I can already hear the howls from lifelong Nintendo fans who perpetually complain about the lack of hardcore Wii games: Kirby’s Epic Yarn is too short; it’s too easy; it’s too cute. It’s a game for babies, for kids, for parents and grandparents to play along without having to fuss over too many complexities. Epic Yarn is all of these things, and it’s splendid. After all, if a game is fun, what does the rest matter?
Epic Yarn is jolly and jubilant in its presentation, recasting Nintendo’s cute cartoon puffball as a patchwork protagonist adventuring across a colorful world of stitches and fabric. The plot — which unfolds in a series of sweetly narrated storybook sequences that would make Dr. Seuss proud — pits Kirby and his newfound friend Prince Fluff against the likes of up-and-coming series baddie Yin-Yarn, who’s turned Fluff’s home world of Patch Land topsy-turvy, and now threatens the very fabric of Kirby’s own Dream Land.
So, off Kirby goes, breezing through a series of themed side-scrolling 2D worlds that would feel right at home in a Mario game (Hot Land! Treat Land! Space Land!). And I do mean breezing; “death” in Epic Yarn is synonymous with “lose a bunch of widgets” (in this case, colorful beads that culminate in per-level bronze/silver/gold medals), and I finished the game inside of roughly six hours. Playing well — that is, achieving a gold medal and finding each level’s trio of hidden treasures (which serve as decorations for Kirby’s customizable apartment) — is a challenge here and there, but if you just want to see the game’s world, it won’t put up much of a fight. And it’s even multiplayer-optional, if you want to bring a friend on for a level or two (though it doesn’t even begin to approach the complexity of, say, New Super Mario Bros. Wii).
Goal-oriented gamers probably won’t find much to stick around for, but journey-minded players are the ones that Epic Yarn was really made for. Everything about the textile-themed Patch Land is a visual treat, with exuberant attention paid to the smallest details. Bobbins bounce and spin and unspool; corduroy dinosaurs bob and growl; sewn-together cauldrons spout deadly threaded flames; knitted donuts spin precariously in the air. And Kirby himself is a malleable munchkin, morphing into a cute little car as he dashes about, or a parachute when he floats through the air. Plentiful level-specific events find him transformed into a giant missile-spitting tank (Kirby’s aim is directed by tilting the Wii-mote), a ring-jumping dolphin, or a suction-enabled UFO. A couple of memorable sequences even turn the game into a mini shoot-’em-up, with Kirby rockets galore.
And, most of all, it’s just really enjoyable. My sense of wonder and discovery as I explored Patch Land was palpable; every hidden door, warp pocket, and narrow tunnel (which Kirby must navigate as an unraveled piece of thread) led to another new, exciting, and intricate visual reward. As short as my time in Patch Land was, I savored it, exploring every last nook and cranny I could find. In my heart of hearts, I wish the game had been longer, though I have no doubt we’ll be seeing a sequel to this little stealth masterpiece (hopefully sooner and not later). Kirby’s Epic Yarn is, at its quilted heart, an enjoyable 2D platformer that anyone who understands the language of fun can pick up and play, and it has an aesthetic that you can marvel at — stress-free — from beginning to end. That makes me happy, and I can’t ask for much more.