From the mind of the man who brought us Super Smash Bros, Masahiro Sakurai introduced Kirby in 1992 in Kirby's Dream Land for the Gameboy. Since then, we have received numerous Kirby games and they are often accompanied by some fantastic art styles. Never really deviating, save from some spin-offs including a racing game for the Gamecube and a pretty nifty Gameboy Color game that utilized tilt controls, Kirby has both challenged and charmed players with its solid gameplay and its unique mechanic of swallowing just about anything, and in some cases borrowing abilities of its last meal. The team at HAL Laboratories have been trying new and creative ways to reinvent and innovate the Pink Omnivore. Despite being almost painfully simplistic, Kirby's Epic Yarn wowed both critics and fans for having not only an inventive art style, but also that much of the core gameplay was built off of that concept. Kirby: Canvas Curse was the first Kirby title for the Nintendo DS, and utilized the touch pad, whereby players would essentially draw lines as paths for Kirby to follow. This idea stuck with Nintendo and HAL Laboratories, and 10 years later, they've continued that gameplay style with their follow-up title, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse.
Kirby and Waddle Dee are wandering around Dream Land when a mysterious hole opens from the sky, draining Dream Land of all its colours. Kirby is then saved by a magical paintbrush fairy named Elline, who assists Kirby on its journey to bring colour back to Dream Land.
Kirby moves along the path of a line drawn by the player using the Wii U gamepad. Lines not only act as paths to traverse, but are also used to interact with the sprawling levels. In some cases, they can reveal new parts of the level while in other cases they can stop part of an environment like a waterfall in order for Kirby to proceed. As a whole, the controls are very simplistic in nature; however the interaction with the levels themselves provides the true challenge behind Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. You have a meter for you rainbow lines, and should you run low, you will be unable to draw any further until it recharges. This becomes especially tricky in certain levels where there are no ground segments "“ forcing you to manage your resource. This may result in a lot of trial and error, which might turn some off the game, however fans of the platforming genre should already be accustomed to retrying a level they aren't fully satisfied in. Levels and map themes are all extremely colourful, unique, and creative in their own way. Despite the gameplay not being too original, there was never a point where I felt I was treading familiar territory with any one of the levels. Before transitioning to the next level, there is an end boss that will test the skills you've acquired thus far. There are twenty-eight levels for the main story. You also have the option of entering challenge mode to test your mastery with the game's mechanics with over forty levels.
Aside from getting to the inevitable point B in each map, there are loads of collectibles. Stars are peppered throughout the levels, and once you get 100 you are given an ability to grow and perform a super dash that can clear just about every enemy. Treasure chests are scattered throughout each level and can reward players with various things like new music, or figures that resemble Amiibos. Completionists will definitely need to replay levels a couple of times to get everything. It can be very addicting and slightly rewarding to view your clay-modeled trophy collection on display.
Should you feel lonely on your journey, up to three additional players can hop on for some couch co-op. Players using the Wii Mote can press + or "“ to drop in and out as Waddle Dee at any time. Their main focus is to assist by carrying Kirby around and attacking enemies. Seeing as couch co-op seems to be a dying breed, it's always worth nodding at Nintendo for making sure the bulk of their first party line-up supports playing with friends online and offline.
Speaking of Amiibos, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse of course comes with Amiibo support for the Kirby line of Amiibos. Kirby's Amiibo offers players unlimited star dash power, King Dedede gives players more HP and Meta Knight grants players an attack boost. You may only select one Amiibo usage per day. One could only hope a future patch could add some goofy or silly abilities with the other Nintendo Amiibos.
What is arguably the most appealing feature of Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is its unique art style. The game's character models, levels and assets are all made to look like polymer clay, and to make it feel even more authentic, framerates for animations are deliberately low to give off the impression that the game was entirely made in Claymation. This will probably be one of the very few circumstances where I'd praise a game for deliberately reducing the framerate to preserve an art style.
The game's actual performance is rock solid with no slowdown or stuttering. Kirby's animations, along with the enemies and the environments, all emulate an Aardman Animation style like Wallace and Gromit. And the effect is brilliant. The game legitimately looks as though it was made in stop-motion. Kirby's interactions with the environments all look and react as you would expect clay to react. Sadly, one drawback of the game's design choice in fully using the gamepad's touchscreen to navigate about the levels is the fact that you are paying more attention to the gamepad's screen than your actual TV. It is very tricky to navigate without constantly looking at the screen and the unfortunate result is that you are not paying attention to the great detail showcased on the larger screen. One hope is that a future update could be put in place where an optional control scheme can have you draw lines by moving the right stick "“ similar to what The Wonderful 101 offered.
The game is not only an ocular sensation, but an auditory one as well. The music is a selection of comfy, charming pieces from the redux of the timeless theme song, to the psychedelic space-like theme song of the main story mode. Best of all, you can listen to all 122 pieces of music in the Music Room section, where a clay-modeled Kirby rocks out with headphones. You can also select certain pieces as your favourites.
Overall, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a decent platformer with an unforgettable visual art style. The controls may be basic, but that in no way makes the game easy. It just means its learning curve is more forgiving. The real challenge lies behind the level design, and how well you can navigate each stage. With loads of levels to replay, plenty of additional challenges to take on, and the added bonus of couch-coop to extend the game's longevity, Kirby comes highly recommended for all types of players; those that want to show off the Wii U's uniqueness in library diversity, those who want to calm down after losing friendships in Smash Bros, and those who are just itching for a new platformer.
|Mesmerizing art style.|
|Simple controls coupled with challenging level design.|
|Loads of extra features.|
|Some may not enjoy trial and error.|
|Simple controls may turn some folks off.|
|Youâ€™ll pay more attention to the gamepad than the actual TV.|