The bright-pink fluff ball Kirby that we've all grown to love is usually a bottomless pit, sucking up everything in his path. So it's strange to see that in Kirby's Epic Yarn, he's not inhaling everything that comes his way, but rather, he's unraveling enemies with his lasso and winding them up into spools of yarn. In our latest trip to the Nintendo office in Redwood City--which was beautifully decorated with felt and other crafty materials to simulate Patch Land--we found out just how Kirby ended up in this adorable handcrafted world.
In the opening storybook-style cutscene we see Kirby, plump and happy as usual, ready to swallow a juicy tomato that's lying before him. He is interrupted by a caped sorcerer, made entirely out of yarn (and named Yin Yarn), who sucks Kirby into Patch Land, a world that in Kirby's own words "feels like pants." Here is where Kirby runs into Prince Fluff, your cooperative partner throughout the game, who is being chased by some yarn monster. With his new transformation powers, Kirby turns into a car and drives away with the prince.
The world of Patch Land is broken up into levels, and your goal is to try to stitch all the pieces together. The boss is actually in the middle of each unique world, so you don't have to play through all the levels to progress the story. Because the game is full of collectibles and secrets, it will be worth trying to visit all the areas, but the option to plow through the game is there if you choose. We've seen Grass Land before as well as Fire Land in our other previews, so this time we got to visit Water Land, Snow Land, and Space Land.
Kirby and Prince Fluff both have a set of transformations that they can use at any time, like the car and the parachute, but in certain levels, they'll come across area-specific transformations that will help them get through the world. Kirby naturally transforms into a small submarine when he jumps in water, but in Water Land, there was a specific portion of the level where we were able to transform into a dolphin. As a dolphin Kirby, we could dash into enemies, jump playfully out of the water, and do tricks like glide across the surface on our tail. Like a well-trained dolphin you find at a theme park, when given a ball, you use your nose to toss it in a net to receive special items. The water world was swimming with colorful creatures to unravel as we rode the currents to collect beads.
The next land we visited involved a lot of platforming that made us move in front and behind the scenes. Because everything is made out of cloth, nothing looks particularly menacing, even the enemies, but there are hazards to avoid or else you'll lose your beads. You can't die in the game, but you will lose the precious stones that you spent the entire level collecting. When you're playing with someone else, you can push the A button to have Angie the angel take you to your partner at any time, and she'll appear when you do happen to fall off the edge.
Snow Land was particularly fun, because the Cozy Cabin level reminded us of just that…a cozy cabin. With the warm colors and soothing music, sometimes it doesn't even feel like you're playing a platformer; you're just relaxing and playing around in this made-up world. The environments are unique and cleverly designed, and we made our way up and down chimneys and floated around in our parachute form. Winter trees are decorated with beads to collect, and when you lasso and swing yourself from the top of a tree, you look like a Christmas ornament before detaching. These automatic transformations add a lot of charm to the game, especially when you arrive at a new stage and find out that instead of transforming into a car when you dash, you now turn into a sleigh and can zip around. There are also times when you'll automatically unravel so that you can fit into a long, slender tube to get to the other end. The icy surfaces of the snow levels are slick, so as you're running around, you'll see Kirby and Prince Fluff ice-skate as gracefully as two fluff balls can.
Our road block to Space Land was King Dedede, who was also kidnapped by Yin Yarn. In this battle, Dedede is a marionette, dangling by four strings. We won't spoil this boss fight for you, so let's just say we had to stop his aggressive penguin attacks and get on our way. It's a tricky boss fight, though, and it can last a while if you're not communicating with your partner. A lot of coordination is needed when you're playing with someone else so you don't get into each other's way.
Our final stop was Space Land, reminiscent of Disneyland's Space Mountain theme-park ride because the first thing we did was hop onto a roller coaster in the shape of a rocket. The area-specific transformation for this level was a spaceship, where we were able to hover in the air and beam up enemies into our ship. After sucking up three enemies, you build up a charge that you can release to stun all the enemies onscreen and break down certain walls. There were foes that we couldn't beam up, though, such as giant space squids, and due to the wobbly nature of the spaceship, it takes a bit of finesse to weave around space while avoiding fire that shoots out of pipes.
What was great about the levels we saw was the diversity and creativity behind every creature, patch, and zipper. The soundtrack sets the mood and tone of the level, from the soft, playful piano music in the water level, to the epic-sounding instrumentation while you're wandering in space. Yarn is obviously the theme of the game, and it is used in many fun ways in the level design. You'll often feel like you're exploring an artist's canvas and playing around with the available buttons and zippers, not exploring a world where there are yarn beasts out to get you.
We look forward to playing the rest of Kirby's Epic Yarn, so be sure to check out our review when it is released on October 17.