|Dev: HAL Laboratory, Inc.|
|Release: September 19, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: N/A||Comic Mischief, Mild Cartoon Violence|
by Sean Engemann
If you're the type of person who can't get enough of playing with a little pink ball (whether you'd publicly admit that or not), try going crazy with ten Kirby's. Developer HAL Laboratory always brings a new twist with every edition involving the hero of Dream Land, and Kirby Mass Attack multiplies the action tenfold. It makes for a frantic platforming experience with a satisfying array of stages, building to an epic showdown. There's certainly plenty to do, and plenty more to collect and unlock, which should easily justify spending your allowance. However, the game is tarnished with some frustrating elements, such as outdated visuals and controls that redefine the phrase, "easy to learn, hard to master." The gameplay is a mixed bag of pros and cons, but once you unlock the minigames, you'll find a whole new reason to play.
The story starts out with poor Kirby minding his own business, taking a nap atop a hill, when the sky suddenly becomes ominously cloudy. Out of the darkness appears a foul undead creature called Necrodeus, who zaps Kirby with a bolt from his magical staff, splitting the pink puff into ten copies. With his power also torn, the Kirby's are easily picked off one by one, until a single tenth is left. With the power of his heroic heart (shaped like a star), the lone Kirby fragment must collect fruit in order to beckon back pieces of himself. Building his ten-man team, he must pummel his way through four different worlds infested with Necrodeus' minions, the Skull Gang, then battle the nefarious nightmare himself.
Four worlds to conquer may sound a little sparse, but each world includes ten levels plus a final boss level, and the stages themselves are quite lengthy. However, the extended stages come with some drawbacks. First is the fact that there are no checkpoints, so should your last little Kirby bite the dust during a mid-boss battle, you have to start right back at the beginning. There are shortcut doors halfway through each level, which allow you to warp to the end if you've previously cleared the board. These are designed for when you return to search for the hidden coins, which will unlock minigames and other features. The problem is that if you're looking for a coin hidden in the latter half of the level, the shortcut doors are rendered superfluous. Also, the worlds offer some flexibility in choosing what order you tackle each stage, provided you have the prerequisite amount of Kirby's. This also comes with a disjointed choice, since you are not required to complete every board in order to move on to the boss stage, and in turn travel to the next world, but when you're ready to take on Necrodeus, you must have obtained the rainbow coin from every stage to do so. Yet despite these incongruences, each level is packed with its own flair, with several path options and some simple puzzles to mix things up.
Moving the pink protagonist around is as simple as you'd expect, with all the controls handled via the touchscreen. Walking, running, jumping, and pummeling are accomplished with quick flicks and cramp inducing tapping. For the most part, the Kirby's follow your stylus like a horse with a carrot dangling in front of it, but things get a little trickier the more Kirby's you have. Since they can't squeeze together in a single space, you must keep an eye on any strays that may get caught at the bottom of a cliff side. Also, keeping them all out of harm's way is an arduous task, and sometimes you're simply not quick enough to stop one from getting squashed or evading an oncoming projectile. This is exceedingly frustrating when trying obtain a medal for each board, which consists of a bronze for keeping every Kirby alive, a silver for avoiding any knockouts, and a gold for a flawless run. Considering the lengthy boards and no handholding, going untouched through a level only to take a hit from a lowly Beanbon near the end will certainly cause you to damage the touchscreen with some belligerent stylus taps.
You'll find the endgame ultimately satisfying, but will probably forgo returning to best your score and earn gold medals. What you absolutely must do, however, is find all the coins required to unlock the minigames. Though small in quantity, nearly each game is given its own spotlight, feeling almost like a full game unto itself. You may even find yourself losing hours on a single one without giving the campaign mode a second thought. A few are designed as quick forays using the touchscreen, such as a Whac-A-Mole variant called Field Frenzy, a sprint race called Dash Course, or Curtain Call, where you have a short time to count the increasing amount of Kirby's onstage. After completing the game and collecting all the coins, you unlock Boss Rush, where you try to defeat each boss as quickly as possible without dying.
But then there's a trio of real gems. First is Brawl Ball, a pinball game with loads of secrets, separate boss stages, and an addictive nature that will give you a constant itch to play just one more round. Next is Strato Patrol EOS, which fans of Xevious and other on-rails shooters will find familiar. But chaining together ten Kirby's and watching the firepower rip through waves of enemies is infinitely satisfying. Finally, Kirby Quest fuses perfectly timed attacks into a mild RPG that manages to be robust enough, with several levels and boss battles, to make it a fun adventure.