Kid-friendly Wii game Kirby’s Epic Yarn wows adults too

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      Kirby’s Epic Yarn (Nintendo; Wii; rated everyone)

      Everything in Kirby’s Epic Yarn feels like it really was made from yarn and cloth—I mean it. It’s as if somebody raided an arts-and-crafts shop and made the world’s cutest and most cheerful mural, using only colourful pieces of cloth, yarn, and buttons, and then photographed their work.

      Animations are also consistent with this aesthetic—pieces of fabric bend, flop, and change shape symbolically to create water splashes, whiffs of smoke, and rocket thruster flames. Kirby doesn’t crush, zap, or vamoose his foes; he unravels them. When he walks, the ground squishes beneath him.

      He can pull a zipper or a loose thread to open a new area, or gather big sections of cloth, and bunch up the scene, to shorten the gap between him and a distant platform.

      In other words, the world of Epic Yarn doesn’t only look like cloth; it comes to life as a cloth world would (if you’d done enough mushrooms). The presentation is so authentic, you’ll visualize smiling kindergarten teachers carefully gluing yarn to construction paper. It makes for one of the most unique and aesthetically charming (there’s that blasted word again) games Nintendo has ever put its stamp on.

      Incidentally, beloved pink blob Kirby (whom I was familiar with, but pretty surprised to realize has appeared in more than 20 games) can’t inhale enemies anymore. Being just a yarn outline these days, you understand, he finds that when he tries to breathe in baddies, they go right through him. But his unfortunate disability has an unforeseen upside: he can transform. Into a yarn car, a yarn balloon, a yarn fish, and a yarn robot.

      After hitting Start, the first critical thought I had during the introduction scenes was that the dialogue and narration could have been lifted directly from a children’s book, or a toddler’s show on Treehouse. It’s brightly coloured, narrated in calming, pleasing tones of voice, scored by crib mobile music.

      The incredibly simplistic storyline involves a grumpy wizard named Yin-Yarn who creates unrest in place called Patch Land, where Dream Land mainstay Kirby finds himself, after eating the wrong kind of vegetable. Alongside Prince Fluff, Kirby must help stitch Patch Land back together and unravel (see what I did there?) the diabolical plans of Yin-Yarn.

      But the story really functions only as a jumping-off point for a great side-scrolling game, rendered in the most striking art style I’ve seen since—well, I want to say Okami, but, I think, ever.

      But lack of narrative depth doesn’t hurt Kirby one bit. Remember how much story was included in the original Super Mario Bros., after all. In the absence of meaningful context, a desire to experience whatever ridiculously cute thing awaits you around the next corner will push you forward. Or put another way, the method is the message.

      If, as a gamer, you find that Nintendo’s signature “magic” never fails to cast its spell on you, there’s no question you need to play this one. For everyone else: Kirby’s Epic Yarn is very much a kid-friendly game, but also seemingly designed to impress the hell out of adults, artists, and game nerds alike.

      For it features exceptional platforming design, uplifting music, and countless inspiring moments in art direction that will make you involuntarily “aww”, and also make you wish you could draw, paint, or glue worth a damn. Because anyone who has this kind of stuff flowing out of them must be pretty happy.

      Chris Vandergaag is a Vancouver-based freelancer. When he's not gaming, writing, or forwarding links of questionable moral repute, he's asleep.