Like Castlevania: Lords Of Shadow, Kirby’s Epic Yarn bears little resemblance to the series it claims to continue. Shadow’s flimsy connection was merely in letting you play as a Belmont descendent. In Epic Yarn, similarly, you control the titular doughy pink puff, but he lacks his hallmark abilities: no gobbling up enemies and absorbing their powers, no flying, and no inhaling. This malarkey is dealt with early on, and hinges on the charming arts-and-crafts visuals. Just as the world around him is now constructed of cloth, felt, buttons, and beads, Kirby is made of yarn. Air would therefore just go through his body, so instead of digesting his enemies, Kirby now unravels them.
The nefarious sorcerer Yin-Yarn and his cursed knitting needles are responsible for all this, as he scooped up Kirby’s home world, Dream Land, and plopped it into a magic sock. This deliberately sounds like the stuff of fairy tales; between levels, the narrator flips pages as he melodramatically acts out each character’s voice. Though Epic Yarn has whimsicality to spare and a jaunty piano-brunch soundtrack, it still can’t unbutton itself from tired gaming clichés. All the inspired choices in the world can’t gussy up the old standbys of the fire, ice, underwater, and desert levels—which are here in abundance.
That isn’t such a big deal, but it’s a letdown considering how well the new aesthetics lend themselves to clever level designs and mechanics. For example, you can reach faraway ledges by unfastening a button, causing the world’s fabric to bunch up and bridge the gap. Or, just as brilliantly, you can send Kirby through a doorway to become a bulge beneath the cloth, atop the seams tying everything else in place. Elements like these encourage exploration, as does the lack of fatal elements. If you fall into a pit, or on the rare occasion an enemy attacks, you’re punished by losing precious beads, which function like Sonic’s rings. Nevertheless, Epic Yarn’s inspiration clearly started running dry when it came time to design the levels themselves: Enchanting though they may be, they quickly get repetitive, and they unfortunately never get new wrinkles. All you ever have to do is keep running right.
Kirby’s Epic Yarn is aimed at kids, and the result is a low-stakes, relaxing, almost soothing breed of adventure. Drawbacks aside, adults should consult their doctors about a prescription of Epic Yarn instead of Prozac.