Kirby hasn't done anything in a while. While his signature platforming gameplay was a major inspiration for massive parts of Super Smash Bros. Melee and Super Smash Bros. Brawl, it hasn't been on a home console since Kirby 64. He's been relegated to consistently enjoyable entries on handhelds for close to a decade, while his big-screen visits had him racing, fighting and even playing second string to his giant penguin of an antagonist, King DeDeDe.
One major reason for this is that Nintendo feels that Kirby needs a distinct hook each time to work. Whether it's the many-games-in-one Kirby Super Star and its remake, Super Star Ultra, or removing his controls in favor of his power-copying essence in Kirby: Canvas Curse, Kirby's long had a distinct twist with each entry. Interestingly, Kirby's first Wii outing could be called an inversion of Canvas Curse, as he gets a new art style and entire army of twists for Kirby's Epic Yarn.
In Kirby's Epic Yarn, everything, even the interface elements, looks like it's made of animated strings and fabrics, and it's all laid out in a 2-D layout. Need a grappling hook? Try that button. Want to manipulate the stage? Zippers can open to pull objects up or down, or, with the right cue, you can pull the fabric together, with it rumpling realistically while you jump right past it. About the only time things don't seem to be purely yarn and cloth is when certain special effects kick in, and even then, it's just yarn run through some graphics filters. It manages to precisely peg the key aspect that made the graphics of LittleBigPlanet so adorable and imaginative while simultaneously not aping that series' style. All the while, the game maintains a perfect 60 frames per second, keeping the animation completely fluid.
As hinted above, the gameplay is kind of an inversion of Canvas Curse. Almost all of Kirby's abilities have disappeared — he can't even copy powers or fly — but the classic controls are out in full force. Kirby's yarn appearance also extends to his primary abilities. Besides being able to grab the stage, he can deform into varying shapes, such as a car, while still being the same length of pink yarn. More interestingly, he can swing on buttons using one end of his string – and these buttons can manipulate the stage in various ways. Notably, during all of this, Kirby exhibits perfect conservation of string ... until you grab a power-up that turns him into a giant Kirby-shaped tank, spitting yarn missiles and Godzilla'ing his way through segments of the stage.
Kirby's Epic Yarn also throws in a major twist in full two-player cooperative play, in the form of what appears to be a blue Kirby with a crown. The two-person play, while relatively basic in the demo, showed a couple of twists. For example, when turning into the Kirby Tank, the other Kirby could jump into the helm and increase the rate of fire even more, turning the screen into a mess of flying yarn objects that manages to be one of the most hilariously adorable examples of extreme carnage this side of Naughty Bear.
The game's most significant touch, however, is in what stays with the series. There are the classic Kirby bosses, along with several new ones, all rendered in the same yarn as Kirby, but with a few cloth accents. There's the gameplay pattern of yore, where stages are easy and bosses are much harder. There are some of the most adorable badasses to exist on any screen size, kicking as much ass as your everyday Kratos or Master Chief while still being completely huggable. In short, most of what matters is still present, even with the classic elements that have been replaced wholesale for this entry.
Kirby's Epic Yarn is scheduled to bring hardcore gamers — particularly fans of adorable destruction — back to their Wiis this fall. Details, such as the game length, weren't available on the show floor.
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