Smile like you mean it
Kirby’s Epic Yarn is the game I want to throw back at the guys that used to make fun of my Nintendo 64 back in school. The big, machismo-fueled tough guys (that were guidoing it up well before Jersey Shore was a thing) that dismissed the Banjo Kazooies and Donkey Kong 64s of the world as too childish for people with a double-digit age. The people that would rather be playing the M-rated games the ESRB deemed them 7 years too young to play. Whose kids have gone on to become Halo’s underage, racist online pests. I say that because this particular Kirby game works so well because it’s so damn kiddie and childish. The playful, charming tone and sense of childlike discovery that is encased in this game is enough to warm even the coldest of hearts. If a male is enraged at the thought of playing Kirby’s Epic Yarn, it’s because they’re either in denial of their sexuality or insecure about the size of their less-than-epic member.
The entirety of this game takes place in some kind of elaborate arts and crafts project conducted by every kindergarten class in Japan. Kirby engages in an epic confrontation with an evil sorcerer (which is to say that he eats the sorcerer’s tomato and is then pulled inside his mystic gym sock…uh huh) and is trapped in a land of cloths and buttons. Being the bastion of joy and good will that he is, Kirby agrees to help Prince Fluff restore his arty land and smile a whole lot along the way.
From there, your heart will grow 3 sizes larger for every level you play until your arteries collapse. Levels are comprised of strings, cloths, cottons, denims and other things your high school girlfriend made a Scrapbook of Memories about. Kirby him/her/itself is made of fibers, and thus loses his ability to inhale and retain oxygen or enemies inside his pink form. Rather, he can readily transform his stringy body to what suits his needs. Become a smiling car to run faster, a smiling parachute to slow his descent, a smiling submarine when he’s underwater, and, given the chance, he would probably remain smiling if he was a car in the motorcade during the Kennedy assassination.
Kirby’s main tool is a whip that he can use for assorted means. He can either untangle(!!) enemies or roll them up in into a ball for projectile purposes. Or he can pull taps or unzip zippers to make alterations to the environment. Or swing off stray buttons while still smiling(!!) Epic Yarn taps into that primal urge we all have to pluck at loose strings and dangling zippers, only the game provides results more pleasant than a chastising from your mother. Environments may unravel, revealing hidden shiny beads to collect or pathways or generally do something to make you coo in delight. Collect enough beans and the shop keeper’s face will appear on the screen, within a gold star, smiling, while Kirby lets out a cry of bliss. Playing this game would make Mel Gibson a nicer man.
And part of the fun of Kirby’s Epic Yarn is that the game is always finding something new and adorable to throw in your direction. Maybe it’s discovering what the cloth-rendition of snow or water looks like. Or discovering a new piece of furniture for which to decorate your apartment with. (Of course Kirby has a bachelor apartment, the swinging single he is.) Or there’s a new vehicle mini-game. The game is constantly introducing new vehicle-based mini-sequences to keep things fresh and interesting. One minute you’re a smiling jeep, the next, a smiling tank of nuclear yarn destruction. The one constant being the smile.
And it helps that the game is readily playable with a second person, assuming the role of the well-browed Prince Fluff. I haven’t truly tested this theory myself, but I think this game will get you laid. I posted about this game on Facebook and got a smattering of swoons from women. Remember, guys, there are benefits to putting away that Modern Warfare disc and showing your sensitive side.
In case the abundance of the colour pink hasn’t made it clear yet, this is not necessarily a game for people that crave horrific bloodbaths or even a challenge. I never really found myself frustrated or bored at any particular point. Rather, the game adopts the Lego Star Wars system of “no, you can’t die, no matter how hard you try, you are bound to your immortal coil.” Instead of death, doing something bad will result in Kirby dropping a TON of those beads that you have been fetching. This, in the midst my state of euphoria that stems from playing the rest of the game, results in many moments of me yelling OHNOOHNOOHNOOHNOOHNOOHNO in saddened panic. You see, I was sad because I made Kirby sad. And that is a much worse fate than death.
Throw in some really blissful music and you have a game that borders on therapeutic. No, really. There is something about this game, whether it’s the deliberate pacing or the “hey, everything’s alright!” mood or the sheer abundance of gems to collect that just give this game a totally uplifting vibe that will remove all of your worries of the day. With so many video games built around spinebreaking difficulty or immersing you in some kind of hellish warzone that real soldiers never want to revisit again, there is something special about a game that actually tries to evoke happiness.
While the game doesn’t have any outstanding flaws, there are a few things that I could have done without. The game’s final stages, while not a chore to play, feel like the least memorable segment of the otherwise heartwarming experience. There’s a side-quest where decorating apartments unlocks new tenants that want to play mini-games with you. Except, well, I didn’t want them to have the satisfaction of playtime with me. And while not a flaw with this game, but trying to intersperse Kirby’s Epic Yarn with sessions of Super Meat Boy is a terrible idea. After playing through the latter for several hours, I found myself a tad flustered at how Kirby was not running at 2000 km/h and bouncing off blood-splattered walls for about half an hour.
I managed to wring about 7-8 hours of absolute bliss out of this very, very special title. And I’ve got full intentions of returning and completing my Ikea Fantasy catalogue of cheery furniture items. So my end summation is that you should probably buy this game. Even if you are the kind of person that demands their gaming experience be marked with a trail of headshots, you may find something that warms the bottom of your heart. This is a very different kind of game, one that doesn’t look to challenge or shock you, but pump your body with endorphins and make you feel good about the universe.
4 ½ stars