If you’re on a journey through the past of Nintendo’s biggest franchises, it won’t be long before you encounter Kirby. For a character that you can’t help feel was created last thing on a Friday, he’s actually been around long enough to have graduated university and begun to be warn down by the realities of life. Epic Yarn is the tenth Kirby game, and my second, my first being Planet Robobot on the 3DS.
Right away I identified Kirby as low stress gaming, and Epic Yarn is no exception. I haven’t yet worked out if it’s aimed at children, or adults who’ve had a bad day. It’s almost ASMR in game form. The gentle piano music lulls you to sleep, and the calming pastel colours of the cloth style backgrounds give you happy dreams once you’ve dropped off.
If it is aimed at children, I can’t help but feel like Nintendo wasted their time. It’s too beautiful, and too tranquil for children to appreciate. Then again, maybe it could be used to sedate them.
The characters are drawn as if they’re made out of different coloured string. Instead of being a pink blob, Kirby is a pink loop of yarn. This means a big difference in play style from the usual Kirby eating enemies system that most people will be used to. Rather than eating enemies, Kirby unravels them, and can then throw them at other enemies, or the occasional obstacle. All that adds to the calming nature of the game. You don’t kill anything, you simply unwind it. Beyond that, you can’t really die either. As you progress through the levels you pick up jewels, and you lose those jewels if you get hit or fall off something. Apart from that, there’s very little stopping you from completing your goal.
Unfortunately the lack of peril means the game has to challenge you in other ways, and that’s the bit I’m not too keen on. It’s all about the collectables. There are loads of them scattered around, a lot of them being impossible to find on your first run through a level. Very often you’ll be in a situation where you can’t stop moving, and you notice at the last second that you should have turned left when you actually turned right. The only way to fix the mistake is to run through the level again. That gets tiresome quickly.
Luckily the designers thought it would be good to shake things up a bit, and so decided to take advantage of the fact that Kirby was made of string. If he’s just string, then he can be changed into lots of different shapes. Those shapes range from being a single strand of yarn, allowing you to fit into tiny places, or becoming a missile firing technodrome. Something very similar happens in Planet Robobot so at this point I’m assuming it’s a staple of the Kirby games. I’m prepared to learn otherwise as I progress through the franchise. Anyway, the changes in gameplay are a very welcome treat, and always leave me feeling a little sad when they’re over.
There are lots of fun gameplay mechanics that make the most of the yarn and cloth construction of the game world. All the backgrounds are made of cloth, and sometimes have little holes in that allow Kirby to travel around behind the background of the game. It’s another nice thing Nintendo put in there. Backgrounds can sometimes be messed with by pulling zips and buttons. It may well remind you of Yoshi’s Wooly World on the Wii U and 3DS. The only link I can find between the two games is the Wikipedia saying that Yoshi’s Wooly World is a spiritual successor to Epic Yarn. That feels to me more like something a fanboy would put on there, not like something Nintendo would actually say.
There is one gameplay mechanic that I won’t be trying out. It seems Kirby has an apartment, and I can decorate it with all the collectables I find in the game. Apparently this unlocks further levels and challenges, but I’ll never know because I’m not going to spend any time decorating a computer game apartment. Unless it’s The Sims. Or Animal Crossing. OK, so I’m just not decorating Kirby’s apartment. That said, as much as I’m complaining, it isn’t exactly a bad thing that they’ve tried to make the game as big as they can. It does give brilliant value for money.
As I travel back through the histories of big gaming franchises that I missed out on back in the day, I must admit that I was most worried about games only available on the Wii because of the motion controller. I still don’t know how I feel about that thing. I do think it was a good idea, I just miss a regular controller. Epic Yarn lets you off all the complicated Wii control, and works by using the Wiimote in a sideways configuration, just like it’s a classic NES controller. To be fair, games as complicated as Epic Yarn don’t need all that many buttons and would have been ruined had Nintendo tried to cram in unnecessary motion controls. It never occurred to me that this was an option. I’ll just add it to the list of reasons why I feel I was cheated out of the Wii, and that’s a whole other article right there.
Overall, Kirby’s Epic Yarn is a cracking little game, all be it a little unchallenging. Making the game harder than it is might well have ruined the experience for adults and children alike. If you have a Wii and haven’t played it yet, I do recommend picking a copy up. You’ll have to get a pre-owned one, but I’m seeing them go for around £10, which while it isn’t cheap, it’s really not all that bad considering the prices some old games go for. If you don’t have a Wii, add it to the list of reasons you have for getting one. Heck, you can get a pre-owned Wii for less that £20 now so I might go as far as to say Epic Yarn is worth the price of the console too. Actually as you’d get both for less that £30, I’d say it’s worth buying a Wii just to play this one game, and that’s before you remember you can also get Super Mario Galaxies and many others that justify the Wii all on their own. I’ll might never play Epic Yarn again, but I’m very glad that I did.