Review | 10/25/2010 at 7:33 PM

Kirby's Epic Yarn Co-Op Review


Over the weekend I made a contextual error - if you could call it that. I hastily broadcasted the world’s shortest impressions of Kirby’s Epic Yarn using the phrase “suitably epic”. I come before you in humility and apologize, for this game is not epic. It is not awesome. This game - a nostalgia-inducing piece of pure entertainment - is quaint.

Simplicity permeates every aspect, from the storyboard-style cutscenes all the way down to gameplay. Instead of sucking up bad guys like a vacuum, Kirby wields a yarn lasso of sorts. With this he can swing from buttons, pull drawstrings that affect the environment in different ways, unravel enemies (which are also constructed of yarn), and transform into different types of vehicles that are mostly limited to specific segments. Despite its new functions and artful style, however, the game remains more an interesting pleasure than an epic groundbreaker.

One could certainly argue that Epic Yarn is a smorgasbord of beautiful graphics, and is thereby epic in visual accomplishment...but the ingenuity of its unique visual style and perfectly fluid animations does not constitute epicness. Flowing yarn and gorgeous patchwork environments will not revolutionize gaming; instead it will live forever in the hearts of those who enjoy the original.

One could argue that the mixture of control styles - as made possible by the Wii remote - add an extra layer of player interaction, and thereby bring epic controls to the game...but the truth is that pointing the Wii remote at the screen to spruce up Kirby’s apartment and tilting it to control various forms that Kirby takes are not what I’d call great fun, and are used sparingly. The vast majority of game time will be played using the Wii remote like a classic Nintendo Entertainment System controller, a method that befits the character’s origins and is still a perfectly relevant way to play great video games.

One might point out that the light jazz-inspired piano soundtrack is both soothing and catchy, and that such originality surely deserves to be called epic...but while the soundtrack is very much both of those, it would not carry much weight in and of itself. It’s perfectly tailored for the game, and - in this writer’s opinion - is better enjoyed in that medium.

One may finally inquire as to whether or not two-player co-op pushes the game over the edge and into the abyss of epic...alas, the co-op is unfortunately fashioned in the same vein as the game itself: as fun as a trampoline in a swimming pool, but without real purpose.

Kirby’s Epic Yarn seems to exist just because it can. For example: in single player the difficulty is so ridiculously low that I have never once been harmed by an enemy, and the few times that I’ve fallen into a pit I was minimally penalized by losing some of the gems that I had collected. 100% completion is the real challenge of Epic Yarn. Co-op is treated exactly the same way. While the clipping issues from New Super Mario Bros Wii are long gone (players can move across each other freely), there is still some player interaction: you can carry each other and toss each other. Once that wears off, though, the straightforward approach that makes single player content easy makes the co-op almost...boring.

This is a game that I’m glad to have for those days when explosions, online friends, and zombies puts too much strain on the senses. Not to mention that it will be a perfect starter game for the coming years when the kids will need something light-hearted and appealing to play. The story is narrated by a man with a singsong voice, which makes it very reminiscent of Thomas the Tank Engine videos and similar tales designed to keep children’s attention. These are also skippable, for the impatient adult.

From the technical side it should be noted that Epic Yarn does not support true drop-in/drop-out. A second player can enter at the beginning of any level, but not during. The screen is always shared by both players; if one gets left behind they are warped closer to their partner via the same little yarn fairy that appears if you fall into a pit.

All in all, Kirby’s Epic Yarn just oozes substance and an apparent deep love for classic games. It’s perfect for the child with an imagination or the adult who just wants to unravel like a ball of yarn. There are no bugs or glitches to speak of - it’s exquisitely polished. For slightly less than the full usual retail price of a video game, it’s a hard sell to gamers with any kind of established library; but for pure fun and the whimsical freedom of a relaxing, simple game...Kirby has transcended his own legacy.