Kirby's Epic Yarn blends together beautifully, creating an experience begging to be played.
Story - 8/10
Kirby's Epic Yarn begins as a typical Kirby game does, with Kirby having a peaceful day in Dream Land. But sadly, Dream Land is under attack by a malevolent sorcerer of another word made entirely out of yarn. Kirby has stumbled upon a tomato made of yarn and tries to eat it, resulting in Kirby becoming yarn himself! Yin-Yarn then sucks Kirby into a sock he wears around his neck and transports him to the world of yarn.
Kirby meets another boy like him made out of yarn named Prince Fluff, who is the prince of this yarn-filled land. After Fluff explains what Yin-Yarn is doing, Kirby and Fluff agree to stop the evil sorcerer and the plans he is stitching together.
The story has a few small slip-ups but otherwise the journey of stopping Yin-Yarn is beautiful and moving. The player can easily feel motivation to confront the yarn-weaver and put and end to his plot, and the story flows with a cute charm even other Kirby games have trouble producing. The way the story is told like a storybook by a narrator is clever and fitting, allowing for a few cute chuckles here and there. It's only really a bit of an issue that after defeating each boss, the same short "We got the magic yarn!" scene plays, but otherwise the cutscenes are just as pleasant as the gameplay itself.
Gameplay - 10/10
Many games sport good gameplay. But few can tote being creative and impressive at any given turn, let alone being creative throughout the entirety of the journey. Epic Yarn does away with Kirby's copy power and floating power, but you never feel they are needed and in fact it's welcome those powers are gone in this game. They wouldn't fit in the way Epic Yarn plays.
Instead, Kirby can use a yarn lasso to wrap up or unravel enemies, and enemies wrapped up can be thrown at things like blocks or other enemies, allowing you to use enemies handily as projectiles. Kirby can also transform into a myriad of cute things either through special transformations or by his own power depending on the situation. Kirby can transform into a car to move faster, and even slides slightly when switching direction like one, or he can transform into an adorable submarine when swimming, and he can also transform into a weight to crash into things below him, as well as turn into a parachute to slowly decend. These are simply the things he transforms into on his own, let alone the many others he'll transform into through specific areas in certain levels.
Going through a transformation gate will allow Kirby to turn into many other crazy and fun creatures or vehicles, such as a fire truck, a tank, a train, a dolphin, a UFO, and about a half dozen other things. All of these have unique and fun controls that are simple to use and allow for plenty of wiggle room to use them as you so desire, with none of them ever feeling like they're a chore to use or simply gimmicky and unfitting for the game.
The entirety of Kirby's Epic Yarn's 40+ levels are, as to be expected, completely designed to capitalize on the yarn theme. Every level is made up of quilted backgrounds and contain things you can find in grandma's house. You'll find many buttons that can be lasso'd to help you progress or open up a new area, zippers to pull back to reveal a piece of a level behind it or items and beads you can collect, and almost every enemy in the game can be lasso'd up and used as you wish. The creative use of the design style doesn't ever end and you'll constantly finding yourself amazed, impressed, etc. just at how clever this game continues to be.
Kirby can't actually die in this game in the traditional sense. Instead of a life counter, Kirby collects beads in each level, and if he's holding any upon falling into a bottomless pit or taking damage from an enemy, Kirby will drop a large chunk of beads, which can be picked back up if you are quick enough. This is where the game shows its genius with getting around not having a stock of lives. Players less experienced with platformers or players looking to just enjoy the game as they play it can rush through levels as they choose, dropping beads as often as they want, and still make it to the end. On the other hand, more experienced players can strive for challenging themselves by holding onto as many beads as possible, and ending a level with more beads in their pocket. More beads can be obtained through bonuses like the wheel at the end of the level and finding special decorations and music discs in a level.
The beads you collect determine your rank at the end of a level, either wood, bronze, silver, or gold, and finding special patches in a level allows you to add bonus panels to the wheel found at the end of a level, giving you a shot at a bonus of 200, 300, or 500 beads. These beads collected are added to a bank and can be used to purchase things from a few shops to put towards decorating the houses you'll find in Quilty Square. This aspect of the game is completely optional past its pleasant demonstration, allowing players focused on solely playing the core game to ignore it, while giving players interested in getting the most of Epic Yarn something more to do. The decorating aspect allows for endless possibilities, if you have an item, you can place it almost anywhere in the house. You can also take pictures of these houses (and anything else on the world maps) and save them to an SD card or the Wii's system memory. You can also take part in a few mini-games, of which are also optional but are pretty fun to play around with.
Bosses may not feel as intense as bosses of other games since you can't actually lose a boss battle if you don't quit, but they still provide a decent challenge, and can provide some intensity for players focused on maintaining a high bead count when they beat the boss. Bosses have patterns that allow you to read when there will be an opening to attack and when you need to take the defensive and avoid damage. The variety in boss battles is impressive as well, with the first boss being a dragon that shoots fireballs and can stretch its tounge out in the form of a spear of sorts, one boss being a magician putting on a magic show who will do an attack based on the roullette's results (which will always have 3 of the same icon lined up but is still very cute nonetheless), to even King Dedede and Meta Knight themselves. Some old Kirby bosses even return as mini-bosses in later levels. The final confrontation with Yin-Yarn is no slouch either at providing a, well, epic end to Kirby's Epic Yarn's main quest. Beating a boss with a very high bead count even rewards players with a patch to open up two bonus levels in a given world.
All of Kirby's Epic Yarn's gameplay with the exception of house decoration can be played with two players, and the co-op is surprisingly inspiring and motivates players to work together and form a sense of fluid teamwork. Player 2 can hop in at any time by pressing the right button on their Wii Remote, and can sit levels out if the players so choose. Prince Fluff has all the moves Kirby has in his repertoire, and some special transformations such as the tankbot and train require real teamwork to use with two players. All of the fun that can be had playing this game with one player can usually be doubled while playing with a friend. On a few occasions you may accidentally lasso your friend up, but usually this doesn't cause any missteps. Frequently in levels, some areas might be difficult to reach without a second player, while with a second player you can simply boost them up or even throw them where you need to be. Kirby's Epic Yarn does a very good job of providing a great co-op experience that motivates and inspires teamwork.
Presentation - 9/10
Everything in Kirby's Epic Yarn can be described as cute. The dresser-drawer theme of the game is richly presented, with creative use of buttons, zippers, quilts/patches, and yarn. The few menus found in the game are perfectly in sync with this theme, also being displayed like a quilt or blanket. If you don't have widescreen turned on, the normally black bars you found in New Super Mario Bros. Wii are even cute tannish-yellow blankets with stitching. Loading screens are cute but could've had more thought put into them.
The controls of Kirby's Epic Yarn are easy to get into and provide enough wiggle room to be clever and think of your own way to play, all the while having responsive controls that make you feel like everything you do is being orchestrated just the way you want it. The simple control scheme of just the directional pad, 1 and 2 buttons is manages to do far more than it appears to at first glance, but everything works exactly as it should, and it all works fluidly and presents itself perfectly.
Graphics - 10/10
Epic Yarn has easily taken the cake for most unique and possibly even best art direction for a game in 2010. As mentioned before, the dresser-drawer artstyle is so simple, cute, and gorgeously executed you can't help but feel inexplicably happy while playing. The character models and their animations are beautiful in a simple, but stunning way, like Kirby's shapeshifting into things or a boss's various attack animations. Even a boss's many attacks are all in the form of yarn and buttons, put there's a surprisingly high and varied amount of attacks you'll find used by the different enemies.
The adorable level design is just as smart and awe-inspiring as the character and effect animations are, with great and memorable areas like levels in Space Land, Treat Land, and even the last world, Dream Land, which is nostalgic bliss for Kirby fans. No matter where in KEY you may be, be prepared to be amazed by the high amount of detail yet simplistic charm of the world of yarn.
Sound - 9/10
Epic Yarn has a slew of great musical tracks guaranteed to entertain, with a good variation of rhythms and beats used throughout them. Every track is pleasant to listen to and provides each level a sense of identity, all the while aiding to the feeling that this game is just simply so darn cute. From Patch Castle to the final battle with Yin-Yarn, you'll find plenty to love about this game musically, though a few tracks are a bit forgettable, it doesn't stop them from being fun to hear. The diverse use of instruments like the xylophone-family instruments, pianoes, etc. all come together for a soundtrack as good as the art direction and gameplay are.
Sound effects are well-executed and have great diversity as well, from the popping sound when Kirby becomes a parachute to the sound of the car horn when you transform into a car to the sound of raveling up an enemy or lassoing a button, it all lends itself well to the game's atmosphere.
Tilt - 10/10
Kirby's Epic Yarn is a blast, has plenty of replay value, and can challenge more serious players to strive for high ranks and decorative completion. Delivering on all fronts a fun game to play can be difficult when put on top of making a creative masterpiece, but Epic Yarn pulls it all off. It's a shame the game is too short, and more often than not too easy. More levels would've been appreciated, but you can't go wrong with what KEY gives you. And what KEY gives you is a memorable, easy-to-access, thoroughly entertaining game.
Pros and Cons
+ Outstanding art direction, soundtrack, and level design
+ Crazy fun to play with great co-op
+ Adorable presentation
+ Impressive variation of power-ups, bosses, and many other things
+ Highly replayable with a good balance of challenge through the bead system
- Too short and occasionally too easy
Overall - 9.5/10
It's not easy for me to hand a 9.5 out to any game, no matter how generous I am with 9.0s and 8.5s, but Epic Yarn is an outstanding success on all fronts. It delivers what could be described as "the perfect Kirby game", but it's also easy for anyone to pick up regardless of your stance towards Kirby. Epic Yarn is accessible for anyone, but can still provide a decent challenge to more serious players if you strive for an All-Gold file. No matter the case, Kirby's Epic Yarn is just a boatload of yarn-filled fun, and a memorable platforming experience that can find appreciation with just about any gamer.