You See Me Rollin’, You Clayin’
Kirby games are my not-so-guilty gaming pleasure. They’re adorable, entertaining, and generally range in difficulty level from cakewalk to pretty darn easy. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse brings back a special kind of Kirby gameplay last seen on the DS with Kirby: Canvas Curse . Instead of running around, swallowing enemies and stealing their powers, Kirby has turned into a ball who can only roll around and ride along rainbow ropes that you draw with a stylus on the GamePad’s screen. Canvas Curse , which debuted this mechanic, turned out to be one of the best and most challenging games in the series. Does Rainbow Curse live up to its legacy?
Before we even get to the nitty gritty of gameplay, I’ll need to lavish praise on the production values that make Kirby and the Rainbow Curse come alive. The game’s entire world is made of clay, from Kirby himself to the enemies he faces, stages he traverses, and even the rainbow ropes you draw. The graphics are not only vibrant, but perfectly reflect the kind of gooey, malleable sensibility that you’d expect of such a world. Animations and sound effects, such as Kirby splatting against a wall after being shot from a cannon, back up the aesthetic and make the game a real treat for the senses.
Rainbow Curse ‘s musical score deserves a mention, as well. Kirby music can be a bit too saccharine, but Rainbow Curse has turned that sweetness down a notch and provides some solid, jazzy pieces that are easy to enjoy. The only downside to this audiovisual excellence is that the main player has to use GamePad screen to control Kirby. The game looks nice enough on that screen, but is a bit washed out, and the sub-HD graphics don’t fully convey the sense of clay-ness that you’ll see on the TV.
Once you’ve taken a few moments to drink in the atmosphere, it’s time to roll Kirby out on his quest to, I don’t know, save the world and eat cake or whatever. Story is hardly an important part of these titles. It’s all about exploring the various levels and finding all the hidden collectibles.
In that regard, Rainbow Curse is excellent. Its levels are large and diverse, generally providing a new theme or mechanic to keep things fresh. The first world starts off easy, as you learn to control Kirby by tapping him to move and drawing rainbow ropes that he can ride in any direction. Kirby’s speed is easier to manage in this game than it was in Canvas Curse , making for less frustrating exploration. The rainbow ropes are multi-purpose this time around, too. Not only are they used to help Kirby travel, they can protect him from hazards and can even be used to solve environmental puzzles that don’t involve Kirby at all.
The difficulty ramps up a bit as soon as the second world, when you’ll need to be good at the game’s mechanics to avoid being squished by angry falling stone enemies. Gameplay overall is a nice combination of leisurely exploration and experimentation, with more challenging action sequences spicing things up. It’s unlikely to provide a serious challenge to experienced gamers, but at least you’ll probably die on occasion. Some recent Kirby games have been a bit too easy.
There are around 4-6 treasure boxes to find on each level, and it’s not easy to collect them all the first time through. They reward the player with clay models from the game and music pieces from the Kirby series’ history. I found this to be just the right amount of collection—enough to extend gameplay without being overwhelming. There’s also a gallery of challenges for the mini-game-minded player, and it’s completely optional as always.
While Kirby doesn’t copy enemy moves in this game, some stages let him transform into special forms like Tank Kirby or Kirby Submarine. These forms control fairly well, especially in comparison to the sometimes-awkward alternate form controls we’ve seen in past Kirby games. I particularly enjoyed the shooty fun of Tank Kirby, although I wish he rolled just a touch faster when I wasn’t actively tapping him to go faster (can’t really do that while tapping the screen to shoot down a huge swarm of enemies). In general, these alternate forms manage to add variety in the game without feeling like annoying roadblocks that must be overcome to get back to the core gameplay.
Up to three friends can join the GamePad player on Kirby’s quest, but my spouse and I found multiplayer to be a bit frustrating. Secondary players control Waddle Dees, who traverse the levels using traditional platforming controls. The problem is that the level design is balanced primarily around having fun with Kirby and his ropes. Sure, Waddle Dee can help out by killing enemies with a spear, but it’s easy for Kirby and the Waddle Dees to get in each others’ way. It’s too easy to accidentally pick up Kirby and throw him into a hazard (that was an accident, right dear?) or to get teleported around willy-nilly because the camera faithfully follows Kirby. Plus, Kirby gets to do all the fun stuff like making loop-de-loops to collect stars. It feels like the two ways of controlling characters just don’t mesh well, making Rainbow Curse a game that’s best enjoyed solo.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is charming, lovely to look at, and fun to play—at least by yourself. It’s nice to see Nintendo take advantage of the Wii U GamePad for something besides being a very expensive map display, even if that means the game’s TV display is somewhat redundant. Kirby fans will be delighted by this series entry, especially if they remember Canvas Curse with fondness. Other gamers should definitely give this one a try. It has that good ol’ Nintendo quality and sense of playfulness in spades.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 4.4 Graphics
It’s a delightful clay wonderland—if only you could see it in its full glory while playing. 3.9 Control
Great stylus controls, not as great control in multiplayer. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great, squish-tastic sound effects and enjoyable music. 4.0 Play Value
Good level variety and just the right amount of collectibles make this a great value mid-priced game. 4.0 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best