Nintendo's King of Cute returns

Kirby charms his way back into players' heart

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The Spectrum

Grade: A-

Video gaming's favorite platform-hopping marshmallow is back in his first starring role on a home console since 2003 and, boy, was it worth the wait.

Kirby's Epic Yarn is the first Wii outing for Nintendo's lovable pink protagonist, and it takes Kirby in a direction that is both familiar in its 2-D platforming gameplay and refreshingly original in its fabric-inspired art style.

As always, players find Kirby on a quest to save his peaceful home world of Dream Land. That being said, Epic Yarn spins this tale with an alluring twist.

While out searching for his favorite food, tomatoes, Kirby accidentally eats a magic tomato belonging to the evil sorcerer Yin-Yarn.

Enraged at Kirby's impromptu snacking, Yin-Yarn transports the game's fluffy protagonist to Patch Land, a world where everything (including the trees, the water and even the clouds in the sky) is made out of yarn and fabric.

Upon his arrival in Patch Land, Kirby saves Fluff, the land's prince, by using his newfound powers from the magic tomato. Kirby and Fluff then team up to save Patch Land from Yin-Yarn's evil minions and find a way back to Dream Land to stop the evil sorcerer from taking it over.

This partnership translates into multiplayer gameplay, as a second player can join in and take control of Fluff to help Kirby discover hard-to-reach treasures and defeat tougher enemies.

While Epic Yarn's story isn't going to blow players away with narrative depth, its cutesy, children's book-like atmosphere presents itself in a way that seems geared toward younger players. However, it is still loaded with socially relevant humor that will make more mature players chuckle.

That being said, gamers don't keep coming back to Kirby for deep narrative storytelling; they play to make Kirby eat his enemies, steal their powers, and use said powers against them.

Players looking to continue Kirby's gluttonous ways won't find that opportunity in Epic Yarn. As stated earlier, everything in Patch Land is made of yarn and fabric, including Kirby and his enemies.

While his ability to inhale enemies is hampered by his new yarn body, Kirby instead uses powers more befitting of a hero made of string. Using what can best be described as a yarn lasso, Kirby can literally tear foes apart at the seams or bundle them up in balls to throw at other enemies and breakable objects.

Players will also use the lasso in platforming to help Kirby swing across big jumps, yank platforms closer together, pull zippers to open new areas, and engage in other fabric-inspired commotion.

A Kirby game just wouldn't feel right without some kind of transformative powers. Thankfully, this is an area where Kirby's Epic Yarn truly shines.

While navigating through the game's seven worlds, players will use Kirby's abilities to morph into a number of forms, ranging from a fire truck to a dolphin to the Kirby-tank that is likely to be a favorite among players.

Each of the forms has different uses within levels, and all are a blast to play.

Even with so much to offer, Kirby's Epic Yarn is not a game for everyone. The lack of difficulty in the game's main story is particularly disappointing.

While getting hit by enemies and falling off ledges will cause the player to lose points and be dragged back to solid ground, there are no lives to lose and no checkpoints to be sent back to. The real challenge in Epic Yarn comes in exploring levels for treasure, which unlocks more difficult mini-games.

While gamers seeking a challenge or a more mature narrative may want to look elsewhere, Kirby's Epic Yarn is a complete package, offering an amazingly tight 2-D platforming experience, a gorgeous and charmingly original art style, and some fun multiplayer to boot.

E-mail: arts@ubspectrum.com