Almost a decade ago, Kirby’s Epic Yarn bounced onto the Nintendo Wii. Its world, made entirely out of digital fabric, buttons, beads, and, of course, yarn, may have borrowed an idea or two from the Paper Mario universe, but Kirby’s Epic Yarn proved that there’s no limit on the kinds of games that could be inspired by everyday objects. Now, Kirby’s back in Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn, an expanded version of the original game brought to the Nintendo 3DS. And, true to the title of the game, he’s brought along a few extra materials.
In Patch Land, the craft-material world adjacent to Dream Land, Kirby’s missing his two signature abilities: he can’t fly, and he can’t inhale items or enemies. That’s because Kirby, like everything around him, has been turned into yarn. It’s a bold choice to make a game without a character’s two defining moves, but Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn makes up for it by giving Kirby a few new yarn-based abilities. Kirby’s can toss out a line of yarn like a whip, a nifty trick with several versatile functions: snagging and unraveling enemies that get too close, latching onto buttons to swing underneath them like a pendulum, and pulling on zippers, tears, and patches in the background to reveal secrets and bonuses. Additionally, towards the end of each level, Kirby transforms, re-shaping his yarn body into a dolphin, a tank, a UFO, a train, and many other forms, each with their own unique abilities and custom level segments.
Each level has a secondary goal beyond just making it to the end: collecting beads. These gem-like beads are scattered all around each level, and you can earn them by defeating enemies, poking into secrets, and – most importantly – not dying. When Kirby takes damage, his beads scatter. If you’re quick, you can round most of them up again, but if you die in a pit full of spikes or over a gap, a good portion of your beads are gone. Collect enough, and you’ll finish the level with a gold medal. This makes for a very nicely-scaling difficulty system. If you’re not great at platforming games, or a kid (the game’s E for Everyone, after all), you’ll never die or get set too far back in Normal mode. You just won’t have any beads. If you’re going for a challenge, though, there’s a big incentive to never take any damage at all.
If you want even more difficulty, however, Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn adds a new feature: Devilish Mode. Choose this option, and Kirby will start each level with limited health and with a pack of unkillable enemies after him. These enemies aren’t too tough to avoid on their own, but they add a lot of difficulty to certain sections of the game. For example, the enemy that drops a cannonball on your head every few seconds is easily outrun, until you’re standing on the edge of a small moving platform waiting for the perfect moment to jump and he catches up with you. Players can choose to enter a level in Normal mode or Devilish Mode at any time after the levels are unlocked.
The 3DS version of the game also grants Kirby some additional abilities, which might be of some help in Devilish Mode—though I question their usefulness otherwise. These new powers, called Ravel Abilities, work similarly to Kirby’s usual Copy Ability in other games. After grabbing them away from certain enemies, the abilities visually appear on Kirby like a hat, granting him a new power based on whichever one he’s holding. These new powers include a pincushion attack that throws out pins in front of him, a barbed wire sword, knitting needles that let him create a ball of yarn wherever he wants, and bombs made of buttons. The trouble is, the levels aren’t really designed to use these abilities. Now, don’t get me wrong, I didn’t find any of them to be strong enough to trivialize the levels or break the platforming or anything like that. But there were times when I’d pick up, say, the bobbin that grants Kirby’s yarn lasso extra reach and wonder, why do I need extra reach? What tricky section or puzzle that needs me to hold onto this long reach item is coming up? The answer always was that I didn’t particularly need it, and that there was nothing in the level that required it. They shake up the gameplay a bit, and that can be interesting, but ultimately, they’re unnecessary.
Two of the other big new additions to the game, however, I loved. Kirby’s Epic Yarn already had a few mini-games hidden away, with extra game modes like Hide and Seek unlocked by finding collectibles hidden in the levels to furnish Kirby’s apartment complex and attract new neighbors. These two new minigames in Extra are right on the main menu, however, and they have some guest stars: King Dedede taking the lead in “Dedede Gogogo” and Meta Knight carving a path in “Slash & Bead.”
Like everything else in the game, Dedede Gogogo and Slash & Bead are both based around crafting materials, and in this case, the craft material was one particularly close to my heart: Perler beads (also known as Hama beads or fusion beads). If you don’t know the name, you’ve likely still seen them: the meltable, plastic beads that can be arranged on peg boards and ironed in order to make pixel art. In both minigames, you’re collecting Perler beads instead of the gem-like ones from the main game. High scores unlock new peg boards, and the beads you collect are used to fill up new designs that can be used to decorate Kirby’s apartment even more.
While these minigames reuse levels from the main game with Kirby, each has a distinctly different style of gameplay. In Dedede Gogogo, you race and slide through each level as quickly as you can, avoiding bombs, diving into stomach slides, and kicking through blocks without ever stopping in order to get the most points and the fastest time. Slash & Bead lets Meta Knight fly through an auto-scrolling level, where he’ll have to race to kill as many enemies and collect as many beads as he can before the level catches up with him. Both minigames have secret rainbow beads hidden away and are short enough that the challenge in both comes through route memorization and perfect execution. It’s a great change of pace from the platforming style of Kirby’s story, and I had a lot of fun with both. I just wish there was a little more, since there are only four stages for each minigame.
There’s only one other fault I found in Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn, though it’s something I can only partially blame the game for: I wish this game had been on Nintendo Switch. The 3DS screen is just so tiny that I felt I was missing out on seeing a lot of the detail in Kirby’s world. Even playing on my XL model, it was hard to tell that Kirby was made of yarn and not just a thin pink line, and I’m sure other textures and details in the world suffered by being so small I didn’t even notice them. The game also had some loading screens in odd places, which a more powerful console might have helped. Though they weren’t too long, they did make accidental visits to the shop or Kirby’s apartment feel like major detours instead of unintentional button presses.
I have to take the game as it is, though, not as how I wish it would be, and even on 3DS, Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn is pretty great. The fact that the game’s still fun and challenging a decade on speaks to the strength of its core design, and the new content adds so much that it makes the Wii version seem bare-bones in retrospect. While there are a few extraneous elements, the new minigames are fun, there’s a new challenge for every level of skill, and Kirby’s easy to love no matter what form he’s in.
The strong gameplay design from Kirby’s Epic Yarn still shines a decade later, and the carefully-crafted additions in Extra make the original feel threadbare in comparison. While some of the new features may feel a bit “extra,” that is the name of the game. A couple of addicting new minigames and added higher-difficulty game modes for more advanced players make Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn a game anyone could enjoy.
Good-Feel, HAL Laboratory
E - Everyone
|Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn is available on Nintendo Switch. Primary version played was for Nintendo Switch. Code/hardware was provided by Good-Feel, HAL Laboratory for the benefit of this coverage. EGM reviews on a scale of one to five stars.|
Emma’s early gaming was mostly done in secret, as the only gamer in a family of normal people. She still retains skills from this dark period in her life, such as the ability to teleport instantly across the house away from the computer, and holds a gold medal in the Olympic sport of “Hide the Gameboy.” Sorry, Mom, now you know.