Sunday, July 3, 2011

Kirby's Epic Yawn

Well, I had a boring weekend ahead of me (no one was here, no parties and the weather sucked), so I thought I should rent a Wii game. I always wanted to try Monster Hunter Tri, however, I couldn't resist to rent Kirby's Epic Yarn as well, so I could take a short look at the game. But then Kirby got all my attention and I've beaten most of the game over the weekend, while returning Monster Hunter Tri after a couple of hours.

Don't get me wrong, Monster Hunter Tri is certainly an epic game, but while I like to waste my freetime with video games, a massive RPG like this one is just too much for me. I prefer games in the length of Zelda, something that can keep you busy for a while, but has a clear end. Monster Hunter Tri has a steep learning curve and no clear goal, where the game is going. You just hunt lots of stuff, so you can hunt more stuff. And the controls are absolutely terrible, if you're used to Z-Targeting and the intuitive camera controls of Zelda and other Nintendo games, playing Monster Hunter Tri feels very uncomfortable. So, I was sticking with Kirby.

Actually I've never fully played a Kirby game before. I played Kirby's Dream Land on the GameBoy as a child, but I've never beaten it and never really got back into it again. And I didn't care about Jump'n'Runs for a long time, it wasn't until New Super Mario Bros. Wii that I got interested in the genre again. By now I also played both Mario Galaxy games and Donkey Kong Country Returns. But Kirby is also my main in the Super Smash Bros. series (not in Brawl though, there I prefer Toon Link) and he was getting more attention lately (his own TV channel on Wii, new Wii game coming), so this game seemed to be the natural next step. And I really liked it.

The first thing you have to mention about this game is the unique artstyle consisting of clothings, fabrics and yarns. Since the Wii's power is really outdated chosing a special artstyle to cover the system's limitations became a popular choice for Wii games, take Skyward Sword as an example, but the style of Kirby's Epic Yarn is just so lovely, unique and creative, it really makes the game. It really does, because the yarn theme is not a simple visual style, it ties in directly with the gameplay. Everything is made of yarn, even Kirby. He literally doesn't suck anymore in this game, instead he uses a thread whip to grab his enemies and throw them. He can also change his form all the time, when you sprint he turns into a car or he can turn into a parachute to float. You can make use of these transformations all the time, but there are also special transformations in certain levels, where he turns into a tank, a fire truck, a buggy, a dolphin or a space fighter for some Xevious/Gradius/R-Type style of action. This adds a lot of variety to the different levels and can be a lot of fun. What I also loved about the yarn theme is unlocking new levels inside a world. At the end of a level Kirby gets a patch and this patch causes some very creative transformations on the world map opening a new door. You're always looking forward to what they would come up next. It's a very, very creatively made game.

It's an easy game though. Compared to Donkey Kong Country Returns you might even call this a joke. It uses the concept of Wario Land II, which means you can't die, but if you get hit, your crystal beads, which you're collecting in levels similar to coins in Mario/Wario games, are dropped all over the place. You should always be able to finish a level, but finishing it with enough beads is another question. In each level you can score bronze, silver or golden medals at the end depending on how many beads you've collected. The gold medals only add to your completion score, but you still might want to get them and in some levels you have to be really careful not to lose your beads. The more beads you have, the more you drop when you get hit. And if you fall into a pit, there's no chance of recovering them. It can be sometimes frustrating to collect tons of beads only to lose them all to a dumb mistake near the end of the level. But overall the difficulty of the game is quite low.

Only collecting all treasures in a level might be somehow more tricky here and there, some of them require precise jumps and timing. Each level has two treasures and a music CD and you might want to find and collect them all. This follows the trend of the big gold coins in New Super Mario Bros. or the KONG-letters and puzzle pieces in Donkey Kong Country Returns and I think that these collectibles are important. I love this stuff in Zelda and Metroid, but it also gives me something in other games. If I try playing older Jump'n'Runs, like Super Mario Bros. 3, Kirby's Dream Land or Donkey Kong Country for example, where the games are just about platforming and reaching the end of the level, I get bored really fast. But add hidden secrets and collectibles to the equation and suddenly I'm hooked. And Kirby's Epic Yarn hooks you in a nice way. The first world is actually like a town and Kirby got his own appartment there. And you can freely decorate it to your likings. You can place furniture and items and texturize everything with different fabrics. There are endless possibilities how to decorate your room and while it serves no direct purpose, there's now a creation of your own in the game and it's easy to get attached to something like this. The treasures found in levels can be used to decorate your room, but you can also buy furniture in a shop from the beads, which you've collected in levels. There are some items, that reminded me of the Nintendo DS Zeldas, there's a blue hourglass, a toy train and a toy steam boat. Of course they are all part of my room. And overall it's nice to collect new items and try them as deco.

There's a second shop for buying fabrics to re-texturize your room and furniture, but most of the fabrics are gotten from minigames. There's another apartment next to Kirby's and you can even expand the building by two floors for lots of beads, which adds four more rooms. You have to decorate these rooms according to certain specifications and then they will be occupied by weird little flying creatures. They will play five different minigames with you, all with a time limit using modified parts of the game's 50 levels. There's Hide and Seek, where you have to find five of "your friends" in time. Or you have to collect a certain number of beads or defeat a certain number of enemies in time. There's also a racing mode and a mode, where you have to transport the thingy to a goal. However, you only get fabrics, which might not feel as rewarding as the treasures in levels. But that's okay, if you don't like the minigames, you won't miss much, if you don't play them.

Following the success of New Super Mario Bros. Wii this game also included a multiplayer mode. And it's quite good actually, unlike the multiplayer of Donkey Kong Country Returns, where you just get in each other's way and where the second player even might just be a useless burden, especially in the rocket barrel and mine cart levels. But this is not the case here. The second player plays as Prince Fluff, who looks like a blue Kirby with an angry look and a crown on his head and who has the same abilites as Kirby. The main advantage of playing in multiplayer is that you always have something to throw. This makes the parts easier, where you have to grab an enemy and throw him in the right way. Or certain areas are easier to get to. It's also nice, how they handled the vehicles. Either the second player gets a vehicle for himself or a special passanger seat, which offers a new functions. For example the tank would get giant boxing gloves. This is much better than in Donkey Kong Country Returns, where the second player isn't of any use in similar parts and just causes you to lose two lives instead of one. I guess it might be fun to play the whole game in multiplayer, the only problem is that it makes the game even easier than it's already is.

I rented Kirby's Epic Yarn for one weekend and was able to 100% it in that time. And that's the problem, as soon as you got everything, the replay value of the levels becomes very low. The multiplayer might be a reason to return to this game, but New Super Mario Bros. Wii is still the superior multiplayer Jump'n'Run. So, the game is just too expansive right now, it costs around 45 bucks, but it's not worth that. It's not like I wouldn't have the money, it's about principle, I don't pay 45 bucks for a game which only lasts for such a short time. I would definitely pick it up for half the price, but not right now.

Also, the game can be quite childish. Between the worlds there are cutscenes, where a teller of fairy tales tells you the story like reading a storybook to a little child. It fits the overall theme, but if you easily get embarrassed about something like that, you have been warned.

To sum it up, it's an adorable little Jump'n'Run with an unique and charming style, fine multiplayer and lots of nice collectibles. However, it's not long lasting and not worth its current price.

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