I’m a fan of the Kirby franchise. I didn’t play the games “back in the day,” but rather, started playing them in college with the help of Funcoland‘s NES game section (in 2001, that was a total score). The simple platform action, coupled with the powerup-sucking mechanic did not suck. Years later, even DS releases such as Kirby Super Star Ultra and Kirby Squeak Squad held my attention and did moderately well with critics.

Kirby’s Epic Yarn is…well…different.

Initially intended to be a game for the character of Prince Fluff, Nintendo suggested (with the help of the Yakuza, I’m hoping) that developer Good-Feel make the game into a Kirby game. And when faced with the Yakuza, who ever declines?

Kirby’s Epic Yarn is not a bad game at all – it’s very well done. But despite the major game press giving it a resounding average of 90%, one can’t help but feel like Kirby’s Epic Yarn is lacking something.

Critics love this game. It’s fuzzy, pastel and Nintendo-plush. It’s a major Nintendo franchise character in an adventure game. It’s been received in the way that Paper Mario was received into the Super Mario Bros. franchise…kind of as the guilty geek pleasure that a room full of guys won’t admit to playing, but they’ve all got a copy they play late at night when alone.

The storyline sees Kirby being sucked into Patch Land by an evil wizard named Yin-Yarn, who dons an Asian name, a Mexican serape, an athletic sock necklace, and a witch’s hat. Obviously, this fashion-frazzled wizard needs an ass-kicking. Oh, and Patch Land is also being literally ripped apart at the seams, and you’ve got to collect some magic yarn crap that’ll re-stitch the universe back together. As Kirby lands in Patch Land, he sees Prince Fluff, and decides to join forces with him to defeat Yin-Yarn (and Kirby’s former nemeses King Dedede and Meta Knight, who were thrown sloppily into the story to keep the Kirby thing going). Blah, blah, blah, save the universe.

Anyway – my problem with Kirby’s Epic Yarn is two-fold:

1) You can’t die.

2) The game is “too easy” for typical fans of the franchise, but too hard for the typical audience of a no-death game.

I’m all for enjoying the “art” of a game. I think Kirby’s Epic Yarn is beautifully done, and when I play it, I suspend all of my macho-man sensibilities and thoroughly appreciate the detail that went into each little, pink, digital stitch on the screen. But I think it’s made odd by forcing Kirby into it as the main character. Originally, Good-Feel intended for this game to be about Prince Fluff – and I think had they simply used Fluff as the main character, I’d have less of a problem with the game. In Prince Fluff’s universe, anything can be passed off as normal, since we hadn’t ever seen him before. A deathless game, a yarn-whip attack, all normal in Fluff’s universe. But as a Kirby franchise fan, you’re used to inhaling enemies and taking their power…and dying if you get hit, fall down a pit, etc.

That’s right, there’s no inhaling enemies in this game. None. Not once. Kirby’s main attack is the yarn-whip. You whip an enemy up into a little ball of yarn and throw him at an object or another enemy. The enemy explodes into a cute yarn-splosion. It’s not the Kirby you love.

Oh, and yes, you read correctly – you can’t die. CAN’T. If you let an enemy run into you, you’ll just bounce off of them. Or if an enemy shoots at you, you shake it off like it’s nothing. Why have enemies shoot at you if you can’t die? I mean, sure, you can plunge into a pit, but some little yarn angel just pulls you out, taking a small fee of your collected jewels with her.

Which reminds me, while I’m on the topic – if I’m trying to collect magic yarn to stitch the universe back together, why in god’s name am I collecting jewels? Is there no other creative thing you could have me collect, for example, thimbles. I don’t know. This is why I don’t make games.