Kirby’s new adventure lacks challenge but excels in adorable.

The return of Kirby had long become a Nintendo fan’s joke. His latest game had been pushed back since before the Wii even came out, and almost all hope that we would ever see a console return of our favorite pink puff ball had all but unraveled.

But at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) this year, Nintendo revealed “Kirby’s Epic Yarn,” starting the initial thread of Kirby’s latest adventure.

And yeah, the more yarn puns I get in this, the happier I’ll be.

“Kirby’s Epic Yarn” started life not as a Kirby title, which is largely apparent through most of the game. Kirby has been transported to Patch Land, a land made entirely out of yarn. Kirby himself is also made of yarn. In his new form he can’t float or suck enemies, and his transformations are only mere fibers of the combining power-ups found in past games.

And while I can’t say I am still entirely sold on the fundamental game mechanic changes, KEY is still a solid patchwork of a game.

The entire game, world, characters and bosses are woven and crafted out of yarn or fabric. Defeating enemies has them fall into a pile of unwoven threads and loose buttons. The team at Good Feel has managed the impossible — to make the cutest video game hero even cuter.

And that is where “Kirby’s Epic Yarn” is the most, well, epic.

KEY’s visuals and art direction are frankly enough reason to buy the game. This is the cutest game that I have ever played, and the whole game is one ‘aww isn’t this so cute’ moment after another. The game design is perfect and the ways that levels and backgrounds are constructed from yarn are breathtaking. While everybody will have their favorite, both the music level (where Kirby actually turns into a music note and you have to guide him through a staff) and a level built entirely out of desserts are among the most memorable and best examples of the creativity that went into the graphical style and level designs.

Stunning style and changes to Kirby’s formula aside, KEY still has two glaring issues that the game was never really able to settle for me.

First, there is no other way to say it, but KEY is easy. It is way too easy. The game replaces death with a bead system. If you get hit you lose the beads you have collected, a la Sonic and his rings. But if you do not get hit with beads, you won’t die. If you fall down a pit, you lose rings and a little angel moves you back to solid land. And while the game does reward you with different medal rankings depending on how many beads you are able to collect, almost none of the levels require a second try if you have been playing games as long as Kirby has been around.

This lack of difficulty only manages to take away from the overall game, as beautiful levels aren’t going to be that memorable if they aren’t at least somewhat difficult. Throughout most of the game I felt myself almost not thinking about playing, which is a nod to the relaxing charm of the game, but an indication of its inability to challenge players. Though I did play through the game in co-op, the challenge I hoped still wasn’t there.

The game also falls slightly on the short side, and while it does include three “hidden” items in each level to go back and find, just as with the gold rankings on levels, almost all of the items are fairly accessible and most are right in plain sight.

The extra modes in the game include giving Kirby a house that he can decorate with the items you’ve found, a slight nod to “Animal Crossing,” but just feels like a distraction to the overall game.

And while the level design worked flawlessly, the actual gameplay elements and usage of yarn were under-utilized. Kirby can move between different layers of the fabric and can unzip zippers and thread string to move platforms, but none of these are used to any great extent or taken as far as they could have been. The same creativity and outside-the-box thinking that was used in the graphic style should have been applied to the level designs and actual gameplay challenges.

And while KEY may rest on its beautifully decorated laurels, and managed to get a lot of things right, it still took some risks in terms of changing key components to the tried and true Kirby formula. Some of them, like the artistic style, were amazingly successful, but others, such as the gimping of transformations to certain sections and the low bar for difficulty, left the game a few inches short of what it could have been.

Regardless, it was great to see Kirby back, and if you can get past the difficulty of the game and enjoy it for what it is, KEY is still worth the time and money. The game is fun and perfectly nails and creates a style that is unlike any game before it. It just falls a little below the high bar that I have set for Kirby.

Clark is a member of the class of 2012.

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