Countless games promise the world and then inevitably fail to deliver the goods. We’re constantly told some game will have the “biggest open world” or “hundreds of hours of gameplay,” but how often do you feel like your expectations were fully met? A delightful exception, Epic Yarn comes through on every claim it’s made over the past few months, offering a memorable 2D platforming experience that ranks right up there with the greatest Nintendo titles of the past. Obviously Epic Yarn’s aspirations are lower than the next big FPS or MMO, but that doesn’t change the fact developer Good Feel gave us precisely what it advertised, plus laid on the charm so thick it’s forced a smile on every GamesRadar editor’s face during the review process. Epic Yarn is the happy-faced antidote to the M-rated, gun-toting glut we’re currently drowning in.
Kirby’s always been Nintendo’s cutest character, but in a focus-tested, manufactured kind of way. His rotund puffball stature was designed for maximum effect - Epic Yarn, on the other hand, is aesthetically inspired and works for every single “d’awww” it gets. Any given moment of the game is laced with convincing storybook-like fabrics that both look amazing and function as an interactive part of the level. Pieces will flap in the breeze, unzip and tumble to the ground, or, in a particularly cool effect, crinkle up as you yank chunks of the world around with your stringy whip weapon. And would you believe each of these themed levels (which come in lava, ice, tropical and techno-space flavors) all look and behave differently? How amazing is it that a game in which you learn no additional moves can remain fresh, vibrant and compelling the entire time you play? You just run, jump, swing and lasso stuff from beginning to end and it’s effing magical the whole time.
Above: Kirby doesn’t consume enemies and steal powers this time - he morphs along with the world, changing shape nearly every time he engages in a different action
The unique properties don’t stop there - would you believe it’s impossible to die in Epic Yarn? It’s true, there are no lives and there is no way to actually see a Game Over screen. Now before the hardcore maniacs (that would include us, btw) raise their hands in protest, understand what the game is trying to do. The goal of each level is to make it to the end with as many beads (think Mario coins) as possible, plus the three hidden treasures tucked away in various crannies. If you’re hit, you lose some beads. Fall in a pit, you’re gonna lose a crapload of beads. But you’ll never die, never have to re-start the level or dread having to play some specific part again. You simply move on and keep enjoying the visual splendor at work.
Player two can hop in at any point on the world map and control Prince Fluff, Kirby’s azure counterpart in Epic Yarn. Both control the same, and can snag and toss each other to higher ground - a key strategy when trying to collect all the game’s treasure. We mostly played the game solo, but found the co-op mode to be just as fun, and in some cases a noticeably different experience. Certainly not a clustershart like the four-player mode in New Super Mario Bros.
Above: On the left is Kirby’s mech in solo, the right is the co-op version. Note the extra fist and lovely crown on the right version - that’s added functionality AND presentation!
So if you want to play with your kids, or want to wean someone (parents, non-gamey significant others etc) off the casual crap they’ve been playing on Wii, this is the game to use. Two player co-op with no death, arresting graphics and a slight competitive edge (who can get the most beads?) should be enough to make anyone forget the piles of $20 shovelware suffocating the aisles. Conversely, the emphasis on performance makes Epic Yarn not about avoiding death, but avoiding being hit at all - how’s that for a hardcore angle?
Above: But don’t think for a second that every level is cakewalk
If you’re really dedicated, you can try to earn a high rank on each boss, which opens up additional, harder levels in each world. Again, if you’re playing for pure fun, you can run through the main levels in about five hours and have a great time; if high scores and challenge are on your mind, go for the medals and unlock all the additional content. Truly something for everyone.
The fuzzy, feel-good atmosphere extends to Quilty Square, the game’s small town area. Here you can spend beads on various pieces of furniture or fabrics, which you can then use to populate “Kirby’s Pad,” a customizable living space that he and Prince Fluff share when not combating evil yarn people. Many objects can be found out in the game (they’re the treasures referred to earlier), but others are only available after helping Kirby’s home grow into a full-blown apartment complex filled with tenants requesting specific furniture. Fulfill their needs and they open up additional goal-oriented levels (find X things in X seconds and such), and reward you with, of course, more furniture. Sounds like a mini Animal Crossing, which it kinda is, but nowhere near as involved.
Above: You can go for a consistent theme, or just drop things everywhere like we did. Either way it’s fun for a bit, but not the most engrossing part of the game
Then there’s the story, which is usually a complete non-issue in Nintendo titles, Kirby or otherwise. This time though, the tale is presented so warmly that we actually looked forward to the animated interludes. Here’s the game’s opening, which is spoiler-free, and sets up the reason Kirby is made of yarn:
Sealing the whole package is the beautiful soundtrack, which makes Epic Yarn not just one of the prettiest games on the system, but one with equally impressive audio that’s among the year’s best. Each level bounces with pleasing, soothing tunes, while some (like Lava Landing) opt for ominous piano tunes heavy on the bass. It’s on the same level as Mario Galaxy, though not quite as grand. Worthy listening for sure though, as evidenced by the fact you can collect the soundtrack song by song during the course of the game. Good Feel knew the work was so good it made the OST a collectible!
And that’s it. Just a relaxing, visually desirable game from beginning to end. No stress, just good times the whole way through. Some may scoff at the laid-back difficulty, but we’d simply suggest they dig into the harder levels and earn top marks, which is no simple feat. It’s easy yet challenging, hardcore yet casual, new yet old... Epic Yarn really does cover all the bases.
New Super Mario Bros Wii? Yes. New SMB Wii touted four-player co-op and a return to the classic Mario gameplay that’s part of our blood at this point, but gave us a shockingly vacant world and pushy-shovey multiplayer that irritated more than enthralled. We were in the minority on that call, but we’re sticking with it and feel Epic Yarn offers a prettier, more playable game, fit for any audience you can name.
Kirby: Canvas Curse? Yes, though for reasons that aren’t entirely fair. Canvas Curse was a proof of concept title that make Kirby a ball that you had to guide using nothing but the stylus. It turned out to be a brilliant use of the still-new hardware and remains fun to this day, but it’s forever tied to “tech demo” in our eyes. Epic Yarn on the other hand is a flawlessly executed classic game that’ll be fun no matter what platform it appears on.
Muramasa: The Demon Blade? Yes, though the audiences may not be exactly the same. Muramasa is a strikingly animated 2D slasher that’s a mix of Castle Crashers and Devil May Cry, but it also contained a ton of backtracking and unnecessary Wii Remote/Nunchuk control schemes. Still a kickass title though, and is available for extremely reasonable prices (you ARE listening to TalkRadar’s game deals, right?), so go ahead and pick it up and decide for yourself.
Make no mistake - this is straightforward, walk-right-to-win platforming. It’s not re-writing the book on anything and it’s probably not game of the year material, but it’s just plain fun, and acts as a charming antidote to the M-rated avalanche we can’t seem to pull ourselves out of.
Oct 15, 2010