Nearly a decade ago, Nintendo and developer Good-Feel turned the lovable pink puffball’s world upside down with Kirby’s Epic Yarn, a game that traded in power-ups and Kirby’s penchant for inhaling for a world crafted entirely of yarn, fabric, and other craft materials. Now, nine years after its original release, Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn brings the hero of Dream Land back to his art class inspired world, with a handful of new features and modes thrown in for good measure. While the core gameplay makes a successful transition to the smaller screen, some new additions fall flat, constantly butting heads with the carefully crafted design of the original.
Let’s get one thing out of the way — Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn is downright adorable. It oozes charm and style from every nook and cranny, of which there are plenty to explore. Unlike Kirby’s other adventures, which place an emphasis on sucking up enemies in order to copy their powers and abilities, Extra Epic Yarn tosses all that aside. Instead, the minute-to-minute gameplay heavily focuses on platforming and exploration. Instead of inhaling enemies, Kirby can use a yarn whip to defeat enemies and transform the world around him. Any out of place buttons and zippers can be lassoed in a pinch, usually unearthing a few collectibles or a new path to take.
If you think this seems out of place, your suspicions aren’t misguided. A quick Google search confirmed my suspicions — Epic Yarn began its life as an entirely different game before Kirby was added in mid-development. This doesn’t diminish the experience at all — in fact, slowing down the series’ frenetic action and placing less of an emphasis on combat makes for a more mellow experience, and is a breath of fresh air.
While Kirby’s Epic Yarn was well received when it launched on the Nintendo Wii, it wasn’t without its fair share of detractors. One of the most common complaints? The incredibly easy level of difficulty. You see, while Kirby could take damage, he had no health bar, and as a result, could not die in levels. Instead, players were tasked with seeking out collectibles — mostly craft beads — and bringing them to the end of a stage. To introduce some challenge, Kirby would drop beads if he got hit or if he fell into a bottomless pit. While this turned acing a level into an exercise of caution, there was no real sense of challenge, much to the dismay of series veterans. To address this, Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn introduces a handful of power-ups along with a new difficulty level, in an effort to spice things up. Unfortunately, Feel-Good’s well-laid plans haven’t panned out as smoothly as they would have hoped.
In the newly-added Devilish Mode, Kirby now has a life bar. Falling into pits or taking damage from enemies will knock off a part of his health. To restore his energy, players have to seek out the lovable Prince Fluff, who appears once or twice in each level. Once you clear a level, you have the opportunity to earn small prizes based on how much of your health bar you’ve kept intact. This type of design isn’t new by any means, but its inclusion largely misses the mark — it ends up placing an even greater emphasis on safer, more cautious play, as opposed to actually ramping up the difficulty.
Devilish Mode does try to keep players on their toes with a recurring, infinitely respawning enemy, who hones in on Kirby like a bounty hunter. Unfortunately, its constant appearance ends up feeling repetitive (and a tad annoying), and the newly-included power-ups make easy work of Kirby’s relentless pursuer (and the game in general). One particular power-up grants Kirby an endless amount of ammo, making easy work of hard-to-find collectibles and enemies alike. Players can lighten the load further by scanning compatible amiibo, which augment Kirby’s abilities even more.
Outside of the main story mode, Good-Feel has included two new mini-game modes. Dedede Gogogo has players controlling the beloved penguin king as you traverse levels as quickly as possible while collecting as many beads as you can. Slash & Bead features Meta Knight, with auto-scrolling levels that also tasks players with collecting beads. While these modes are a fun distraction, they are incredibly brief, with each mode consisting of four short stages.
Still, even with its new additions ultimately amounting to nothing more than window dressing, Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn is still an absolute joy to play. Its gorgeous visuals, excellent soundtrack, and creative platforming stand the test of time. Anyone who missed out on the original — or just want to relive one of Kirby’s best adventures — would be ill-advised to skip it this time around.
This review is based on the Nintendo 3DS version of the game. A copy was provided by Nintendo.
Nearly a decade after its original release and Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn is still an absolute joy to play. It oozes charm and style, and its gorgeous visuals, excellent soundtrack, and creative use of platforming make up for the lackluster new content.