Kirby has gotten himself into somewhat of a pickle with his sucking shenanigans. The circular star is out and about, meandering in the peaceful, serene kingdom of Dream Land, despite the fact that there have been ominous rumours of a caped sorcerer lurking in the shadows, turning folk into yarn (string to most Europeans...). Spying one of his favourite foods, a bright red tomato, sat atop a bush, he uses his trademark suction technique to attempt to swallow it. However, upon doing so, the nefarious evil-doer appears to complain, yet Kirby ignores all warnings and still consumes the Metamato. The resultant effect is that the white sock dangling around the sorcerer’s neck begins to sway and wind starts swirling around, with Kirby eventually drawn into it! Waking up, Kirby finds that the grass below his feet feels funny...like trousers (yes, the UK version has been fully localised, complete with a mature British voice actor doing the narration, the letter ‘u’ being inserted into words like ‘favourite,’ and ‘trousers’ being substituted in for the term ‘pants’ - those with xenophobic tendancies will definitely be pleased to see such amendments!).
After the initial shock of the ground being made of fabric, Kirby spots a yarn monster chasing a blue yarn boy who is calling for assistance, but much to Kirby’s chagrin the usual enemy suck-and-swallow ability fails to work, with the air simply going straight through his body. However, suddenly he transforms into a car, driving away with the boy, leaving the monster for dust. It would appear that the Metamato gave Kirby the ability to turn into a car in this unusual Patch Land, as well as who knows what else. The game kicks off with King Fluff (the blue boy) introducing himself and helping with advice (and even coming in handy as a second player whenever a friend wants to join the adventure), offering to let Kirby enter Patch Castle to learn the basics of control. After all, how else is Kirby meant to defeat Yin-Yarn, the evil sorcerer with his dark knitting needles, who has split Patch Land into seven pieces? The aim of Kirby’s Epic Yarn is to sew everything back together by working through the various stages across Patch Land’s intriguing variety of areas, defeating seven main minions of Yin-Yarn along the way.
Right from the initial level in Kirby’s Epic Yarn it becomes apparent that collecting items is a strong theme throughout. Preceding each stage is a screen showing the number of treasures that can be found within, as well as showing the total ‘Beads’ gained and the ‘Streak’ achieved during the level. Control-wise, the Wii Remote is held on its side with the ‘2’ button used for jumping (with a second press turning Kirby into a parachute to help him gently float down from high platforms), the D-pad utilised for moving left and right (there is no filling Kirby with air to fly in Epic Yarn), whilst ‘1’ flicks out a piece of string with a star on the end to grab anything from the surroundings or incapacitate enemies. Additionally, in order to dash around a level, double-tapping the appropriate direction on the D-pad turns Kirby into a nippy little pink vehicle (complete with cute horn sound). Finally, jumping and pressing down on the directional cross leads to Kirby becoming a large weight and slamming to the floor. There are no major complications on the control-front, and for those that forget a particular move, tapping the 'minus' button brings up a 'Help' screen.
When working through one of the many magnificently decorated levels, complete with sumptuous musical score, there are times where patches can be ripped off walls using Kirby’s string to uncover new pathways, plus some stages have hidden platforms inside buildings, meaning keeping an eye out for new routes is imperative for those wanting to attain the highest possible score at the end of a stage. When the final roulette wheel is reached and Kirby has swung off it to stop the ticker at a random place for an end-of-level reward, the game gives the player a rating, with the aim being to get a Gold Medal. When finished, a ‘patch’ will be obtained that allows for a new area to be opened, and then it is back to the main overworld to move onwards.
This is where Kirby runs into various characters, such as Dom Woole, the manager of Quilty Court, who calls the pink protagonist ‘Lord Kirby’ and offers him a flat in thanks for his current mission of saving Patch Land. This abode is a place that can be furnished as you see fit by simply turning the Wii Remote to face forward at the TV/sensor bar and using the pointer to place things in different locations. Queue another part of the ‘collectathon’ adventure - watching out for items around stages that can be grabbed and placed wherever you desire in your temporary residence, thus incorporating a nice little aspect of the Animal Crossing series. You must also come to Dom Woole’s assistance later on by finding items to place in other flats he needs to sell to people (mini-games open up as a result of successfully helping Woole get new tenants, with Kirby able to ‘play with them’ on games such as 'Hide and Seek' or just grabbing as many beads before the timer runs out). To add to the customisation side of things, there are other shop owners to meet, such as Chaise Woole, who sells a variety of furniture, and Loomis Woole, who allows the player to procure all sorts of fabric for decorating.
Each stage is filled with plenty of diversity, with one example being Kirby turning into a large tank, using the Wii Remote to tilt the machine backwards and forwards, firing missiles at will. It becomes rather like a shmup at this time, blasting away at incoming flying enemies that try desperately to hit Kirby with rockets that do not inflict damage, but do cause him to lose the majority of jewels collected so far. This theme continues throughout with Kirby unable to die, instead parting with the precious gems collected so far and thus affecting the overall end-of-level score. As well as a tank, Kirby can transform into a Flying Saucer that sucks up enemies to build up charge that can then be released as a Thunder Spark to cause much devastation, or become a Spin Boarder to ride waves and use a Spin Attack to launch across treacherous gaps. The whole affair starts to take on the feel of Yoshi’s Island or Wario Land in places, with more than its fair share of character transformation helping to alleviate the chance of platform stagnation creeping in (turning into a remote control car, a mole machine and a fire engine are a few other early examples, along with the highly enjoyable train transformation where the Wii Remote must be held pointing towards the screen and tracks drawn for Kirby to follow, á la Kirby: Power Paintbrush).
In some stages there is the chance to use Kirby’s string weapon to swing on flowers to jump to higher locations, whilst some stems can be latched onto in order to release a seed that floats upwards in the wind, lifting Kirby to new heights. Throughout each level there are plenty of opportunities to seek out hidden extras, such as inconspicuous boxes set against the backdrop that when ripped off the background reveal an exclamation mark that must be followed as it floats along to reveal major secrets. Ride fabric waves, climb atop dinosaurs to traverse large bodies of water, navigate tight passages as Kirby turns into a long piece of string and wriggles through narrow gaps, leap from moving platform to moving platform whilst attempting to catch as many gems as you can all the while watching out for hidden items, extinguish roaring flames to allow Kirby to safely pass; there is so much going on in each level that players will constantly be amazed by the sheer amount of thought, care and attention that has been poured into Kirby’s Epic Yarn.
However, the main drawback for some will be that Kirby’s Epic Yarn is not a tough enough adventure to complete. This is something that is always directed at Kirby outings, though, yet in this case, as with the Nintendo 64 game Yoshi’s Story, the lure to return lies in the overall charm of the design (even the way new stages open up on the main world map is delightfully inventive), how intricately crafted the numerous stages are (twisting, turning, and devilishly clever in construction), and how many secret elements there are to uncover upon repeated play-through attempts (all of which are carefully logged and easy to check on for those wanting to keep a close eye on progress made).
Given that Kirby cannot die at all, merely losing all of the gems and jewels collected along the way when hit (with the chance to regain some as they spill all over the place upon impact with an enemy or hazard), many will find flaw in the same way that they do with the more traditional Kirby adventures where players are given the opportunity to bypass most of a level by sucking in air and flying above everything to reach the end goal. However, clearly this defeats the purpose of spending hard-earned money on what is meant to be an enjoyable experience, and it is apparent that the developer, Good Feel (with a helping hand from Nintendo and HAL Laboratory), has aimed to ensure Kirby’s Epic Yarn is as accessible as possible for the masses, whilst still having sufficient depth to entertain those more au fait with the genre. Epic Yarn may not have originally started out as a Kirby project, yet Nintendo saw the potential in what would have otherwise been a massively overlooked platform release from a small, relatively unknown team, and transformed it into a thoroughly competent entry into the Kirby universe that makes gamers eager to find every strand of Magic Yarn from boss battles in order to stitch the fabric of Patch Land and this beauty of an adventure back together again.