Ok, I’ll admit it. I’ve never played a Kirby game. My only experience with the little pink over-eater was in Gamecube’s Super Smash Bros. And a few rounds of Kirby golf on a ROM. So Kirby expert I am not. In fact, the only reason I picked up Epic Yarn is because I thought the game’s level design was so creative and interesting I simply couldn’t not play it. So imagine my surprise when I learned just how incredibly gay Kirby and his friends are. I have come to the conclusion that Kirby is the toddler version of Mario. But this makes his game no less fun.
The game is a break from tradition in the vein of Paper Mario in that Everything beyond the first few seconds of the game looks like it’s made of cloth or sewing and crafting related items. This concept is so all-encompassing that ever stitch on the screen has a vital role to play in making up the world. See that piece of cloth only stitched to the scenery on the top? You can jump up through it but you can’t jump down under it. See that gold button with the bright red string holding it in place? Kirby can swing from it like Tarzan. Which brings us to another point. Kirby himself is completely made of yarn. The first problem this produces is it takes away Kirby’s main ability. He can’t eat everything. Dude could swallow a whole driving range’s worth of golf balls and spit them out like bullets before, but now he sucks them in one end and they immediately blow out the other. The good news is, he can transform his arm into a whip to kill or grab on to baddies.
This brings us to problem b. Kirby can’t steal other people’s powers. Now, I don’t know if this is a thing Kirby does outside of Smash Bros., but I’m pretty sure it is. Fortunately his stringy self is pretty pliable so he can make himself into several helpful shapes along the way. Plus if you add more string at specific points in the levels he can become an area specific yarn creation. These include the annoying surfer penguin Kirby, hard to learn but awesome to use Train Kirby, happy dolphin Kirby, and quite a few additional variations.
As my first introduction to Kirby, I was surprised by the simplicity of the game. The story is told by a narrator who sounds like he just came from the Teletubbies sound studio, but what’s really hilarious is the enemies. The goombas of the Kirby world are the waddle dees. In Epic Yarn most of these guys are tame as kittens. Kirby can’t be harmed by them unless they’re packing heat and if they are unarmed the most they do is flop on their face at your feet. Not that it matters because you can’t die. If you’re injured or fall down a bottomless pit all you do is lose a few of the beads you were collecting on a string above your head. Then if you steal an enemy’s weapon or jump on their head they run off and cry. I actually felt bad killing them for the first seven or eight stages. That was about the time the level of difficulty reached intro level for a Mario game. It would have been a lot easier but, as Tophat and Elrood will be more than happy to tell you, I’m awful at platforming. But for the most part this game is epically easy. It is clearly designed for the youngest of Nintendo fans.
Kirby is in the land of never-ending craft supplies because he was sucked into a magic sock by the evil yarn guy whose name escapes me for the time being. Kirby apparently decides he’s not in a hurry to get back and so he must rent a room if he is to stay and help Prince Fluffy. I kid you not, that’s his name. And he’s not a dog. He’s a Kirby thing. So when I started collecting these seemingly worthless beads I assumed Kirby secretly was using them to pay the rent while I was sleeping or something, but then the landlord kept asking me all these favors. He wanted me to furnish his empty apartments with stuff I earned in an attempt to attract tenants who give me challenges, and he wanted me to finance additions to said building. What do I look like a loan shark? Ok, I could probably morph my yarn self into a loan shark, but that’s not the point. Then I found the real reason I was collecting beads. So I could buy furniture, wallpaper, and flooring to decorate my own apartment and supplement the items found in the stages. One of the items found early on is a frog-shaped umbrella stand which magically collects lost umbrellas. READ: steals others’ umbrellas and gives them to you for some reason. Why would a Kirby playing person need to spend time decorating their apartment in different ways and keeping snapshots of said ways in an album anyway? I have my suspicions.
Fortunately these activities were optional and I could spend my game time exploring the absolutely incredible level design and interacting with bits of string in new and amazing ways. Not only did the graphics, for lack of a better term, live up to my expectations, but everything is handled in such a real fashion, as tough the world truly was made of string. Everything I think should be possible in such a world is. Want to move the scenery closer so you can make that jump? Pull on that button and watch the scenery crumple as it comes towards you. Want to go inside that door? Go for it! Watch as Kirby’s form bubbles out the cloth as he moves around, stopping where the building is sewn to the scenery. And that’s where the fun lies for me. Exploring the level designs and killing the decidedly more harmful enemies in clever ways. If your grandmother made a Kirby diorama for you to play with it would not be this cool. And that’s exactly what it feels like. Poor grandma. She worked so hard making those tiny stitches by hand. Good thing I got her that thimble for Christmas. The fake ivory one with the picture of a palm tree I bought on our summer vacation to Florida. Now if only they made a thimble for Nintendo thumb. Seriously. It’s been 30 years. Haven’t they heard of ergonomics over there yet?