I write this as someone who is immune to twee. The tedious, contrarian part of my brain sees cute and screams: It's a PLOY. I look at those adverts with talking cats and hiss: you're a marketing scheme. I'll listen to you go on about that time you put a hat on your Nintendog and then roll my eyes dramatically until I stop getting invited over to your house. This is my jaded fatal flaw, my heart of darkness.
And so as someone typically immune to twee I can hand-on-heart admit defeat. Kirby's Epic Yarn has taken an adorable axe and broken down the ice barrier that encased my otherwise indifferent and cold heart of stone. Looking into Kirby's eyes I think...maybe... maybe I could love again.
Why the sudden change in heart? Kirby's Epic Yarn is more than superficially pleasing. Instead it's highly creative in design, with its visually impressive and cutesy qualities forming the base for legitimately interesting platform elements.
Kirby has lost his trademark ability. He can't inhale enemies like he used to. The game - which is oddly Mighty Boosh-like in premise - introduces you to Yin-Yarn, an evil wizard made of yarn who enters Kirby's world and begins sucking up its inhabitants through a sock he wears around his neck. Now everyone is made of yarn, Kirby himself is just knit-work, and his primary way of interacting with his surroundings is to fling a loose thread to unravel his foes and throw objects. His other ability is transformation. Kirby will morph into a car with a tap of the D-pad, doubling his speed. If he hits water he turns into a fish while other levels require for him to become a space ship that will beam up yarn to fuel explosive blasts or a train that will follow tracks you lay out for it using the Wii Remote.
Cute, yes. The entire world is like what everyone wishes their grandmother's house looked like. Cushy and full of patchwork, Kirby's Epic Yarn builds levels out of cupcakes, whipped cream, pillowy ground and felt backgrounds. Adorable, obviously. Stop playing for a few seconds and Kirbs starts skipping rope using his own yarn. He'll even jump through doorways and into the background of the scene, leaving only a round lump that you can spot moving behind the felt of the scene. Epic Yarn sweats charm; it's made of it. To be fair so are a lot of titles, but this one proves its worth in how it reigns in that charm and uses it bolster gameplay.
Patch Land is made up of eight different worlds. You get your standard water and lava levels, a Christmas-driven Snow Land, a candy filled Treat Land, a Space Land that looks like a series of Daft Punkian music video sets sewn together, and then a triumvirate of cuteness in the form of Quilty Square, Grass Land and Dream Land. Each land behaves differently. One level in Snow Land puts you up against an enormous coil of wrapping paper that rolls down the scene in what's essentially a spin on your traditional platform-or-drown water level. A level in Space Land has Kirby working his way between switches that turn on and off gravity: on when he needs to float to higher areas, off when he needs to break through yarn-crates to get into side-passages. Another in Hot Land, the lava zones, transform Kirby into a fire engine who works his way right across the screen by putting out fires that block his path.