, since involving an additional player drastically alters the experience.

Before getting ahead of myself, let me explain that the game is comprised of eight uniquely themed worlds, all of which are broken down into several levels, two bonus areas, and a boss fight. Though each world itself has a general theme, so do many of the levels therein. Despite obviously having to successfully clear a level, players have two goals to complete on their way through. First, there are three items hidden within each level, one of them always being a CD that unlocks the level's soundtrack. Second, players will need to collect gems in order to earn either a Bronze, Silver, or Gold medal; however, collecting the gems isn't merely an arbitrary task designed solely to gain a medal. In fact, players will definitely want to earn as much money as possible, but we'll get into that later.

Unlike classic Kirby titles, players no longer have to be concerned with health or lives as they go through a level. If damaged by an enemy or level hazard, players will be penalized by losing a fairly significant number of their gems. This system allows for a smooth, unhindered gaming experience, as Kirby's Epic Yarn is much more heavily based on exploring levels for gems and items than it is on battling with enemies. When it comes to combating enemies, most are easy targets that pose no real threat to Kirby, but are more-or-less there to be a momentary obstacle. Even enemies that do attack are a piece of cake once players learn to avoid their moves. Though boss battles themselves aren't necessarily challenging, they are widely varied in their execution and highly enjoyable to participate in and complete.

Though the low challenge level may seem like it would hurt the game’s playability, the exploration is the true highlight. Unlike classic Kirby, the correct path to the end doesn't exist in one straight line. Within almost every level is a unique gameplay feature that defines that particular level, though there are several common ones encountered throughout the entire game. Just to name a few, players will need to unzip sections of the level, scrunch up others, float on flower seeds, alter gravity, swim through bubbles suspended in air, and float on the wind. After looking back on the gameplay experience, I truly am blown away by the innovation that went into designing these levels. Though many share a common theme, the play experiences are rarely the same.

Impressively, the aforementioned game aspects are merely scratching the surface. As if manipulating countless aspects of a level weren't enough, Kirby has the ability to transform into several creative forms. These alternate forms are by no means underused, as they are present in several levels within each world, and are affected by whether there are one or two players. What I was most blown away by is the amazing variety of these transformations: the game includes a fire truck, dolphin, mole machine, surfing penguin, ATV, and every Kirby's Dream Land fan's favorite, the UFO. Two of the more creative transformations, and my personal favorites, were the fighter ship that turned the gameplay from platformer to SHMUP, one for horizontal and one for vertical.

Now that I've covered the general gameplay aspects of Kirby's Epic Yarn, I want to thoroughly discuss one of the most important features of the game, multiplayer. Humorously, but not surprisingly, playing with another individual through many of the levels can be a true lesson in frustration. One of Kirby’s main moves that is the cause of most of the chaos is the yarn whip, which has replaced the classic inhalation ability. I found that when playing alone my whip sometimes had trouble grabbing onto objects I wanted it to attach to; however, with two players it always seemed to magically magnetically attract the other character on screen. This led to plenty of situations where I wanted to move a block but instead picked up my partner. While this is a minor annoyance in the some levels, it is a huge problem in those that require speed, and the extra bonus trials.

Really the biggest multiplayer problem is that not every level is conducive to a multiplayer experience. One huge issue is the screen doesn't compensate for two people, meaning it will generally focus on one, so if the other is above or below even the smallest amount it will be very difficult for the other player to see. Levels that require precision platforming or those that have level features which bounce/float/fly Kirby around the screen like mad are also better off being tackled by one person. Things can get very frustrating if both players aren't perfectly keeping up with one another.

There are also several transformations that definitely should be used without a second player. In general, there are a few transformations that will allow joint cooperation between both players, rather than turning each player into their own character. Certain ones, such as the giant mech, work well with two players, as one moves the machine and shoots missiles, while the other blasts a giant fist and throws a wild arm. Others, most notably the surfing penguin and ATV, don't fare well when controlled by two people, since one player is in charge of moving and jumping, while the other is in charge of performing an additional jump boost.

On the plus side, levels in which multiplayer works well are unbelievably enjoyable. While strategizing with another person generally tends to be fun on its own, the unique level attributes allow players to cooperate in new innovative ways. Though multiplayer is great fun in the normal levels, it really comes in handy for the game's impressive amount of additional content.

This is where all of the money and exploration truly pay off. At the very beginning of the game, Kirby is introduced to Dom Woole, a Tom Nook-ish fellow who owns an apartment building. With the items players collected throughout the levels, they will furnish one of the apartments. Once completed, a Super Paper Mario pixel-ish looking character will move in and challenge Kirby with a set of levels designed around a specific theme. Using the gems earned, players can build two additional levels to the apartment complex, making way for four additional tenants, and five total challenge types.

While there is no real perk to completing these challenges, other than a fabric pattern Kirby can use to decorate his own apartment, they are a great extension to the gameplay. In order to unlock each challenge level of a certain type, players will first have to complete the corresponding level. Depending on which type of challenge, whether it is killing enemies, collecting gems, racing to the finish line, carrying a character to the goal, or playing hide-and-seek, there are a varying number of levels. The increasing difficulty of each level adds a bit of challenge to the title, though the difficulty mainly comes from formulating the right strategy rather than being inherently hard.

For those that want to extend their Kirby experience even more, Dom Woole's brothers will open a store next to the apartment building, selling dozens upon dozens of extra furniture items and wallpapers for Kirby's pad. Add that to the time it will take to find every object and earn a gold medal, and Kirby's Epic Yarn has the potential to contain about fifteen hours of gameplay. Though a conservative estimate from start to finish, ignoring the bonus content is about eight to ten hours.

There's no other way to say it, Kirby's Epic Yarn is one of the best gaming experiences gamers could ask for this year. Though there's a few bumps when it comes to multiplayer, the game is utterly fantastic. Gamers all about art will be beside themselves with the graphical design of this title, and those that just want to have ridiculous amounts of fun couldn't ask for anything more. Everyone from the most inexperienced to the seasoned gamer absolutely needs to own and play this game. Don't make excuses, don't think twice about it, just go buy this game.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:


All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.


These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.


This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.


Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.


Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.


A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.


 

Comments

Anonymous

12/17/2010 at 09:18 PM

I found this game very disappointing. As an avid fan of vore, I was severely let down by the removal of Kirby's ability to swallow his enemies.

I like to fire up Super Star sometimes and swallow the first Waddle Dee and just let the controller sit for hours, pretending that he's being slowly digested.

Now if you don't mind, I'll have to get back to Bowser's Inside Story.

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