Kirby’s Epic Yarn was easily one of the highlights of the Wii library, combining carefully designed platforming with a bold and original aesthetic. Given Nintendo’s recent penchant for reviving Wii U games, it’s no much of a surprise to see them going back a bit further to the Wii, but what is surprising is that they’ve brought it to 3DS instead of Switch. Given how little this port makes use of the touch screen, it is even odder that Nintendo’s little pink sucker wasn’t brought to the more recent system.
Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn relocates Kirby from his familiar Dream Land to a world made of wool. It’s his insatiable appetite that’s at fault, as he mistakenly tries to eat a tomato made of thread and ends up being sucked into a magical sock. The story’s presentation is typically polished with an excellent voiceover and striking visuals, but more importantly it is intimately tied into the gameplay. Unlike in other Kirby games, his woolly form means that he cannot swallow his enemies in order to take on their abilities. Instead he must unravel objects and enemies and use their balled up remains as projectiles. This whole thing is far cuter than that description makes it sound.
One of the main draws of the original Epic Yarn for me was the fact that there was no fail state. Levels could always be completed, no matter how many times Kirby fell or was unravelled. This was simultaneously a selling point and a perceived negative, as any sense of challenge was effectively removed. The result was that kids of any age could happily progress through the story without the usual roadblocks of game overs. Even with the difficulty diminished, defeating the huge bosses is still rewarding, as they all have puzzle elements that require solving so you can maximise the beads awarded and get the best scores.
Traversing the levels and defeating the enemies gives you the beads that are the main currency of the game. In a manner that is reminiscent of Sonic games, getting hit will make Kirby drop the beads he has collected, forcing you to frantically try to gather them up before they disappear. Even though there is no fail state, there is a clear challenge in making it to the end of each level with enough beads to earn a gold level. This is particularly striking in the aforementioned boss battles, as simply defeating them in the quickest way will not provide enough beads for the best rewards. Alongside these beads, every level has two furniture items and a soundtrack CD to find, many of which are fiendishly hidden. Getting the most out of every level will provide hours of enjoyment for the completist, although the lack of any kind of achievement or trophy system means that this approach must be entirely self motivated.
What we have here is not just a full port of the Wii game, as there are several new additions that provide further gaming challenges. The minigames linked to the furniture items also return and offer more traditional gaming with time limits, races and more twitch based gaming. They show how well the levels are designed, though the rewards for these are just more cosmetic furnishing items. This aspect of the game feels rather superfluous and might have benefited from being more integrated into the story mode.
On top of these returning minigames there are extra bonus modes that feature series stalwarts King Dedede and MetaKnight. These automatic runner levels are a nice distraction, but also don’t offer a great deal of value aside from yet more furnishing items. Perhaps the most interesting addition to this port is the new hat system. A range of new abilities are provided that can make levels much easier. These include a sword, extra range for your unravel attack, a limited hover, and a yarn ball generator. I found the sword in particular to be somewhat overpowered, whilst the hover hat was useful for some of the trickier hidden items. As with beads, being hit causes the hat to be lost.
The final new addition to Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn is the most revolutionary. Every level is playable either in original story mode or in a new Devilish mode. The latter sees enemies spawning and chasing you throughout and new rewards being locked behind finishing levels without being hit. This mechanic turns the style of play upside down and really adds a new twist on the original. While most of the other new additions are nice enough, this represents almost a whole new take on the whole game and will provide a great challenge for more committed gamers.