Friday, June 10, 2011

(Not a) Crafty Book Review

Ok, so this doesn't exactly fit with Freeze-dried's summer book club, but considering it's media and I hated the book I selected for this week's reading, I'm going to go ahead and review the videogame Kirby's Epic Yarn.

The book:  I tried reading Yarn by Jon Armstrong for this week, with emphasis on tried.  I couldn't finish it.  I think I've put down without finishing maybe four or five novels in my life.  It's got decent reviews on Amazon, and apparently got good reviews in Publisher's Weekly, the LA Times, and Locus, and was nominated for a Phillip K Dick Award, but I hated it almost as soon as I opened it.

Why?  It's supposedly fashionpunk, a twist on dystopic cyberpunk, and the story focuses on a master tailor who worked his way up through crime and intrigue from the neo-feudal corn based wastelands of America's heartlands to the global center of fashion.  I was pretty intrigued by the concept, since I love me some dystopic fiction and sewing, but I was very disappointed.  I've read my share of cyberpunk, and this was basically cyberpunk with programming replaced with sewing: the author seems to have a pretty good understanding of fashion and sewing terms, but threw them in in a way that, even as someone who knows the terms and is used to encountering a lot of jargon in genre fiction, I found off putting.  The writing, both dialogue and descriptive, was otherwise terribly stilted, with overly long, complex sentences put together with the same repetitive and boring adjectives.  And don't get me started on the gender politics: the only women I saw in about 150 pages were literally sex objects presented for the male gaze.

So that's how we get a review of a videogame rather than a book.  J and I picked up Kirby's Epic Yarn for the Wii on super-discount sale, so I'm not sure if I would love it as much if we'd paid full price (50USD), but for 20USD, I love it.  I tend to play a lot of games, but I would identify as neither a gamer nor the new-to-the gaming industry "female casual gamer" demographic.  Shooting zombies or matching jewels? No thank you.  Turning into a yarn robot who unravels sweater snowmen? Yes please.

I've never played anything in the Kirby franchise before, but the game doesn't require it to be enjoyable.  It's a platformer side scrolling game with about as much storyline as any Mario game (which is about maximum amount of story I want in my game, frankly).  There's no princess to save, and it's cooperative two player rather than competitive.  The aesthetics are awesome for someone who loves sewing/knitting/crafting, because the designers obviously put a lot of thought and care into tying both the game design and the game mechanics together aesthetically.  The image above doesn't really do the design justice: the fabric detail of the backgrounds and worlds are really detailed and beautiful, and the fabric design has a lot to do with the interactivity of the game play.  The point of the game is to collect points and objects to unlock more game, but a lot of the levels have such fun mechanics (ie, swimming as a dolphin, bouncing, etc) that they're very replayable.

The other thing I like about it is that it's challenging and varied but not difficult or demanding.  That is, there's enough puzzle solving to hold your attention, but it doesn't require you to try a level over and over to succeed or to memorize a bunch of nonsense key combinations to beat the bad guys.  I find overly dense interface to be a real barrier to my enjoyment of a game, so if I can't understand it without a long tutorial or memorizing a bunch of junk, I just don't play anymore.  Kirby has a good combination of being pretty, fun, and easy to play in short bursts while having more goal and variety than something like Bedazzled or Farmville.



    Jesus that's adorable. Have you ever played Cut the Rope? Doesn't sound interesting, but seems to have some of the same elements as this.

  2. That's just too adorable!
    Thanks for the book review, sounds most intriguing despite your negative impression. Sometimes extreme sexism can be amusing, sometimes obviously offensive. In pre 1980's literature I'm forgiving of sexism as I think it's not right to judge a bygone era by modern day standards. Who knows how we will be judged by future generations?
    And I've the dubious distinction of finishing every book I've ever started, even the ones I've hated straight away. I think I have some sort of deluded sense of optimism that it will get better, despite evidence to the contrary (ie. 95% the way through, and still crap)
    Thanks for your nice comment about my cardigan!