Monday, May 9, 2011

Kirby's Epic Yarn (Wii)

Time Played: 1 hour

What Happened:

I've had this game sitting on my shelf for awhile and had been meaning to get to it. I picked it up this week because it's being featured in the Collectables Relay Race rounds of our gaming Olympics at work which I'm helping to organize, and I needed to unlock some levels.

In the game, Kirby has been transformed into yarn by a wizard- which switches out his normal creature-eating ability for the ability to transform into different things like a parachute for floating, a car for dashing, and a weight for ground-pounding. You and a friend are searching for pieces of magical yarn which piece the world back together (unlocking new worlds). You also have an apartment, and find pieces of furniture in the levels to decorate with (a la Little Big Planet). Also at this point in the game I've been called on once to help decorate an empty apartment so that the building owner can get someone to move in.

Gameplay is simple - traverse through liner levels collecting gems and killing enemies if you should choose to. I'm not actually sure if you can die in the game... you lose your gems as a penalty when hit - but I'm not sure what happens if you're hit and have no gems. You can only be 'hurt' by enemies with weapons or entities in the level like lava - when it comes to normal minions, you can bump into them without suffering any damage.

What I Liked:

Presentation & Polish. Every little detail in the animation and visuals is just awesome in terms of polish. It really feels like a cohesive world, and small details totally make it. Stuff like the unique sequences for each new level when it is unlocked, the unique transformation sequences, etc - It's clear that a lot of love and attention went into this game's visuals.

Level Select. As opposed to just being a map, the level select in this game is presented in a similar format to the levels - you walk around and jump on things like in any level. To get back to your apartment you just walk right to left through the worlds. So far it's cute - I'm not sure if when I've unlocked more worlds it will become tedious?

Sound effects (but not music). The sound effects are extremely charming and help make the world feel complete.

Idea. Clearly, with the buzz that surrounded this game when it came out, the concept is pretty cool. It's a neat idea to play on the concept of a 2D sidescroller by making something that can only work in 2D (transforming yarn), and it works well with Kirby's traditional powers.

Transformation Sections. Almost every level features a section where Kirby does a unique transformation - for example, a tank, a firetruck or a UFO. They provide a change to the pacing and feel of the game, and usually feature a different mechanic - this provides a nice break, and adds a feeling of variety to the gameplay.

What I Didn't Like:

Music. I think this was a repeat of ilomilo for me musically. :) It started off cute and charming, but quickly got monotonous. It was just a little too low energy for me, and I started to feel like I was dragging just a little because of the music. As much as I dislike games which play up the tension to the point that you feel like you need to decompress after playing, I appreciate some level of tension in a game, and the music really worked against that. This also coupled with the overall lack of difficulty in the game (see below).

Pacing. This was also an issue in the cinematics (see below) but it felt that everything dragged just a little bit. Some levels felt like they took a bit of time before they really got going. I liked the level unlocking animations, but they drew out the amount of time that you weren't really playing. The apartment decorating sections (the required ones) felt unnecessary and drawn out (example: the one where you decorate an apartment so that the building owner can sell it). I think a fair amount of this can be chalked up to the fact that this game was targeted towards younger audiences - but usually Nintendo does a good job of making games pretty universal, so I don't know if that's it.

Cinematics. I find that this is true about most games which are translated from Japanese into English, but the narration in the cinematics feel like it takes FOREVER. This may be intentional to create that old-time storybook feel... but I found the cinematics to be excruciating.

Brutality. I'm not a huge fan of violence in any games, so you'd think Kirby would be right up my alley - but since the characters are all made of yarn, when you kill them they are seemingly ripped to shreds. Like, yarn floats off into space as though they were never alive... for some reason I found this sort of disturbing.

Minions. I don't know if I would have noticed if I hadn't read the Kotaku article pointing it out, but there is seemingly no reason to attack most of the bad guys in the game - they don't damage you. They knock down your gems if they're holding weapons, but if they're not, they're pretty much just collision. They also fall down pathetically when you come close to them, which makes it even more tragic to kill them. When I was UFO Kirby I'm pretty sure they were actually cowering as I flew overhead, which made me feel even worse when I realized I had to suck some up in order to build up a charge. Tragic.

Boss Fight. I've only done the one boss fight, but it seemed completely disconnected from the rest of the game. I don't even understand why I was fighting a boss... Also it was extremely easy, and a bit tedious.

Easy. There's not very much in the way of challenge in this game. I actually don't think there's anything wrong with easy games - but I think in order for an easy game to be successful it needs a little more going for it in terms of story, or uncovering new, fun game mechanics. This just felt lacking.

Apartment? I'm not really sure if I'd say it's a negative - just that it was something that didn't seem to fit with the rest of the game.

How Do I Feel About Continuing?:

Meh. I don't feel that the overall experience has been compelling enough to keep my interest. Maybe if the story were more interesting, or if the gameplay was just a little more fun... but just the visuals aren't enough to keep me on board.

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