Kirby_Rainbow_Curse.jpgKirby is an anomaly in the video gaming universe.  

Interestingly, when Kirby was introduced nearly 25 years ago, he was never introduced with a gender. However, when Dream Land was translated and made it to the US, Kirby was given a male gender in the instruction manual (accidentally perhaps?) and the ensuing media (including the anime) seem to follow this lead. I just thought that the initial lack of gender was interesting (so that boys and girls alike could possibly relate) and wonder if Nintendo would ever have left him genderless had it not been for that instruction manual.

 

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is developed by HAL and published by Nintendo

Release date: February 20th, 2015

Rated: E for Everyone

Genre: Action-Adventure

Consoles: Nintendo Wii U

 

Anyway, Kirby the puffy ball of puff has returned for a new adventure on the Nintendo WiiU.  Kirby and the Rainbow Curse.  The mysterious Claycia has drained Dream Land of all its color, and Kirby and Waddle Dee (your multiplayer mode companion) travel to a land called Seventopia with a paintbrush-shaped fairy named Elline to try to get the color back.  The opening cinematic is fantastic.  Don’t skip it. It’s quite honestly one of the neatest cinematics I’ve ever seen in a video game, full of life and color.  Without saying a single word, it sucks you right into the game itself, and off you’ll go.

If you’re interested in watching it, take a look here.  It’s just so, so good.

 

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is the spiritual successor of sorts to Kirby: Canvas Curse for the Nintendo DS. The game employs similar line drawing mechanics.  There is absolutely no use out of the buttons and directional pads in-game. You’re not actually controlling Kirby at any point.  The rainbow lines you draw, and taps that you do on Kirby controls him.  Outside of that, he basically relies on his own momentum to get moving.  The controls in the game are very simple.  Essentially, you tap Kirby to do a spin attack, and that gets him moving.  You then have to draw rainbow lines to guide him along the paths or keep him from falling into chasms if his momentum is too great.  

 

Does it sound simple?  Unfortunately, it isn’t, and you’re probably going to need a few levels to get used to it if you never played Canvas Curse.  While your rainbow lines can draw through objects (for the most part – You can’t draw lines in certain areas of the playing field which will be obvious when you encounter them,) Kirby can’t travel through things, so be careful how and wear you’re drawing toward.  In addition, Kirby floats on your rainbow lines on one side of the “track” and can’t change sides, so watch for gaps or dead ends you draw him into.  The rainbow lines can also be used to your advantage in other ways than just navigation.  For example, if Kirby is stuck in a waterfall, you can draw a line above his head and can then guide him out.  In swimming levels, you can draw the lines to keep him from straying and floating too far. Lastly and the most basic – If Kirby starts rolling toward a cliff, you can create a virtual barrier with a rainbow and he’ll roll off it and the other way.  Just be aware that as long as Kirby has momentum, he’ll keep moving, so if he bounces off a wall and heads back toward the cliff again, think about other ways to either stop his momentum (a different shaped line perhaps) or embrace the inevitable and see if drawing him across the cliff goes anywhere.  There is one catch, however: There’s a Rainbow meter per the length you can make your line, and once you’ve exceeded it, you have to wait for the lines to fade and replenish the meter.  This is the entire bread and butter of the campaign. Unlike previous Kirby games, you aren’t armed with the ability to steal other characters’ abilities, and instead, you must use what you’ve been given to succeed.  Kirby DOES have other skills that he can use (like more powerful spins and turning into a rocket ship) but it’s not quite as freeform as it was in, say, Triple Deluxe.

 

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The campaign game takes place in ridiculously vibrant and cutely colored worlds.  The nature of the game isn’t just a linear adventure title like some Kirby games have been.  You’re pretty well all over the map here, going left, right, up and down.  I don’t even know how you could go about mapping your paths out in this game since you’re traveling in so many different directions. As with any Kirby game, leave no stone unturned. If something appears out of the ordinary, chances are it’s hiding something like life boosts or a bonus stage. At the end, you’re given a medal based on how many stars you collected throughout the stage, as well as opening any treasure chests you happened to come across.  Chests contain things like music unlocks, or statues. I’d recommend playing through the campaign once just to get used to everything, and then maybe going back and trying to get all the collectibles.  Each level is huge.  You’re definitely getting your money’s worth here, as some levels (not worlds – the levels within them) can take anywhere from 15-45 minutes to finish due to sheer size and difficulty of puzzle solving (and the enemies in them.) Similar to most Kirby games, the bosses aren’t particularly hard.  They’re hardly the storm if you consider the levels calm.  The levels themselves are the showpiece here, and I found them to be where the difficulty was most of the time.  The length of the campaign mode is a complete “Your mileage may vary” sort of thing. If you know and embrace the controls immediately, I can see you plodding through in 6-8 hours for the main campaign. However, for the rest of us, you’re closer to anywhere from 8-12 hours, and of course, much longer if you’re a completist.

 

As you progress, you’ll also begin to unlock challenges, which you can play in the appropriately named “Challenge Mode.”  Believe me when I say that this isn’t something you want to jump into right away.  In fact, I wouldn’t touch it unless you’ve beaten the campaign.  The challenges ARE that hard, but such an amazing job has been done on them that you never get that sense of frustration – Just the urge to succeed. While I was getting frustrated at times during the campaign, the Challenge Mode made me really respect the game’s mechanics.

 

By the way, those with Kirby, King Dedede or Meta Knight amiibos will get a bit of an in-game boost.  Kirby provides a speed boost, the King provides extra life (which will be helpful while you get used to the game mechanics, let me tell you) and Meta Knight adds extra power to your spin attack.

 

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Graphically, this is another winner for Nintendo.  The claymation-esque cinematics and gameplay make for the usual cute Kirby romp.  Graphically, this game is probably in my top 5 Nintendo Wii U favorites. The soundtrack too is great, as can be expected with a Kirby game.  There’s nothing catchy, but everything plays to the mood well, and keeps you engaged with the game throughout.

 

I hate to be critical about this sort of thing, but the game loses a lot in my mind because of the difficult control scheme. Kirby’s momentum means you’ll inevitably roll into enemies and lose a few lives doing it trying to draw a rainbow line and missing.  Due to this awkward control scheme, it makes the game’s pace really difficult to dictate.  The campaign mode isn’t particularly hard, but it’s made harder by this.  That isn’t to say this is a bad game. I’ve spoken to others to see if I was being too critical or difficult on the control scheme, and some have actually stated their happiness with the way things work, and how it’s an added element of challenge to the game.  For me, that all sits with the actual challenge mode, which is hard right from the very first one you unlock.

 

It’s hard to pinpoint a demographic of gamer that would be interested in Kirby and the Rainbow Curse.  Older Kirby fans definitely will, but in a style of adventure game I tend to think is catered toward younger audiences, they might find the game too difficult to get into.  Granted, the waddle dees that your friends can play with in the multiplayer mode might help make things easier, but when you’re on your own, it might be too hard for the kids.  Still, those seeking a challenge, and definitely seeking something different will love Kirby and the Rainbow Curse.  It’s not a standard left to right adventure game, and it takes you out of your comfort zone in a hurry.  Give it a shot at its introductory price, which is more than reasonable for this game.

Final Ratings
Gameplay: 3.5 / 5
Graphics: 5 / 5
Sound: 4 / 5
Controls: 3 / 5
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 3 / 5

Overall Rating: 3.7 / 5 (74%)

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is now available for Nintendo Wii U.