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Kirby's Epic Yarn Wii isn't just a reinvention but new gaming paradigm. Courage of his convictions makes this experience as fresh and enjoyable as when Kirby first stepped onto our screens in 1992.
TV shows have long understood the art of the re-launch. A series like Master Chef can change from Loyd Grossman's food snobbery to Greg and John's chummy accessibility to the current X-factor influenced reality TV show in just a few years.
Videogames aren't quite as good at this. Each new version will often promise something new and revolutionary and then deliver an experience that to all intents and purposes is the same game as last year.
But with Kirby's Epic Yarn we have a game that makes good on its promises, and then some. The formula may be along similar lines to previous Kirby games - essentially a left to right platform challenge - but the way you get there is through another world.
Kirby himself is transformed into a ball of yarn that gives him the ability to reconfigure himself into all sorts of different shapes - cars, parachutes, anvils and the like. Each of these offer a special ability and reminded me a little of Boy and a Blob (Wii). He can also lasso enemies to steal their string and use that as a weapon.
The world itself takes a few leaves out of the Little Big Planet 2 playbook and offers all manner of ways for you to interact. Each of these extends the patchwork material rubric and lets you unzip, tease, stitch and pleat your way through the levels.
It's a real marvel of imagination, and an environment what you want to keep coming back to. Like Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii), each level has a series of collectibles in addition to simply getting to the end goal. My eldest son (5) really got into this which meant we'd happily play the same level multiple times until he had found everything.
This fabricisation of Kirby really made me smile.
This fabricisation of Kirby really made me smile. But more than a novelty it creates an engaging way to interact with the environment. The game intelligently combines with its aesthetic to create the illusion of three dimensions. Puzzles often have Kirby jumping in and out of the material in comical fashion. Seeing him as a little bump behind the fabric had my kids in hysterics - aided of course with my Rob Rydon "Man in a Box" impression.
You work your way through a series of levels in each world. A second player can jump in and play as well which not only helps you progress but also introduces a range of new gameplay options. My daughter seemed to play exclusively to try and pick up the other player and throw them at enemies - obviously entertaining for her, but not the most effective way to progress.
At the end of each world is a boss battle, again with a stitched fabric theme. There is a real sense of spectacle here as a range of farfetched enemies take the stage to try and undo (quite literally) Kirby.
Kirby's Epic Yarn feels like a new game, but still knows where it came from.
The result of all this is a sense that Kirby has really come of age here. Sure, there is a slight inclination towards younger players, but the sheer inventiveness creates an experience that works for all ages.
Kirby started out as Mario's lesser known counterpart, offering an alternative platforming experience. It's really good not only to see him return, but with enough investment and vision to re-launch his faltering format.
Like a successful TV show re-launch, Kirby's Epic Yarn feels like a new game, but still knows where it came from. Hopefully, other games will take courage from Kirby's example and make bolder steps in each of their re-imaginings.
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