Sunday, December 5, 2010

Review: Kirby's Epic Yarn. It's for little kids but this game's fun and looks amazing.

Well, this was a nice surprise. When Nintendo announced Kirby's Epic Yarn, it looked to me like nothing more than yet another 2D side-scroller with an art style gimmick, but words can't really express how fun the latest Kirby adventure is to play. It may not have much in the way of a challenge, and its kiddy atmosphere may drive cynical older gamers away, but some awe-inspiring visuals, always fun gameplay, and solid music make for an incredibly unique adventure.

Graphics: One thing that makes Epic Yarn stand out from the rest of the pack is the visual presentation. Kirby finds himself inside a yarn world, where everything, including himself and all the characters he meets, is stitched together like patchwork. This graphics style never ceases to amaze. A vibrant color scheme coupled with the inventive way a world "made out of yarn" was created ends up disguising the Wii's limitations. These visuals are so clean (especially in 480p) that it's almost easy to forget you're even playing a Wii game. The bosses are inventive, Kirby has an arsenal of clever transformations at his disposal, the levels are varied, and even the way the characters move and animate is smooth. Almost nothing to complain about here graphics wise, the developers have created a Wii game that doesn't look like a Wii game.

Gameplay: Kirby's Epic Yarn takes the form of a 2D side-scroller. Since he's now in yarn form, Kirby has lost his ability to fly, though he can hover gradually to the ground, and he's no longer able to suck up enemies. Much of his attacking is done by unraveling the enemies, or by picking them up and throwing them at other enemies or at breakable walls. Kirby also has the ability to go through holes in the fabric and end up behind it, opening up paths that lead to hidden jewels or treasure. Kirby can also change into different forms for certain parts of levels. He can transform into a fire engine, he can turn into a tank that fires yarn missiles, or into a car or a sled....and those are just a couple of them. All of his transformations are fun to control, using the Wii Remote's tilt controls well without it being too much of a distraction. The only transformation that feels slightly unintuitive is one in which Kirby becomes a train, and you have to draw the tracks on the screen. Though I got the hang of it eventually, it's the one transformation that I don't think feels as....seamless (...sorry about that) as the others.

These transformations though really shake things up and add some great moments and even at times a Sonic-like sense of speed to these levels. But even when not transforming into anything, Epic Yarn does its basic platforming very well. This is a fun game, plain and simple. It even features a large list of activities to participate in when outside of the levels. Kirby has an apartment in Quilty Square that can be decorated with treasures you've found throughout the levels, or purchased from the nearby store. Early on, Kirby's landlord asks him if he can help with decorating the neighboring apartment, and doing this gets Kirby a new neighbor. Eventually you're given the opportunity to expand the apartment building even more, adding more and more rooms to allow others to move in. These people all have optional tasks and mini-games that you can complete, and these help add more time to a game that's already at a pretty decent length. (8 hours for me with a little bit of optional content.) Other optional content exists in the form of hidden levels in each of the game's worlds. These are unlocked by getting a "gold" medal on the world's boss, which encourages you to try your best not to get hurt when fighting a boss encounter.

Which brings me to the game's often-discussed lack of challenge. Epic Yarn is not a game that will challenge you in the traditional sense. Bosses are fun to fight but they always feel like they're holding back, and there's no way to die in the game. Instead, Kirby collects jewels throughout the level. Taking damage or falling down a pit will cause some these to spill out, and you lose them if you don't re-collect them in time. Sometimes you won't be able to re-collect them, as they'll fall down a bottomless pit or end up outside of your reach. In this case, you don't get them back, and you'll have to hope there are more jewels in the rest of the level or your grade at the end will suffer. As you play through the levels, a meter at the top of the screen lets you know your current (gold, silver, and bronze) and getting gold medals isn't always easy. It's in this way that Epic Yarn allows for "challenge." It's still not particularly difficult, but it'll provide a challenge if you're trying to get as many gold medals as possible. Though I initially thought the game was too easy, I quickly grew to like this take on the platformer genre. There's no frustration whatsoever to be had, and the fun platforming and sense of amazement at the game's visuals and invention is never ruined by any tediousness. It's a fun and relaxing interesting way to play a game, that's for sure.

That's not to say that some challenge wouldn't have been welcome...especially on some of these bosses. The final boss in particular didn't seem to put up any sort of fight, and I got a gold on it my first try. But the ease in difficulty didn't bother me nearly as much as I thought it would, I guess I was having too much fun to care.

Audio and Storyline: The music can sometimes feel a little too childish, but at other points it really helps to enhance what's already a great atmosphere. The winter levels in particular are almost enchanting, and the music (as well as the visuals) play a big role in that. There is voice acting in this game, but it's only done by 1 guy, who narrates several of the game's cutscenes. He delivers his lines like he's reading a storybook to the kids. It's as babyish as it sounds, and with a name like "epic yarn" and with such a great world at their disposal, it kind of sucks that a great story didn't seem to have been very high up on the developer's priority list. This is especially disappointing since the script is generally very well-translated, with the usual winks to the audience and clever dialogue that Nintendo's translated games are often known for.

Verdict: Don't play Kirby's Epic Yarn if you want a challenge, or if you want this to be like the other Kirby games. It's not. This is a game designed to be a purely fun experience. It's one of the best-looking side-scrollers I've ever seen, the atmosphere is at times incredible, there's inventive visual tricks at almost every turn (even opening your next level is always preceded by an awesome and creative visual) and each set of levels feels distinct from the other.

I should stress that this is my first Kirby game, and I've been told that it's very different from the rest. I can't say for sure what Kirby fans may think of some of Epic Yarn's big changes, but I think if anyone's open to something that might feel a bit childish at times, and that's more about fun than challenge, then they'll have a lot of fun with this very creative game.

8.5/10 (My reviews go by a .5 scale)

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this review. Its true, this is different from the other Kirby games. One of Kirby's fundamental moves, swallowing people is not in it.

    I haven't even played it yet (waiting for UK release) but to be truthful I'd rather it return to old Kirby.

    I know how bad that sounds XD