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‘Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn’ Review: Not Quite an Interesting Yarn

Despite its good traits, ‘Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn’ feels like it’s a few years too late.

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From a handful of excellent core entries, like Kirby and the Amazing Mirror on the Gameboy Advance, to recent releases like Kirby Star Allies on Switch, there has never been a shortage of new Kirby adventures for Nintendo fans. Enter Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn, a port of 2010’s Wii title, here to add yet another dose of adorable Kirby goodness to Nintendo’s sunsetting 3DS.

The original Epic Yarn impressed critics with an innovative art style and loads of charm. The question remains, though: after nine years, does Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn hold up as well as it did in 2010? Or has the yarn grown musty after nearly a decade in hiatus?

A Worn Aesthetic, but a Good Port

Nine years and two craft-inspired Nintendo titles later, the creativity displayed in Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn feels limited; after seeing the yarn aesthetic taken to its natural limit in Yoshi’s Woolly World, Good-Feel’s original decision to craft Kirby — as well as most of Extra Epic Yarn’s allies, villains, and environments — out of hollowed-out yarn now feels a bit too conservative. When compared to its contemporaries, the textures in Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn feel a bit flat, failing to stand out in a world of HD. While it Extra Epic Yarn does a faithful job simulating yarn on a felt background, what was breathtaking in 2010 feels tried, true, and done-better by now.

This is only exacerbated by the title’s lack of stereoscopic 3D. While the lack of that feature is expected, given Nintendo penchant for axing it in recent first party titles, this is one of the few 3DS titles where its inclusion would have been advantageous. On a small screen with a low resolution, stereoscopic 3D would have helped Kirby not to blend in with the game’s flat backgrounds. In spite of this omission, however, Extra Epic Yarn remains one of the more graphically-impressive 3DS titles out there.

Part of that success lies in how the game has been ported. By now, Nintendo has obviously streamlined the process of porting from the Wii to the 3DS, and Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn shows the results of years of optimization. I can’t vouch for how well the game runs on the original model of 3DS (I played it on a New Nintendo 2DS XL), but on newer models, Extra Epic Yarn maintains its 30 fps target, and hides it well. Given that the original model of 3DS came out only a year after the original Epic Yarn, it’s a noteworthy technical achievement for Nintendo. 

The only apparent technical downside to the port is its lack of a 60 fps mode for New 2DS and New 3DS owners. It seems that time limits, low budget, or an unwillingness to further alienate original 3DS and 2DS owners could have been the limiting factors behind its omission. While the fps difference isn’t the biggest of issues in a series known for its slower gameplay, the omission is puzzling nonetheless. 

What Makes This Yarn ‘Extra’ Epic?

Far from a being a simple port, Extra Epic Yarn adds to and subtracts from features present in the original game. While a few of these are pretty straightforward, such as the subtraction of co-op mode and the introduction of amiibo compatibility, others bear special mention.

Devilish Mode, for example, is a fun addition that serves well to address the original Epic Yarn’s biggest complaint: its lackluster difficulty. It doesn’t suddenly make the game hair-tearingly difficult, but it does add some fun challenge to an otherwise easy game. Similarly, a couple of mini-games starring series favorites King Dedede and Meta Knight help to break up the main campaign’s monotony. They’re not game-changers, by any means, but they’re a lot of fun in short bursts and — ironically enough — oftentimes more challenging than the main game.

Perhaps the most controversial addition to the game are Kirby’s new hats, or Ravel Abilities. In an attempt to compensate for the main game’s startling lack of power-up variety, Ravel Abilities swing the game even further in the other direction, making one of the slower aspects — eliminating enemies and bosses — even easier than ever before. It’s unfortunate that the Ravel Abilities weren’t balanced better with Epic Yarn‘s existing core gameplay, but they make for a fun addition nonetheless.

Slippery Controls, but a Good Heart

Another new feature (though not a good one) that Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn adds is a series rarity: inaccurate movement. While the Kirby series has never been known for graceful, athletic platforming — or the maneuverability of say, Mario — Kirby has never felt more slow and hard to control than he does in Extra Epic Yarn.

The 3DS’ circle pad doesn’t help matters, making movements like sprinting (which requires a quick flick of the circle pad) feel mushy. With all the 3DS’ extra buttons — at least when compared to the original game’s control scheme — there’s really no reason why there couldn’t have been a run button. It could have easily alleviated the frustrating issue of whiffing jumps, one that crops up all the time when attempting to cross large gaps.

Kirby’s slow movement also causes problems with the game’s many moving platforms. More than a couple times I found that my whiffed jumps would make me miss a platform timer. While this doesn’t exactly make the game more challenging, it can serve as a point of frustration. Several times I missed a platform due to Kirby’s mechanics, then sailed leap-of-faith style into an enemy, obstacle, or hole, thereby losing the gems that I’d spent the entire stage collecting. It’s not exactly a fun experience.

Yet, despite these issues, Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn is at its warm, fuzzy core an enjoyable experience. It’s a slow burn that’s relaxing for children and adults alike, where rushing from one end of each level to the other is far from the most enjoyable way to experience it. To fully experience this game as the designers intended, you need to aim at getting the collectibles in each level, slowly take in the environment, and try to collect as many jewels as possible.

This last point is perhaps where Extra Epic Yarn becomes its most challenging. While it’s impossible to die in any level, you’ll lose most of your jewels if you get hit or fall into a pit. When paired with the aforementioned Devilish Mode, some sections can get downright tricky, as you try to avoid losing the hard-earned jewels that you’ve collected throughout the entire level. While attempting to collect as many jewels as possible doesn’t suddenly transform the game into Darker Side from Super Mario Odyssey, it does give a little bit more challenge to an otherwise super-easy game.

That difficulty might be Extra Epic Yarn‘s biggest criticism. Unlike other core Nintendo platformers, such as the Donkey Kong Country or Super Mario series, nearly all of the challenge in Extra Epic Yarn comes from either the controls or the player’s own desire to collect everything. The levels rarely get more challenging, making for an unsatisfactory sense of progression and stalled excitement as you reach the grand finale. While Nintendo is known for crafting accessible games, Extra Epic Yarn feels like it needed just a bit more platforming challenge to make it more palatable for experienced genre gamers and fans of Nintendo alike.

Conclusions

As one of the last major first party releases for the 3DS, Extra Epic Yarn does fine. However, it feels like a strange time, from Nintendo’s perspective, to release this port. Perhaps they are wanting to draw in younger audiences whose parents bought Kirby Star Allies on Switch, or perhaps they just had some extra development time, and wanted to attempt to squeeze one more bit of profit out of the aging 3DS. Whatever the reason, and despite its good traits, Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn feels like it’s a few years too late.

Although a gamer since before I can remember, there is not a better definition of me than these three words: Christian, moderate, and learner. I am steadfast in my Faith, my Beliefs, and in my Opinions, but I am always willing to hear the other side of the discussion. I love Nintendo, History, and the NBA. Currently a PhD Student at Liberty University.

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Game Reviews

‘Life is Strange 2’ Episode 5 Review – “Wolves”: A Worthy Send-off

The final episode of Life is Strange 2 may take a while to get going but it does offer a solid conclusion to the Diaz brothers’ journey.

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Life is Strange 2

Life is Strange 2 hasn’t made any bones about being a political game over the course of the last year. The 5th, and final episode, “Wolves”, doesn’t just continue with this message, it doubles down, and in a big way.

Set near the Arizona-Mexico border, “Wolves” follows the Diaz brothers on the final leg of their journey. Having escaped from the cult that held Daniel up as a messianic figure in the previous episode, Sean and Daniel are camping out in a sort of pop-up town filled with outsiders like themselves.

Life is Strange 2

The location provides Life is Strange 2 with its final breath of relaxation before the story enters its high tension endgame, and it’s a much needed reprieve. Unfortunately, it does seem to go on a bit longer than the player might like, and that makes things drag a smidge.

To give you some idea of how long you’ll be spending in the village, 4 of the 6 collectibles are found here. So, yes, this starting area is the main place you’ll be spending “Wolves” in. To be clear, the area isn’t bad per se. There’s a lot to see, a scavenger hunt to go on, and a few interesting characters to speak with, including a surprise cameo from the original game. The bummer of it all is that players will be feeling the time here more laboriously simply because there isn’t much of anything happening.

Life is Strange 2

In the 2nd or 3rd episode of this story it’s perfectly fine for an extended bit of down time. Episode 3, in particular, benefited greatly from allowing you to settle into the setting and get to know a diverse and likable new group of characters. However, by the 5th episode, players will be so eager to see how things are gonna settle up, they won’t be able to get out of this area fast enough.

On the upswing, once Sean and Daniel leave the village, the story moves at a pretty solid clip to the credits. As the key art and trailer for “Wolves” might suggest, the Diaz brothers do indeed challenge the border wall in the final leg of Life is Strange 2. Where things go from there, I won’t spoil, but rest assured that Daniel will absolutely go through the crisis as you’ve trained him to do.

By this I mean, you will see the final results of your choices throughout the game, and they’re pretty impressive. With 4 possible endings, and 3 possible variations on those endings, Life is Strange 2 can ultimately play out in a variety of ways. How yours plays out will, of course, depend on the choices you’ve made and how you’ve influenced your brother throughout your journey.

Either way, though, Life is Strange 2 closes off “Wolves” with an emotionally satisfying and generally fulfilling conclusion to your journey. It might be a necessary evil that the events can’t be intense the whole way through, being that this is not an action or combat-focused game, but the fact that things take so long to get going in the final episode is a bit of a problem.

Still, fans worried that Life is Strange 2 might fail to stick the landing can rest easy. “Wolves” might not be the best, or most satisfying, episode of the series but it does what it needs to do and it does it well, particularly in the back half.

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Game Reviews

‘Yaga’ Review: A Bittersweet Fairy Tale

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Yaga Game Review

Some games feel perfectly suited to their genres, as if they fulfill every ambition that their genre could promise. On paper, Yaga from the developer Breadcrumbs Interactive, should be one of those games. This roguelike RPG is meant to bring traditional Slavic folktales to life, and its procedurally generated structure allows the game to change in every playthrough, just like how the ancient fairy tales it’s based on can change in every telling. Yaga immediately shines on a conceptual level, but as a game, the most important question remains: will this fairy tale be enjoyable to play?

From start to finish, Yaga uses the rich source material of Eastern European history and folklore to create a vibrant, fantastical world. The entire game is framed as three elderly women telling the story of Ivan, a heroic blacksmith who has been stricken with the curse of bad luck. These women spin a fanciful yarn, one in which Ivan is constantly plagued by horrors from traditional fairy tales such as the hideous One-Eyed Likho, along with more realistic foes, such as a corrupt, overbearing Tsar. The game thrives on this balance between history and fantasy. Its world is filled with peasants who face daily, universal struggles with war and agriculture, while massive ogres and goblin-like Vodyanoys haunt the surrounding wilderness. This mixture creates a strong setting that finally gives Slavic history and mythology its long-overdue representation in games.

Yaga Game Review

“Take the presentation and story together, and Yaga becomes a playable portrait of the lives and superstitions of Eastern European peasants.”

The frame story always remains the same: Ivan will always have to serve his Tsar while avoiding bad luck in every playthrough. However, beyond these core details, the old women are extremely flexible storytellers, often switching events around or changing story beats entirely. In some playthroughs, you may discover a woman raising an enormous chicken; in others, you may instead encounter a band of thieves waiting to rob you. You will frequently face important decisions to make that will dramatically impact the outcome of your quest. yes, you can always break into monster hideouts with hammers blazing to slay every creature before you; but more often than not, you are also given the opportunity to peacefully talk your way out of these toxic situations. Even more dramatically, oftentimes the game will zoom out to the old women storytellers and allow you to choose how they tell the rest of Ivan’s story. Yaga is at its best when it doubles down on this player freedom. It makes every moment engaging and allows its stories to truly come alive.

Yaga

Yaga’s writing and presentation only serve to make this world even more striking. It features a distinctly dark sense of humor – for instance, a man may ask you to push a boulder into a well behind his house, but he will neglect to tell you that he has also thrown his wife into the bottom of that well ahead of time. Much of this dialogue is even written in rhyme, enhancing the otherworldly, fairy tale atmosphere. On top of that, nearly all dialogue is fully voice acted, with most voice actors delivering some eccentrically charming performances that make the game feel as if it’s a playable Disney film. The visuals look like they’re taken straight out of a Russian children’s book of fairy tales, while the music incorporates traditional instruments and language into an electronic, hip-hop fusion soundtrack that captures the cultural heritage that Yaga focuses on while connecting it to modern culture. Take the presentation and story together, and Yaga becomes a playable portrait of the lives and superstitions of Eastern European peasants.

However, this leads to the gameplay. Quests may be randomized each time you play, but nearly every one of them takes the same general format. One character will request help, and then Ivan will have to venture out into the world to fight some demons or recover an item. Worse yet, the levels are just as randomized in their procedurally generated design, and not in a particularly clever way, either: most of them likewise follow the same formula, being little more than arenas full of enemies connected by copy-and-paste environments. Many paths in each environment lead to nothing more than pointless dead ends. The combat has a satisfyingly simple basis, with basic moves like long- and close-range attacks, roll dodging, items to use, and a variety of different weapons to equip, although his trusty old hammer is generally the best choice. However, while this simplicity makes the combat enjoyable on its own, there is very little depth to it, and the inherently repetitive design of the mission only serves to highlight how paper-thin combat can be. Most battles involve little more than hacking away at enemies until they die, which becomes increasingly repetitive by the end of the roughly ten-hour campaign.

Yaga

At the very least, the robust customization system helps add a little intrigue to the combat. As a blacksmith, Ivan is naturally gifted with the ability to craft weapons for himself to use. By scavenging parts and items from fallen enemies and treasure chests around the world, Ivan is able to create the most powerful weapons. Crafting is simple to use yet extremely ripe for experimentation, requiring only one base item and a handful of accessories to create unique new items. With dozens of components to discover and use in your forging, there are plentiful opportunities to create the best possible weapons.

“All told, Yaga achieves a bittersweet ending: it’s bitter as a game but sweet as a fairy tale.”

The crafting system would be the standout aspect of the moment-to-moment gameplay if it weren’t foiled by another one of the game’s systems: Bad Luck. Ivan has been cursed with perpetual Bad Luck, which grows constantly throughout the game – whenever something good happens, Bad Luck is sure to increase. Whenever the Bad Luck meter fills all the way, Likho will appear and strike Ivan, generally breaking one of his weapons or stealing his money.

Yaga Game Review

On paper, this mechanic makes sense, since it prohibits the player from becoming too overpowered and also fits into the folklore style off the story. In practice, however, it is an infuriating limitation on player progression and invention. It effectively punishes players for putting thought and care into their weapon crafting and character-building – at any moment it can all be washed away in bad luck, so what’s the point? Considering how enjoyable the crafting and combat systems are, it’s a shame that Bad Luck seems to exist solely to diminish the very best parts of the gameplay, leaving the game feeling like it cripples itself.

Your enjoyment of Yaga depends heavily on what experience you want out of it. If you’re looking for a deep and satisfying RPG, then it likely won’t deliver. Although it features satisfying combat and customization systems, the frustrating randomization of its level design and Bad Luck system only serve to foil these good qualities. If you are instead looking for a faithful, fleshed-out image of Slavic cultural heritage, portraying both the harsh realities of peasant life along with its fanciful folklore, then Yaga is a clear triumph thanks to its emphasis on player choice, its excellent writing, and its beautiful hand-drawn visuals and inventive soundtrack. All told, Yaga achieves a bittersweet ending: it’s bitter as a game but sweet as a fairy tale.

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Game Reviews

‘Remothered: Tormented Fathers’ Review: I Want My Remummy

There’s merit to be had if you just want a quick bash at a quirky, indie horror game, but with so many flaws, I can’t recommend Remothered.

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Remothered: Tormented Fathers Review

It feels like a while since the ‘survival horror but you can’t fight back’ genre was at its peak, especially with the recent, tradition-tinged revival of the Resident Evil series, but back in 2017 when Remothered: Tormented Fathers was being developed for PC it was all the rage. Like any indie game that’s had even the slightest amount of interest or acclaim during the current generation, Remothered has received the now-obligatory Switch port. Although its modest technical requirements clearly made a successful transition to the platform more than manageable, they don’t help to hide the game’s very obvious shortcomings.

Players take control of Rosemary Reed in her attempts to investigate retired notary Dr. Richard Felton, who is currently undergoing treatment for a mysterious disease. Oh, and he has a missing daughter that he probably murdered. The plot of the game feels a little cliché, but it’s undoubtedly its strongest facet. However, suspending your disbelief at the ropy animations and dodgy voice-acting is needed to avoid being sucked into feeling like you’re watching Theresa May running around a big mansion trying to escape from a John Cleese impersonator with his arse hanging out. Alas, I clearly failed in this endeavor.

Remothered is essentially a game of ‘go there, fetch that, bring it here, use it’ with an added element of ‘don’t let the annoying old man kill you in the face with a sickle’. Yeah, one of those ones. The story takes place almost entirely within Felton’s huge mansion, and navigating the ol’ girl is by far the game’s toughest element. It’s made especially harder while you’re constantly on edge, trying to avoid the stalking lunatic without a map, weapons, or a proper objectives system. Be prepared for your bearings to be quite considerably lost.

There are a couple of ways to avoid that face full of sickle. There’s a dodge button (provided Rosemary isn’t too tired to actually dodge), a run button, distraction items, and defense items that will automatically be used to escape a grab attack if you have one equipped at the time. Remember those crappy bits in Resident Evil 4 where you had to play as Ashley? This is like that… for a whole game.

While a little tired in 2019, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the formula of the weapon-less survival horror game – it’s just that in Remothered, it’s not implemented all that well. Enemy AI routing is weird, which should be grounds for an unpredictable fright-fest, but leans more toward the annoying and/or hilarious. It seemed like the stalkers would either sit directly outside the room I needed to enter – barely moving and refusing to be distracted for longer than a few seconds before returning immediately to their original spot right on my current objective – or simply bugger off to another floor and never come back.

Even with his penchant to completely vacate the area, and despite his advancing years, Dr. Felton possesses supersonic hearing. It seemingly doesn’t matter how far away you are – if you run in this game, he will hear you. To make matters worse, the sound design just doesn’t make sense. With every press of the run button, enemy dialogue would instantly change to indicate they’d heard you and then loud footsteps would permeate every room you enter as if they were right behind you, when they most certainly are not.

It’s either a cheap scare tactic to give the impression of enemies constantly being within touching distance, or the fallout from a combination of naff sound design and the limitations of my Switch’s Pro Controller not having a headphone port. What makes it worse is that everything is so campy that it’s seldom scary in any tangible way. When the man trying to murder you is constantly shouting about how he hasn’t got anything to eat that isn’t moldy while you hide in his cupboard, it’s not exactly bone-chilling.

As a result of the big-eared murderers and their impeccable radar tuned to the sounds of running, I spent almost the entirety of the game… well, not running. Unfortunately, Rosemary walks slower than an asthmatic ant with heavy shopping, and this made exploring the mansion a monotonous chore – especially when getting caught and subsequently having to run up and down floors to hide before slowly sneaking back to restart the investigation.

Puzzles are that old school type of obtuse where you’re tasked with finding everyday items to fix problems. The puzzle itself lies in realizing the item the developer decided should work, finding it in the giant four-floor mansion, and slowly returning to the its intended area of use without dying. For example, in order to get into an attic, you have to search rooms at random to find an umbrella to pull down the door’s previously-out-of-reach cord. It’s such a shame that Remothered eschews any type of self-contained puzzle for a string of confusing fetch quests, as everything feels more tedious than taxing.

It feels a little unfair to bemoan the lack of polish for a two-year-old indie game, but Remothered is full of niggling issues. Animations are janky, lip-syncing is non-existent, and the camera wigs out after the QTEs to fight off enemies have finished – always pointing you in the wrong direction. I also encountered a couple of game-breaking bugs where Rosemary did her door-opening animation without the door actually opening, and I couldn’t enter the room without rebooting the game. Lastly, and I don’t want to be too harsh to an Italian developer, but the in-game English is pretty abysmal, and lots of the game’s expositional notes and articles border on illegible through their poor translations.

There are some people out there who can’t get enough of the whole hiding under sofas schtick, but I like my survival horror games with better psychological tension, a (limited) means to fight back, and coherent puzzle-solving. There’s merit to be had in the game’s labyrinthine setting and short length if you just want a quick bash at a quirky, campy indie horror game in the Haunting Grounds model, but with so many flaws and such a frustrating gameplay loop, I can’t recommend Remothered: Tormented Fathers outside of anything other than morbid curiosity.

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