Whatever your current opinions on the gaming giant, it’s hard to deny that the Nintendo of the past defined the platforming genre. Along with the obvious Super Mario Bros, they’ve given us the classic platforming games Donkey Kong Country, Metroid, Yoshi’s Island and Kirby. And, whether you choose to admit it or not, they are still capable of releasing the odd gem or two. Super Mario in 3D Land, Super Mario Galaxy, Kid Icarus: Uprising, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Steel Diver (…OK maybe not that last one) all are recent releases of genuine brilliance but lost under the constant criticism of motion control, below par graphical power, and, well, just stupid ideas (see: the Wii Vitality Sensor).
Another particular game which I feel as been hard done by (and I use the term fairly quite loosely) due to less than impressive sales, despite critical acclaim, is Wii platforming, yarn em-up Kirby’s Epic Yarn (KEY from now on). Apart from past gushings on previous newbreview.com podcasts, Kirby’s Epic Yarn is one of those games I’ve been itching to write about but just never got round to it… which explains why there isn’t actually a review of the game on this very site. Now, a year after being released, allow me to tell you why KEY is blooming marvelous!
Before I get to the crux of things KEY must first be applauded for doing something that Nintendo rarely do with their household names, something different.
Sure, New Super Mario Bros is great but it’s hardly reinventing the wheel is it? Iteration after iteration, whether its Mario, Zelda or a certain Nintendo Kart racing franchise, at their core very little changes. On the other hand, Kirby’s Epic Yarn may not be a total reinvention of the Kirby franchise but it’s certainly a re-imagining. Just look at the game’s glorious, cutesy, fabric-based graphical style.
Normally something so sickeningly cute would cause me to repel in horror, but KEY’s yarny stylings straddle the right side of cool as well as cuddly. OK, it exudes fun, cutesy wutesy-ness and feels a little like having rainbow coloured sugar poured directly into your eyes with its charm at times, but that’s part of its appeal. It is unbridled fun and it is charming without any annoying nuisances. Some might criticise the game as being too family friendly, but who cares? There’s no gritty realism or hidden agenda. KEY oozes fun and surely that is one of the few basic fundamental of a game that we can all appreciate.
It isn’t just the game’s colourful, bright graphical style that gives the game its undeniable sense of enjoyment. Its soundtrack for starters is simply stunning. When paired with KEY’s unique graphical style it sells the game purely on an aesthetic basis alone. Relaxing, quirky and full of life and wonder, the soundtrack to Kirby’s Epic Yarn is perhaps Nintendo’s most memorable for a long time.
But KEY has a lot more going for if than just aesthetics, its impenetrable aura of lighthearted pleasure is compounded by its gameplay.
While it’s by no means the most difficult game you’ll ever play, Kirby’s Epic Yarn seems more content just letting you enjoy yourself rather than testing your wits and reaction against hefty challenges. That’s not to say that its boring just because its easy. Games that are too easy can be boring, sure, but what’s magical about KEY is that it’s an enjoyable, lighthearted affair that keeps you interested. Its visuals are unique and interesting, its soundtrack helps keep you hooked and yes, it may play like your average modern platforming game, such as LittleBigPlanet and Rayman: Origins, but it still manages to keep you hooked through the variety in its levels, mini-games and bosses.
However, just like those games KEY is the victim of its own genius. Its a game designed for more than one and thus its singleplayer is redundant. But boy, oh boy does it shine when played cooperatively, for my money it shines brighter than all of its contemporaries.
Building on the type of success Super Mario Bros Wii gained from its inclusion of cooperative play, Kirby’s Epic Yarn is the definitive co-op experience for anyone that has a soul and a heart. Not even a eloquent writer of words such as myself (yeah, right) can begin to describe just how wonderful KEY’s co-op is (at least not without sounding like a bumbling, loved up fool – think Huge Grant in every film he’s ever been in) but I’ll give it a try.
Multiplayer isn’t just about shooting people in the face or capturing flags. It can be about teamwork and just having a laugh at no one’s expense. Kirby’s Epic Yarn proves that by instilling a satisfying sense of achievement, and a genuine feeling of amusement, through simply larking about. It’s magical stuff you wish they could bottle.
That’s the key to KEY’s success and ultimately why it’s such a brilliant game. It’s not the grittiest, most challenging, cutting edge game but it isn’t trying to be. It is one of the most innocent, yet entertaining experiences, in recent years and I’m sorry but if there isn’t any room for that in videogames anymore then we might as well just call it a day now.
- Kieran E. Roycroft