I got to go to PAX this year. It is absolutely vital that I rub that fact in as much as possible. One of the biggest aspects of PAX is the showroom floor stuffed with game demos as far as the eye can see. Being the Nintendo fan that I am, I made a beeline to their booth to see what sort of games I could get my grubby entitled hands on. Happily, one of the games was Kirby’s Epic Yarn, a title I’d wanted to play firsthand. Now that I have, here’s what you need to know.
The Kirby series has always and will always be full of hardcore fun gameplay with super inoffensive graphics. Okay, maybe inoffensive is the wrong word. How about…super cute? Yes, the graphics are super cute. Always. This turns a lot of gamers off of the series as they dismiss anything with abundant color and a general tone of “happy” as “for kids.” Kirby is absolutely for kids. Why? Because kids like to have fun. Therefore, I guess I’m still considered a kid. Sign me up for more Kirby because these games are great.
As the title suggests, Kirby’s Epic Yarn places you in control of a Kirby made of yarn in a yarn world full of patchwork and strings of yarn everywhere. And you know what? The game looks exactly like it’s made of yarn and patchwork. Wii titles tend to suffer from a lack of processing power, so when a title comes along and figures out a proper way to skirt around these limitations, and even more so, it does it well, that’s something to be applauded. Kirby’s Epic Yarn succeeds as a graphical wonder, rivaling all the high-budget titles on the PS3 and 360 pushing “gritty realism.” Kirby isn’t pushing the gritty part, but real, yes, it really looks like you’re controlling real yarn and walking on real cloth.
Nintendo first-party titles somehow seem to understand the importance of controls that work for their system, and from what I played at PAX, Kirby yet again handles perfectly. While he doesn’t have his signature inhale/copy move, he does show off a handful of transformations such as a parachute, a car, and a fish-like thing. By now you’ve also seen footage of the Kirby-tank, so I won’t go into much detail about that other that to say it’s cool and it’s fun.
That’s the best part of what I played: Kirby’s Epic Yarn is fun. The controls don’t hinder the experience at all, and there is no health bar. Rather, you earn points for playing well and each time you’re injured you lose points, showering them around you similar to the Sonic games. The entire game is controlled with a single Wiimote held like an NES controller (this seems to be a current favorite control-style for recent Wii games. Wonder why?), and because of that the game stays very simple. From this simplicity comes the ability to just enjoy yourself.
What makes this all even better is the ability to play simultaneous co-op. Player 1 controls Kirby and player 2 controls a new character named Prince Fluff (imagine a blue Kirby with a little crown). Kyle joined me in a co-op game and for the most part we found it worked really well. He was really happy while playing the game since he felt it was fun and simple, as I’ve been saying. He usually laments his gaming abilities, but playing co-op on Kirby’s Epic Yarn got him excited to snag this game when it comes out so that he can play it with his girlfriend, another gamer who laments her skills. Kyle and I managed to breeze through the demo, which consisted of two levels and a boss battle.
The downside is the speed. Kirby’s Epic Yarn is by nature slower than most games these days. Kirby doesn’t bolt across the screen; he meanders at his own pace. The levels we played weren’t particularly frantic, save for the Kirby-tank section, and nothing really had us stopping to take a breath. The boss battle was the part that showed the main shortcomings of co-op though. If you try to use the attack button to pick things up with your yarn lasso, you can pick up your partner, carry them around, and throw them wherever you’d like. The problem here is that if you’re fighting a boss and it’s shooting fire at you that you’re required to pick up with your yarn lasso, you’ll usually grab your partner and toss him into the fire attacks instead. While this didn’t break the experience, it did sort of frustrate us a bit. We still managed to beat the boss without much difficulty but we didn’t feel too super when we did it.
If you need a yes or no recommendation, yes, Kirby’s Epic Yarn is a fun game and absolutely worth a purchase when it’s released on October 17th. Don’t expect an extremely difficult challenge though. If you prefer first-person shooters and extreme violence, this isn’t a game you’ll enjoy. I’ll enjoy it, as will Kyle, but that’s just because we like having fun while playing video games. Usually anyway.
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