8.5
Score

Pros

  • A decent amount of content for a wide variety of people enjoy
  • The new Devilish Mode add a layer of difficulty
  • Ravel Abilities are fun and improve the pace of the game
  • The art style, story, and music are adorable across the board
  • The new features mostly make up for the lack of co-op

Cons

  • Small bits of slowdown in graphically intensive sections
  • Sparkly gems look a tad more pixelated than before
  • The new Devilish Mode and Ravel Abilities feel more like mods than fully-fledged features
  • The lack of two player co-op

Final Verdict

Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn is better than ever thanks to a few new additions. Don't be afraid that it's super easy - embrace it! It's fun to pick up and play, open to a wide variety of audiences, and might just be one of the last great games to grace the 3DS.

EMBRACING THE BIG EASY

The question “why aren’t some games just made easier?” has always been a testy one. Some gamers will be quick to point out that when Nintendo gave American audiences a re-skinned Doki Doki Panic as Super Mario Bros. 2, and Squaresoft reduced the difficulty when they localized Final Fantasy IV (then known as Final Fantasy II in the US), it was because they feared the original versions would be too hard. Others will say the problem is that “easy” is usually coded to mean a game for kids, like the LEGO series or educational software. Never mind that games can and should be made for people with varying degrees of ability and expectation, there’s always been some trace of a “git gud” Dark Souls mentality that clouds the idea of playing on an easy difficulty, let alone an outright easy game.

Though Kirby’s Epic Yarn received glowing reviews when it first launched on the Wii, one of its biggest criticisms was that it was too easy. Given the other platformers that released around the same time (New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Donkey Kong Country Returns, and Super Meat Boy among them), it’s not hard to see why this criticism would make sense. Kirby literally cannot die – he has no health bar, enemies aren’t particularly aggressive, and whenever he falls into a pit, he’s just dragged back onto the level, gems spilling out along the way. While I respect the number of critics and fans who have given this opinion over the years, I don’t think the difficulty is really a problem. It’s still here in Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn, baked right into the game design, serving as a natural counterpoint to those other, harder games. In other words, it’s meant to be there.

Kirby’s default yarn whip attack.

From the outset, Extra Epic Yarn focuses on making players comfortable and relaxed. The plot is about an evil sorcerer with magic socks looking to rule the world and turn people into yarn, but the game shows about as much concern for that as Kirby does. Instead, the player is encouraged to slow down, have some fun, and enjoy cutscenes of Kirby and his new friend, Prince Fluff, shaking trees and eating cake together. The game would rather players take the time to decorate Kirby’s apartment with items found in each level and share them on StreetPass. In-game stores offer new decoration materials for hard-earned gems, and a photo mode lets players save all the designs they want. Should someone want to blast through the worlds and levels quickly, that option is there too, but to that I would say that this game is a light snack worth savoring, instead of a fast food meal to devour. 

The Knitting Needles hat gives Kirby the ability to make yarn balls whenever player wants.

For those looking for it, Extra Epic Yarn provides a few new features that make the game feel more like a traditional Kirby game. The biggest change is the addition of Ravel Abilities – various hats Kirby can pick up (since he still can’t suck up enemies) that give him powers similar to other entries. For example, Nylon Kirby spin attacks like Tornado Kirby but looks similar to Ice Kirby, while Sword and Bomb Kirby are seen here in Wire and Button forms. These abilities are intriguing in how they fundamentally change the pace of gameplay, but they act as a double-edged sword.

Since much of the level design is still centered around Kirby’s default whip attack, the game essentially needs it to be there, even though certain Ravel Abilities replace it with other attacks. This can turn boss battles into mushy scenarios where Kirby doles out enough damage to spout a geyser of gems, but the hit might not count unless he also fulfills whatever action the whip is supposed to accomplish. They’re a fun addition to the game, but also clearly patched over the top like a mod hack. It might not be possible to integrate them fully unless the whole game is redesigned from the ground up, which feels very strange to say about a Nintendo game.

The new difficulty, meanwhile, is found in Devilish Mode, which is available in every level after they’re beaten once. Kirby, now with a life bar, is chased across the level by an adorable flying Devil that pops out at random. While not much of an issue in early stages, the Devil’s presence becomes more menacing over time, especially if players find themselves without a handy Ravel Ability to fight back. Doing well in these stages results in Kirby’s remaining health being added to a counter that gives out rewards for each full meter contribution. This was enough for me to consider doing more Devilish runs than I expected to.

“Bead Slash” stars Meta Knight and “Dedede Gogogo” stars everyone’s favorite King.

Knowing that the 3DS is on the way out, it’s impressive how much effort developers Good-Feel and HAL Laboratory put into this port. Though it lacks the two player co-op of the original, the number of new features, including two new minigames, “Dedede Gogogo” and “Bead Slash,” Amiibo support, and the aforementioned StreetPass functionality, more than make up for it. The game doesn’t use stereoscopic 3D, and there is some loss in graphical fidelity in the transition to a handheld, but slowdown and pixelation issues are minor and don’t happen often. Every glimmering bead and strand of yarn is placed where it should be.

Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn makes an effective case for critical reevaluation. I know this may seem strange to say about a game that was received well in its original release, but its reputation since then has been dominated by the “baby game” label. It’s easy, sure, but that’s not a bad thing – if Super Meat Boy can be celebrated for its difficulty, then there’s no reason why Extra Epic Yarn can’t be celebrated for its accessibility. In a time when games appeal to an ever widening audience, an important step is letting this “easy is bad” stigma go. Sometimes people just want to beat a game without throwing themselves against a wall – this game fulfills that niche and many others like it.

-8.5/10

In some segments, Kirby can turn into an assortment of vehicles – the extent of his transformation powers before the introduction of Ravel Abilities.

For review purposes, I bought a physical copy of this game on launch day. If you’d like to contact me about this review, you can do so on Twitter, or by emailing me at dcichocki(at)tiltingwindmillstudios.com.