Jeremy Jastrzab
10 May, 2011

Kirby's Epic Yarn Review

Wii Review | A not-quite-epic yarn.
Nintendo has a huge stable of franchises and characters to call on. So many so, that they seem to get by well enough without attracting the third parties as regularly as the competitors. And it speaks volumes that a nondescript pink puff-ball has managed to infiltrate the popular psyche as much as it has. Kirby has a game history spanning nearly 20 years and several consoles, and has even managed to appear in anime and the Super Smash Bros. series. While it was originally released overseas during the silly season of 2010, the biggest departure from the traditional Kirby formula, Kirby’s Epic Yarn was caught in Nintendo Australia’s shrewd but frustrating release schedule.

As the saying goes though, it’s better late than never. Kirby’s Epic Yarn might have come out ridiculously late, but it’s certainly a welcome addition to the Wii’s diminishing cupboard. And it’s the first home console release for Kirby since the Nintendo 64 title, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. Epic Yarn mixes up the formula for the first time as well; it’s still a platformer but Kirby no longer sucks up his enemies to absorb their powers. Instead, the game makes use of a world made up completely of yarn and patch-work patterns.

Starting in Dreamland, Kirby stumbles onto the evil (well, as evil as you can get in these games…) wizard, Yin-Yarn, whose magical yarn creations start taking over Dreamland. Kirby gets sucked into Yin-Yarn’s portal sock and is banished to Patch Land. Upon arrival in this world completely made out of fabric, Kirby gets turned into a piece of yarn and is recruited by Prince Fluff. The two find that the magical fabric holding Patch Land together has been stolen by Yin-Yarn and that they’ll have to get it back and stitch the whole land back together. Narrated throughout, the story is very juvenile and befitting a Saturday morning cartoon or a spot on ABC Kids. It doesn't quite manage to capture the universal appeal of something like a Pixar or Disney story, and older players might cringe, but it’s fun and well-presented.

Whip it! Whip it good!

Whip it! Whip it good!
Rather than stuffing around with fitting a square peg into a round hole, the developers have admirably stuck with keeping Kirby’s Epic Yarn as a 2D platformer, albeit with a radical style overhaul. And frankly, the style works wonders, as the attention to even the finest of details is quite amazing (you can see the stitching on platforms that you can stand on), while it still looks fantastic on a HD display. The world full of fabric, yarn and patch-work is conducive to some magnificent variety, vibrant colours and flair. No two stages are the same, and there is more flavour here than your local ice cream parlour. And it’s the kind of game that will still look fantastic as the years flow by. Combine this with a nice mix of recomposed classic and new tunes and fun sound effects, and the game is really brought to life. It’s all unashamedly cute, so those too used to the greys and browns of the Unreal engine might be in for a rude shock…

Another admirable design decision was to minimise motion fluff, by keeping controls solely with the Wii Remote. However, being converted into piece of yarn has stripped Kirby of his characteristic absorption powers, but from the get go, Kirby will morph into a parachute to float, a car to dash and an anvil to crush, all vital in getting through levels. Your primary attack now is a whip-like extension of Kirby’s yarn, which will be used to roll up enemies and then toss them like projectiles. So while you can’t absorb enemies, you can still use them as projectiles, both for attacks and for getting through environments. To replace your power absorption, most levels will contain a portal that will morph Kirby into some sort of radically different form, but specific to getting through a level. There are over a dozen of these forms, and you’ll play with them a couple of times at least. These forms include a massive tank, UFO, dune buggy, fire engine and dolphin, and they do a great job of providing constant variety to the play time and the controls.


Aside from the visual style, something that stands out about Epic Yarn is how ridiculously easy the title is. You literally cannot die, as the point of each level is to get the highest score. Your score is based on how many ‘beads’ and extras you collect throughout the level, and rather than having lives or health, the only damage done is you'll drop some beads. This makes the first few hours of the game terribly comatose, as the only driver to each level is to see how nice it looks. It’s really worrying at first, as the levels seem way too slow, way too easy and the overall gameplay designs are flat and lifeless. A lot of the time, enemies feel completely redundant Thankfully, the level design picks up at about the third game world, and the levels start to become more endearing, while the boss battles become more creative or nostalgic too. It’s still a game where it’s possible to walk through to the end, but the later levels do enough to encourage you to actually start thinking about ways of getting through proficiently.

Set across seven different themed worlds, each with four levels, two secret levels and a boss level, walking through the game (so just playing the main levels) will take around five to six hours. However, the secret levels are worth pursuing since they tend to be more creative and enjoyable to play through. In each level, you can collect furniture items to decorate an apartment that you’re given at the Patch Land hub. Doing so seems pretty trivial and underdone, but furnishing the surrounding apartments (as required) will unlock some better-than-average mini games, which are a decent enough distraction from the main game. A second player can jump in at just about any time and play as Prince Fluff, who shares Kirby's abilities. Overall, while the main game is short, if you’re compelled to finish the game with 100% completion, you’re looking to at least double that play time, and possibly more.

Tank Kirby does not accept this cuteness.

Tank Kirby does not accept this cuteness.
Aside from some slightly iffy platforming instances, mainly because of floaty controls, unless you're going for 100% completion, the biggest issue with the game is as mentioned above: it’s ridiculously easy. Now, all the cutesy visuals and juvenile sensibilities would be good and well, but the lack of a challenge seems to make the title firmly aimed at a much younger audience. It feels like the game is for kids, and that the two player mode is for a parent to jump in and play along. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this, it would have been nice for something to cater for the older players, such as difficulty modes. That way, it could have been more along the lines of a Pixar or Disney creation - endearing to all ages.

Kirby’s Epic Yarn is definitely a welcome addition to the Wii’s library, even if it’s ridiculously late in PAL regions. While extremely juvenile, there is a lot to appreciate in the style, as it’s meticulously detailed and will look good for many years to come. The gameplay has been twisted nicely, but remains faithful to its roots. So while it’s a fantastic game for younger kids and parents, the lack of challenge and arguable lack of endearing designs for a lot of the game will make it difficult for older gamers to swallow. It doesn't quite live up to the moniker of ‘epic’. Still, rejecting Kirby’s Epic Yarn just because it might be too cutesy for you wouldn't be fair, especially when there are actual legitimate reasons, from a gameplay stand point, to play it or not.
The Score
While you wouldn't call it epic, Kirby's Epic Yarn is a welcome addition in the current, and possibly continuing, dearth of quality Wii titles.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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2 years ago
read dearth as death and I'm like "wow you trolling anti-wii bastard".

Then I realised I just trolled myself with dyslexia.
2 years ago
I did the exact same thing.
2 years ago
I love the wii for these games, good fun 2d platformers, nobody does them like nintendo, well except for sega many, many years ago.
2 years ago
I thought it was epic. Pretty much cause i smiled every second I was playing it. Great game
2 years ago
It does look pretty trippy, and im sure its a good game (despite how easy it is), but im gonna wait and see how the other Kirby game works out instead.
2 years ago
i played the japanese release a little while ago. the whole game is just so fantastic and such a refreshing platformer.

killer piano soundtrack on top of that!
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    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  24/03/2011 (Confirmed)
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