Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn is the same mixture of platforming joy and aesthetic charm, with a few extra features knitted into its already great fabric.
Platformers have had no shortage of great releases over the past few years. While Super Mario Odyssey comes to mind as the most obvious example, indie titles like Celeste have also made a significant impact, striking out a path for the genre as it heads into 2019. With so many strong additions to an already timeless genre, it's surprising to discover that the Nintendo 3DS now houses another despite concerns over that devices impending obsolescence.
Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn is a port of the Wii and Wii U title of the mostly same name. Back in 2010, Kirby's Epic Yarn shook up the series by removing the hero's most iconic ability, inhaling enemies to gain their powers, and replacing it with having him be completely composed of yarn. It's an odd decision, and it was a risky one, but the game was well-received and all of the qualities that made the original great are present again in Extra Epic Yarn. The differences, though, craft this port into the best iteration of the game and a must-own for fans of Nintendo's hungriest superstar.
Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn might be the second spin for this particular design choice, but playing as Kirby without the ability to consume his foes is still a strange sensation. The game trades some of the more traditional Kirby puzzle-solving for a more unorthodox approach, asking Kirby to turn his body into a long piece of string or to manipulate his environment by tugging on loose threads. Instead of just absorbing enemies, Kirby needs to extend a piece of his body and lasso them to beat them, using their material to create a ball of yarn to further attack enemies or progress through obstacles.
Kirby can also morph his body into other forms, including an airplane, a jeep, a UFO, and more. Each of these transformations alters the way the game plays. It's only for brief sections at a time, but it shakes things up enough, and most levels feel distinct from each other as a result. While Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn remains a sidescroller first, it's as malleable as the protagonist's body when it wants to be, suddenly shifting into a shooter or a rail racer.
Extra Epic Yarn doesn't completely do away with what fans have come to expect from Kirby, either. He can still transform by using his yarn whip to grab specific items in a stage, which will then give him an array of different abilities to help him move through levels. The port also adds a few abilities that weren't present in the original game, letting players drop bombs on enemies or harness the power of a tornado to spin through levels. These new abilities are notable both because they are so much fun and because the game doesn't necessarily change much to accommodate them. The tornado power in particular felt quite abusable during play, making some boss fights much easier. That's not a bad thing, as it represents a nice option for those who just enjoy a relaxing stay in Kirby titles, but it's not hard to pick out which powers are the new ones, since they're a little more refined.
Extra Epic Yarn also adds two new minigames that star the popular King Dedede and Meta Knight. Dedede Gogogo asks players to dash through a given environment as fast as they can, whereas Meta Knight Slash & Bead tasks them with cutting through a swath of enemies to collect as many beads as fast as possible instead. Both of them have four stages exactly, and both of them are easy to complete within five or ten minutes. They're not massive upgrades, but they're fun and they're a nice way to take a breather in between stages, so they're a welcome addition that will give players incentive to spend just a little more time with the game.
The biggest change Extra Epic Yarn makes in its 3DS version is the implementation of Devilish mode. It's the game's version of a hard mode, although in a very Kirby way: a small devil will follow Kirby and continuously try to attack him as he progresses through each stage. Players can swat him away, but he keeps coming back, and too many strikes from the devil can unravel Kirby and cause a game over that forces him to start the stage over. For a game that is pretty easy, though, Devilish mode gives players a reason to come back for a second playthrough, and presents some unique challenges in the later stages, where timing becomes important and some disruption from the devil can begin a chain of misfortune that results in a restart.
Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn is by far the best version of a game that first debuted nearly ten years ago. The aesthetic has managed to hold up thanks to its charm, while the gameplay has been improved with additional transformations and a new difficulty mode. The minigames feel like fluff and don't really add much to the title overall, but it's additional content that feels a lot like a mobile game someone might play during some brief downtime at work or during travel. While the 3DS might not be the portable device of Nintendo's future, it's still churning out relevant games, and Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn is well worth a look from fans who might've missed it or those looking for a more challenging version thanks to Devilish mode.
Kirby's Extra Epic Yarn is available now on Nintendo 3DS. Screen Rant was provided with a 3DS digital code for the purposes of this review.