Kirby and the Rainbow Curse: A Short Pause Review

Video Review by Frankie Ailor and Ben Holt

 Nintendo's Wii U seems poised to have yet another banner year. With new entries in key franchises such as The Legend of Zelda and Star Fox on the docket for 2015, along with some promising newcomers like Tomonobu Itagaki’s Devil's Third and Splatoon, it seems fitting that Nintendo staple Kirby is the star of the first Wii U exclusive of the year. While not quite a typical entry in the series, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse introduces some fun ideas, along with an incredibly well-realized clay world, that ultimately feels hampered by the fact that it is on the Wii U.

One of the first things anyone will tell you about this game is that it looks amazing. Developer HAL Laboratories has crafted one of their most unique game settings to date, creating a believable clay world with incredible attention to detail. With that being said, players will spend next to no time actually viewing how spectacular the game looks on the big screen, as Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is played exclusively on the Wii U's gamepad. This is one of the more criminal design decisions made in recent memory. It's clear a lot of effort and oodles of creativity were put into making these superb environments, and it seems a shame to watch them go vastly unnoticed due the type of game the developer decided to make.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a spiritual successor to the Nintendo DS launch title, Kirby: Canvas Curse, and features similar gameplay. Players navigate our titular hero using the stylus and the gamepad to draw out paths in order to guide Kirby through each level. This sounds rather simple on paper, though at times it can become extremely complex. While simply rolling through some of the more straightforward levels does not present much of a challenge, the inclusion of timed sections or various obstacles to weave around as the screen begins to scroll — leaving the potential for players to meet their demise if they can’t traverse the level fast enough — adds a degree of difficulty that can, at times, be frustrating. While lines can be drawn almost anywhere, it's important to remain aware of the rope meter in the top left corner of the screen. This meter determines how much rainbow rope — a limited commodity in Kirby and the Rainbow Curse — players can have on-screen at any given time, and figuring out how to get Kirby from point A to point B while utilizing the finite amount of rope available presents much of the game’s challenge. Occasionally, I found myself struggling just to get him to catch onto and follow my path, or even face the right direction which can be grating. Various elements, such as wind or water current, eventually come into play and add even more difficulty to the proceedings. Obstacles such as waterfalls, laser beams, or even globs of clay can also be blocked or wiped away by simply drawing over them, which places an even greater emphasis on knowing just how full your meter is at all times, as having your rope disappear at the wrong moment could lead to an irritating instant death. These moments can be very frustrating, but through a little perseverance, the game still manages to impart a sense of accomplishment once you successfully find a way to proceed.

For the majority of the game, Kirby will be in ball form. Certain levels shake up the formula a bit by reshaping our little guy into a vehicle fit for the terrain. Whether it's rolling through the desert, floating underwater, or drifting through the air, special levels see Kirby transformed into a tank, submarine, or rocket, respectively. While the core concept of navigating through the levels remains the same, these new forms add a twist to Kirby’s attacks. Typically, players have a dash attack that is activated by simply tapping on him. This is slightly tweaked when Kirby is in vehicle form. Each vehicle introduces a new way to take down enemies, whether tapping in the direction of an enemy to fire missiles with the tank, drawing a path for torpedoes to follow with the submarine, or crashing straight into enemies as a rocket. Each form also features a super move that is armed by collecting 100 stars. These range from a powered-up dash attack to a cluster of homing missiles.

For the majority of the game, Kirby will be in ball form. Certain levels shake up the formula a bit by reshaping our little guy into a vehicle fit for the terrain. Whether it's rolling through the desert, floating underwater, or drifting through the air, special levels see Kirby transformed into a tank, submarine, or rocket, respectively. While the core concept of navigating through the levels remains the same, these new forms add a twist to Kirby’s attacks. Typically, players have a dash attack that is activated by simply tapping on him. This is slightly tweaked when Kirby is in vehicle form. Each vehicle introduces a new way to take down enemies, whether tapping in the direction of an enemy to fire missiles with the tank, drawing a path for torpedoes to follow with the submarine, or crashing straight into enemies as a rocket. Each form also features a super move that is armed by collecting 100 stars. These range from a powered-up dash attack to a cluster of homing missiles.

It is here where the game also introduces its Amiibo support. Players lucky enough to have either Kirby, King Dedede, or Meta Knight can tap them on the side of the gamepad once every 24 hours to grant Kirby various power-ups for a single level. Unless you were able to snag a rare King Dedede, or super rare Meta Knight, you may only have a Kirby figure to utilize here (like myself). Kirby’s Amiibo gives you access to an unlimited use star dash which can be quite handy during boss encounters that see players scouring for hundreds of stars to recharge their super attack. As I mentioned earlier, however, when I say unlimited, I mean until either that particular level is over, or you die. If you were hoping for more, you’re out of luck. I'm sorry to say that unless you enjoy having Amiibo figures on your shelf, or have use for them elsewhere, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a poor representation of worth for those seeking to invest in them strictly based on their in-game implementation.

On top of Kirby’s various shapes offering different methods to attack enemies, each of the games seven levels (all comprised of 3 stages and a boss battle) constantly introduce new ways to traverse them. One stage has you drawing lines to continue Kirby's path in a gondola, while another sees him split into 2 separate Kirbys as you try to complete tasks with each one to make the little creampuff whole again. Seeing the different tricks in play to keep the player engaged never got tiring, and I appreciated how the game consistently kept things fresh. I just wish the same could be said about the boss encounters.

Some of the boss battles were a bit challenging, but that just meant victory always felt sweet and well-earned. I was gutted, however, when I noticed that the Level 4 boss was the Level 1 boss in a different color. Unfortunately, Levels 4-6 all shamelessly recycle the same bosses that players took down in Levels 1-3. This came off as a huge bummer to me. I felt each of the first 3 boss characters belonged in the environments they were initially fought in, and seeing them again didn’t make much sense to me. Call me crazy, but fighting a giant tree in the sky just doesn't feel right. While the game's end boss is unique and multi-tiered, I still feel cheated out of some potentially cool boss fights in Levels 4-6.

Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is far from a traditional Kirby game. While I have been told that the local multiplayer is closer to that experience, I am unfortunately not in a position that would allow me to see that part of the game (Bender will touch on this feature below). The game constantly finds ways to keep players entertained, and those completionist-types will no doubt have their hands full attempting to unlock the game’s hundreds of collectibles, which range from musical pieces plucked from the game’s wonderful soundtrack, to in-game trophies made of clay (a la Super Smash Bros.).   Mastering the game’s challenge mode adds a few new stages to the mix as well, providing players with a variety of goals for completing each level. It is unfortunate that the game’s biggest draw — its beautifully crafted clay world — will go largely unappreciated as players rarely have a moment to look up from the low-res gamepad that constantly demands their attention. Recycled bosses squander the potential for even more intricate and unique boss encounters in the latter stages, and the difficulty curve may steer many people away. I enjoyed the challenges this game threw my way for the most part, but I'm left feeling as if this entry may have been better served as a 3DS title. Here's hoping the next time we see Kirby on a Nintendo home console it's in a game that looks as incredible as this one, but returns to the series’ formula that we all know and love.

 Pros
• Excellent soundtrack
• Evolving gameplay elements
• Level variety
• Absolutely stunning looking...

Cons
• ...but gameplay is limited to the gamepad only.
• Recycled bosses
• Poor Amiibo implementation
• Story is not even worth mentioning


 Kirby is one versatile little pink puffball! When he's not duking it out in the Smash Bros. franchise, he's being featured in a wide variety of titles, including puzzle and racing games. Aside from his core series of platformers, Kirby has starred in a diverse array of titles including Kirby's Dream Course, Kirby's Pinball Land, and Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble. In fact, when you examine Kirby's résumé, it becomes apparent that Nintendo loves to roll the poor little guy into a ball and let gamers fling him about. I'm not saying this is a bad thing; many of these games have been very unique and fun experiences. Well, spherically-shaped Kirby is back in his latest outing on Wii U, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, the spiritual successor to the early DS game, Kirby: Canvas Curse. I personally never played the DS game, so I didn't really know what to expect from this sequel. What I found was a beautifully-rendered game with some fun and clever moments, but one with a few flaws.

As Frankie mentioned, the visuals are by far the best part about this game. The hand-molded clay aesthetic on display is impressively well-done. Unfortunately, since you're tied to the gamepad the entire time, it's not possible to appreciate the great art style on your TV screen. 
In fact, if you're not playing the multiplayer portion of the game, there's really no reason to turn on your TV at all. The music in Rainbow Curse is another positive feature. There are many jazzy tunes that fit the theme of the various levels in which they are found. There were times when I would take a break from playing and just enjoy the soundtrack.

The game supports up to four player co-op, with one player directing Kirby on the touch screen and up to three others controlling Waddle Dees using Wii Remotes. I had a chance to try out the multiplayer, both as Kirby while a friend controlled Waddle Dee, and vice-versa. I felt relatively few frustrations with co-op play. Those playing as Waddle Dee can assist Kirby by collecting stars or attacking enemies with a spear. Best of all, the drop-in/drop-out quality of the multiplayer makes it very accessible to enjoy the game with friends. However, especially during boss fights, having the assistance of additional players could potentially make the game too easy, so it’s recommended those looking for a challenge avoid this feature, at least during fights with the big end-level baddies.

In addition to the main story, there is a challenge mode containing 48 one-minute challenges. Each one-minute challenge consists of four rooms which you must attempt to clear consecutively. In each of the four rooms, you only have 15 seconds to obtain a chest by completing various tasks. In some rooms, you must defeat all of the enemies in the area before you can grab the chest. In other rooms, you might be required to collect several puzzle pieces, or activate multiple switches, to gain access to the chest before time runs out. These rooms can indeed be challenging, and are a good way to supplement the potentially short main story mode.  Speaking of Story Mode, each level —with the exception of the boss battles — contains 5 chests to collect, some of which are well-hidden, or in a place that's not easily accessible. Completionists will enjoy collecting them all, as well as working toward attaining a gold rank in each of the story levels and challenge rooms. Some levels in the story force you to move quickly, by means of an auto-scrolling camera or even a continuously rising pool of lava. The only problem with this approach is the fact that neither the gameplay mechanics nor the controls lend themselves very well to such a fast-paced, frantic play style.

The three different forms Kirby assumes in certain levels throughout the story — the tank, the submarine, and the rocket — add some variety to the gameplay. I found both the tank and the submarine to be a good change of pace. The rocket, however, was very frustrating. As a rocket, Kirby barrels endlessly forward, and the player is tasked with directing his movement by drawing lines to alter his heading. This becomes an issue in areas where there is little room to navigate, and the Kirby rocket ends up bouncing off walls, often ricocheting in a direction in which you don't want him to go.

Frustration found me again in the underwater levels. When Kirby is submerged, he floats, and you have to constantly fight with his natural buoyancy in order to progress through the level. Not to mention the fact that he can be pushed around by underwater currents, making him even more difficult to control.

Overall, I enjoyed my time with Kirby and the Rainbow Curse. The game is beautiful and sure to be a hit with Kirby fans, especially those who loved Canvas Curse on the DS. However, some frustrating moments in the game —particularly in the underwater levels, and when controlling the Kirby rocket — hinder it from being as great as it could be. 

 Pros
• Beautiful art style
• Some fun and ingenious moments
• Great soundtrack
• Plenty of secrets to find 

Cons
• Always tied to the gamepad 
• Some very frustrating moments
• Kirby's rocket form 
• Underwater levels 


Short Pause Final Review

A USUAL game is neither exceedingly good nor exceedingly bad. It can have positive elements or moments of greatness, but they are balanced out by elements that are equally as negative, resulting in a game that is often fun but also frustrating. 

A USUAL game is neither exceedingly good nor exceedingly bad. It can have positive elements or moments of greatness, but they are balanced out by elements that are equally as negative, resulting in a game that is often fun but also frustrating.