I couldn't stop thinking about it.
From the second I picked up the Wii Remote and turned it sideways to start playing through the Flower Fields level of Kirby's Epic Yarn, there was something familiar about the look of the game.
Mr. Rogers? I asked tentatively of the Nintendo rep working his way through the game with me as Prince Fluff. No, that wasn't it.
But there was something familiar about the game's very distinctive style. In Epic Yarn's Kirby, Kirby and his entire world have been stuffed into a sock by an angry wizard, turning everyone and everything into bits of felt, fabric, yarn and buttons.
Kirby, now a loose collection of pink yarn, can slightly unwind himself to snap yarn at enemies or grab hold of objects. He can also transform himself, temporarily reshaping into a yarn parachute to extend his jumps.
The world Kirby and Fluff play through is stitched and needle-worked across a backdrop of felt. The effect is amazing, the game looks more like something created with real world objects and stop animation, than computer graphics.
The clever way developers Good-Feel and HAL Laboratory make use of this setting and aesthetic goes far to make this one of the most visually pleasing games I've seen this year. Kirby unbuttons and unzips doors to slip behind the felt backdrop and slide along parts of the level, his location marked by a lump in the felt.
Kirby and Prince Fluff can also transform for large chunks of the level. In earlier builds of the games we saw levels where they turned into giant yarn tanks, cars and submarines.
In the Flower Fields level we came to a point where both of the characters were turned into yarn flying saucers. The creations hovered through the level sucking up yarn bricks and converting them into power, power which could be used to shoot out of electricity, tiny, twisting bits of yellow yarn that cleared a screen of enemies.
Near the end of the level we played, the two yarn UFOs crossed two pieces of yarn stretched from the top of the level to the bottom. As they crossed the pulled the UFOs apart, unwinding both Fluff and Kirby into straight bits of yarn for a moment before spitting them out on the other side as the familiar yarn characters.
While Kirby's Epic Yarn may feel a bit simple to play, there were very little spots in the level I played through where I was worried about losing, the visual discovery of the game's journey is well worth the time spent playing it.
As we wrapped up the level the reason for the game's aesthetic familiarity suddenly hit me.
Blues Clues! I blurted pointing to the felt background. While the game certainly isn't intended for the pre-school set, it bears a striking resemblance to the felt world of Nick Jr.'s Felt Friends, found in the once popular Blue's Clues.
It says quite a lot about a video game that can capture so closely the feel of real felt stop animation with computer graphics.