Experienced gamers may find this one too easy, but Kirby's Epic Yarn is a great game for the more inexperienced crowd.

User Rating: 7.5 | Kirby's Epic Yarn WII
Pros: Varied, fun level design; Great art style; Full co-op support

Cons: Too easy

Nintendo has a funny thing about pasting their mascots onto relatively new game concepts. Even if the game is good and could probably have stood on its own, Nintendo typically plasters Mario or Kirby onto the cover. Wacky golfing game = Mario Golf. Stylus based platformer = Kirby Canvas Curse. Bizarre new form of racing game = Mario Kart. Kirby's Epic Yarn falls under this category: a good game that just happens to star Kirby for no particular reason.

You will find no Kirby gameplay staples here. You do not steal enemy powers. You do not fly across levels. You do not even inhale objects. What you will find is a solid platformer with great level design and an awesome art style.

Kirby probably isn't doing his usual things in this game because he's been turned into yarn by the evil wizard Yin-Yarn. On his quest to stop Yin-Yarn, restore Patch Land, and save Dream Land, all of Kirby's powers are yarn based. Kirby can rope in enemies and throw them at things, use his rope arm to grab and swing from objects, and reshape himself into things like a car or a parachute.

Kirby can also reshape into other various forms at certain points in the game. He may enter the water and transform into a swimming, jumping dolphin. Or he might become a UFO flying through the air and abducting enemies. Or perhaps a train that relies upon tracks drawn under it to move. There are at least a good half-dozen transformations, and each one offers a significant variation on the standard gameplay.

Every version of Kirby is just as adorable as the last, and the handmade aesthetic is really charming. Things like seams, zippers, and buttons adorn everything in this world, giving it a unique aesthetic, ahem, "texture." Everything is cute and colorful, as should be the case in a Kirby game, but the yarn graphics are what truly sells the package, constantly surprising you with their "crafty" interpretations of objects.

The art style is one of Kirby's Epic Yarn's greatest strengths, the other being varied level design. Even without the frequent (but not overused) transformations, Kirby's journey packs in a good variety of sights and sounds. Sure, most of the levels have equivalents in other games-you have conveyer belts, bouncy platforms, windy levels, ice levels, and so on-but the game rarely repeats a mechanic, throws in all the different transformed styles at carefully chosen intervals, and manages to keep things fresh in general. In addition, the levels are open enough, and include enough secrets to reward light exploration. I don't know what's in the water at Nintendo's studios, but between this, Donkey Kong Country Returns, and the New Super Mario Bros. games, they have 2D level design down pat.

The variety is ultimately what keeps the game from becoming boring, in spite of its low difficulty level. You can't die in this game. Many enemies don't even hurt you. The challenge comes from collecting enough beads to get a gold ranking on each level, which necessitates that you don't get hurt too much, since damage causes you to bleed beeds. Sadly, this doesn't even offer much challenge, and my friend and I, with our infinite ability to put each other in harm's way, got gold on most levels on our first try. I'm not saying that the game needs to be tough to beat or anything, but it really could have gone further with making its optional objectives a good challenge. As it stands, this is the type of game I'll likely show to my nongaming parents, but one I'm unlikely to return to, since it's general ease began to get a bit boring towards the end.

But that's at the end of the experience. In truth, as far as easy platformers go, Kirby's Epic Yarn is hard to beat. The whole campaign is well-crafted, so that even experienced gamers can enjoy it a bit, possibly playing co-op with a more inexperienced player. However, I won't deny that this is not a game crafted for me, or I suspect, a user browsing player reviews on a dedicated game website. There are several other 2D platformers that are just as varied, but also challenging (see: Donkey Kong Country Returns), making this one a tough sell to the hardcore crowd. If you're reading this review, this game is probably not for you. However, if you have an inexperienced player, or perhaps a young one that you wish to introduce to gaming, Kirby's Epic Yarn is fantastic entry point that you might just enjoy a bit yourself.