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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

‘Riverbond’ Review: Colorful Hack’n’Slash Chaos

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Sometimes a little bit of mindless smashing is just what people play video games for, and if some light sword-swinging, spear-stabbing, laser-shooting giant hand-slapping action that crumbles a destructible world into tiny blocks sounds like a pleasant way to spend a few hours, then Riverbond might just satisfy that urge. Though its short campaign can get a little repetitive by the end, colorful voxel levels and quirky characters generally make this rampaging romp a button-mashing good time, especially if you bring along a few friends.

Riverbond grass

There really isn’t much of a story here outside something about some mystical leaders being imprisoned by a knight, and Riverbond lets players choose from its eight levels in Mega Man fashion, so don’t go in expecting some sort of narrative thread. Instead, each land has its own mini-situation going on, whether that involves eradicating some hostile pig warriors or reading library books or freeing numerous rabbit villagers scattered about, the narrative motivation is pretty light here. That doesn’t mean that these stages don’t each have their various charms, however, as several punnily named NPCs will blurt out humorous bits of dialogue that work well as breezy pit stops between all the cubic carnage.

Developer Cococucumber has also wisely created plenty of visual variety for their fantastical world, as players will find their polygonal hero traversing the lush greenery of grassy plains, the wooden piers of a ship’s dockyard, the surrounding battlements of a medieval castle, and the craggy outcroppings of a snowy mountain, among other locations, each with a distinct theme. Many of the trees or bridges or crates or whatever else happens to be lying around are completely destructible, able to be razed to the ground with enough brute force. Occasionally the physics involved in these crumbling structures helps gain access to jewels or other loot, but this mechanic mostly just their for the visual appeal one gets from cascading blocks; Riverbond isn’t exactly deep in its design.

Riverbond boss

That shallowness also applies to the basic gameplay, which pretty much involves hacking or shooting enemies and environments to pieces, activating whatever task happens to be the main goal for each sub-stage, then moving on or scouring around a bit for treasure before finally arriving at a boss. Though there are plenty of different weapons to find, they generally fall into only a few categories: small swinging implements that allow for quick slashes, large swinging implements that are slow but deal heavier damage, spears that offer quick jabs, or guns that…shoot stuff. There are some variations among these in speed, power, and possible side effects (a gun that fired electricity is somewhat weak, but sticks to opponents and gives off an extra, devastating burst), but once an agreeable weapon is found, there is little reason to give it up outside experimentation.

Still, there is a rhythmic pleasure to be found in games like this when they are done right, and Riverbond mostly comes through with tight controls, hummable tunes, and twisting levels that do a good job of mixing in some verticality to mask the repetitiveness. It’s easy for up to four players to get in on the dungeon-crawling-like pixelated slaughter, and the amount of blocks exploding onscreen can make for some fun and frenzied fireworks, especially when whomping on one of the game’s giant bosses. A plethora of skins for the hero are also discoverable, with at least one or two tucked away in locations both obvious and less so around each sub-stage. These goofy characters exist purely for aesthetic reasons, but those who prefer wiping out legions of enemies dressed as Shovel Knight or a sentient watermelon slice will be able to fulfill that fantasy.

Riverbond bears

By the end, the repetitive fights and quests can make Rivebond feel a little same-y, but the experience wraps up quickly without dragging things out. This may disappoint players looking for a more involved adventure, but those who sometimes find relaxation by going on autopilot — especially with some buddies on the couch — will appreciate how well the block-smashing basics are done here.

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Game Reviews

‘Earthnight’ Review: Hit the Dragon Running

Between its lush visuals and its constantly evolving gameplay, Earthnight never gets old, from the first dragon you slay to the hundredth.

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Earthnight

In Earthnight, you do one thing: run. There’s not much more to do in this roguelike auto-runner but to dash across the backs of massive dragons to reach their heads and strike them down. This may be an extremely simple gameplay loop, but Earthnight pulls it off with such elegance and style. Between its lush comic book visuals and its constantly evolving gameplay, it creates an experience that never gets old, from the first dragon you slay to the hundredth.

Dragons have descended from space and are wreaking havoc upon humanity. No one is powerful enough to take them down – except for the two-player characters, Sydney and Stanley, of course. As the chosen ones to save the human race, they must board a spaceship and drop from the heavens while slaying as many dragons on your way down as they can. For every defeated creature, they’ll be rewarded with water – an extremely precious resource in the wake of the dragon apocalypse. This resource can be exchanged for upgrades that make the next run that much better.

This simple story forms the basis for a similarly basic, yet engaging gameplay loop. Each time you dive from your spaceship, you’ll see an assortment of dragons to land on. Once you make a landing, you’ll dash across its back and avoid the obstacles it throws at you before reaching its head, where you’ll strike the final blow. Earthnight is procedurally generated, so every time you leap down from your home base, there’s a different set of dragons to face, making each run feel unique. There are often special rewards for hunting specific breeds of dragon, so it’s always exciting to see the new set of creatures before you and hunt for the one you need at any given moment.

Earthnight is an acrobatic, dragon-hunting ballet that only becomes more beautifully extravagant with every run.”

Earthnight

Landing on the dragons is only the first step to slaying them. Entire hordes of monsters live on their backs, and in true auto-runner fashion, they’ll rush at you with reckless abandon from the very start. During the game’s first few runs, the onrush of enemies can feel overwhelming. Massive crowds of them will burst forth at once, and it can feel impossible to survive their onslaughts. However, this is where Earthnight begins to truly shine. The more dragons you slay, the more upgrade items become available, which are either given as rewards for slaying specific dragons or can be purchased with the water you’ve gained in each run. Many of these feel essentially vital for progression – some allow you to kill certain enemies just by touching them, whereas others can grant you an additional jump, both of which are much appreciated in the utter chaos of obstacles found on each dragon.

Procedural generation can often result in bland or repetitive level design, but it’s this item progression system that keeps Earthnight from ever feeling dry. It creates a constant sense of improvement: with more items in your arsenal after each new defeated dragon, you’ll be able to descend even further in the next run. This makes every level that much more exciting: with more power under your belt, there are greater possibilities for defeating enemies, stacking up combos, or climbing high above the dragons. It becomes an acrobatic, dragon-hunting ballet that only becomes more beautifully extravagant with every run.

Earthnight

At its very best, Earthnight feels like a rhythm game. With the perfect upgrades for each level, it becomes only natural to bounce off of enemies’ heads and soar through the heavens with an almost musical flow. The vibrant chiptune soundtrack certainly helps with this. Packed full of driving beats and memorable melodies with a mixture of chiptune and modern instrumentation, the music makes it easy to charge forward through whatever each level will throw your way.

That is not to say that Earthnight never feels too chaotic for its own good – rather, there are some points where its flood of enemies and obstacles can feel too random or overwhelming, to the point where it can be hard to keep track of your character or feel as if it’s impossible to avoid enemies. Sometimes the game can’t even keep up with itself, with the performance beginning to chug once enemies crowd the screen too much, at least in the Switch version. However, this is the exception, rather than the rule, and for the most part, simply making good use of its upgrades and reacting quickly to the challenges before you will serve you well in your dragon-slaying quest.

Earthnight

Earthnight is a race that’s worth running time and time again.”

It certainly helps that Earthnight is a visual treat as well. It adopts a striking comic book style, in which nearly every frame of animation is lovingly hand-drawn and loaded with detail. Sometimes these details feel a bit excessive – some characters are almost grotesquely detailed, with the faces of the bobble-headed protagonists sometimes seeming too elaborate for comfort. However, in general, it’s a gorgeous game, with its luscious backdrops of deep space and high sky, along with creative monsters and dragon designs that only get more outlandish and spectacular the farther down you soar.

Earthnight is a competent auto-runner that might not revolutionize its genre, but it makes up for this simplicity by elegantly executing its core gameplay loop so that it constantly changes yet remains endlessly addictive. Its excellent visual and audio presentation helps to make it all the more engrossing, while it strikes the perfect balance between randomized level design and permanent progression thanks to its items and upgrades system. At times it may get too chaotic for its own good, but all told, Earthnight is a race that’s worth running time and time again.

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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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