Feb 092011
 

Status: Game completed; some extra levels still locked

Put this on your box: The hardest easiest platformer ever made!

Most intriguing idea: That a platformer can be challenging without forcing you to restart a level every time you fail.

Best design decision: Getting rid of “death”.

Worst design decision: The method for getting the extra levels in Grass Land.

Summary:

Kirby’s Epic Yarn is incredibly easy. Also, Kirby’s Epic Yarn is pretty freaking hard. Both of these statements are true, and the one that’s more true depends on what you want out of the game. Let’s use the terms from Mitch Krpata’s New Taxonomy of Gamers. The tourist player, who just wants to take a spin through Epic Yarn’s lovely levels, probably won’t have any serious problem finishing the game. Getting through any particular stage is practically a given, because Kirby never “dies”. Instead, he drops a portion of the beads he’s collected and keeps going. You don’t need beads to finish the stage or even to unlock anything. However, for the completist, the task will be to find a way through the level, finding all its secrets, without losing any beads. This amounts to a pretty stiff challenge. It’s a clever construction that only falls down when it comes to unlocking the extra levels.

To see every level in the game you have to earn a lot of beads in the boss fights. In most cases, earning enough beads is achieved simply by doing a good job in the battle, although a tourist player might not do well enough to see the extra real estate. A larger problem is the Fangora fight, in which a player who correctly perceives the boss’ patterns and uses them proficiently will never be able to earn enough beads to see the extra levels. That’s because, in order to earn enough beads, you actually have to fight the boss poorly by skipping one opportunity to damage it. This approach felt like it was at odds with the ethos informing the rest of the design.

I can imagine that a lot of people will get turned off by the cutesy-wutesy storybook aesthetic, with a narrator who sounds like he did these lines in between some nursery-rhyme recordings. Visually, I thought most of the game was very appealing (though I didn’t care much for the apartments), but the story and narration were a bit cloying. These were really minor problems, though, in a game that’s otherwise delightful.

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