It’s a depressing fact that the older you get, the less time you have to appreciate the world around you. You seldom stop to look at the clouds roaming the sky, or marvel at the stripy shell of a snail, or the serenity of fish in a pond.
All too often, such observations are the preserve of a child – by the time you’re of working age, you’re more than likely embroiled in mortgages, bills, dental care, the threat of unemployment, your own mortality, the ubiquity of advertising, and when to defrost the freezer. And as all these things close in, that Eden-like period of childhood innocence recedes from memory.
Now and again, though, something will remind you of that blissful state of being – that feeling of existing in the moment. The joy of discovering things for the first time. That irretrievable sensation of wonder and curiosity.
These wondrous sensations of childhood have been invoked in the animation of Disney and Miyazaki, and the writings of Lewis Carroll and Roald Dahl – and Kirby’s Epic Yarn is another game that does this.
Developed by Good-Feel Games (the team behind Wario Land: The Shake Dimension) as opposed to Kirby’s creators, HAL Laboratory, Epic Yarn marks a rather different direction for the pink blob. Set in a world made entirely of string and scraps of cloth, Epic Yarn ditches the ability to swallow enemies and take on their powers, and replaces it with a new ability to whip bad guys to death with a deadly piece of string.
Traversing a broad variety of environments familiar from three decades’ worth of platform games, including water, ice and lava themed levels, Kirby can also transform into a floating parachute, a little car that can tootle through flat areas at double speed, and a submarine to traverse stretches of water.
Then there are the predefined moments in the game where, as a change of pace, Kirby will transform into a larger vehicle or exotic creature, offering a new set of controls for the player to get to grips with – early on, Kirby changes into a huge, lumpen tank, whose turret is aimed with gentle twists of the Wii remote, while a later stage sees him turn into a fire engine to put out deadly flames.
They’re brilliantly-wrought little moments, made all the more engaging by their brevity, and Good-Feel has been creative enough to come up with dozens of different ones, rather than merely repeating the same two or three transformations over and over again.
Further delights are dotted around Epic Yarn’s world, just waiting to be discovered. You can pull on loose threads to uncover secrets, or venture behind the cloth façade of each level to find new routes. One level’s full of huge, superbly designed cloth dinosaurs.
There are entertaining challenges to break things up, too – which, more often than not, involve finding objects or getting to a check point before your time runs out. Then there’s Kirby’s flat, which you can decorate with the items and wallpapers you find throughout the game.
Best of all, there’s a co-op mode, in which player two takes control of Prince Fluff and joins Kirby in his epic quest. While the levels are identical during two-player, there are certain moments in the game that are even more fun with a friend – the huge tank, mentioned earlier, is steered by one player, while the other takes control of its gun turret.
Playing Epic Yarn is like being read a fairy tale – it requires a certain level of investment (and goodwill, too, you might argue), to truly appreciate. If you don’t embrace its candy-coloured otherness, the oblique beauty of its 2D world will almost certainly pass you by.
Is Kirby’s Epic Yarn too easy, as some have argued? That depends entirely on the way you play games. If you simply blitzed through Epic Yarn’s narrative, you’d reach its conclusion in a mere four hours or so – there are no Game Over screens or continues, and if you fall down a void or take a devastating hit from an enemy, you’ll merely lose your cache of beads, and then maybe dragged back a few inches to a safer point in the level.
The threat of death may be distant, but in its place is a naive desire to simply discover things – to traverse every inch of Yarn’s world, to unlock every challenge, and find every trinket, gem and curious piece of furniture. Epic Yarn taps into all these childish, simple instincts – to explore, to collect, to experience all the incidental delights it has to offer.
For those who like to be challenged by their games, who want to have their blood-pressure raised by an audio-visual assault, will be horribly dissatisfied with Kirby – though a mere glimpse of the pastel-hued visuals on the game’s box will almost certainly ward such players off, in any case.
Those who can key in to Epic Yarn’s whimsical charm, however, will be rewarded with one of the finest 2D platform games of the past two decades.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn is out now and available from the Den Of Geek Store.
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