Nintendo's been cranking out these 2D platformers like no other genre on the 3DS lately. Seriously, it's like they built an engine for the game style, and then they just went to work creating cheap titles for the handheld.
Not all of them have been good, either.
We've seen games like Chibi-robo! Zip Lash, Kirby Triple Deluxe, Yoshi's New Island and a few more. You can add Kirby Planet Robobot to the list, too.
The good news? It's one of the more interesting titles, and it's certainly my favorite effort from Kirby in recent years. Is it incredible? I'm not sure I'd lavish it with that praise, but it is fun.
As is typical Nintendo fashion with these 2D platforming efforts, the storyline here is rather sparse. A horde of machines takes over Kirby's planet, and it's up to the pink puff ball to move stage by stage, destroying each enemy base as he makes his way to headquarters.
It's all just an excuse to get at the robotic nature of the gameplay. See, this is a typical Kirby game in that our hero can inhale enemies and, if they're of the special variety, absorb their powers and make them his own. On the base level, that mechanic still works. There's an extra layer here, though, that spreads to a seeming majority of the game. Kirby can pilot a mech.
The mech segments are the best Kirby Planet Robobot has to offer. You can use enemy abilities just like Kirby can in his base form, but the robot itself feels fast, powerful and unique. It's actually fun to play, and that goes a long way towards making Planet Robobot a good game.
Sure, the levels can be a bit repetitive, but the simple fact that you can play as Kirby, as Kirby with different abilities, as the robot and as the robot with different abilities, the gameplay variety manages to stay fresh throughout. That's always been my biggest gripe when it comes to Kirby games; the gameplay isn't mixed up enough for my taste. Here, it is, and levels switch from standard platformers to puzzlers and even SHMUPs, thanks to the way the robot works.
There is some minor robot customization to be done. Every level is peppered with hidden stickers, both of the standard silver and rare gold varieties. You can even earn more stickers by doing well in each level's goal game. This stickers are collected and then stored in a menu screen. From that screen you can actually apply the stickers to either the right or left arm of your mech.
It's neat and a nice little flourish, but it winds up being rather useless. Especially given that the stickers are incredibly hard to make out during play. I'm playing on a New Nintendo 3DS XL, and I still couldn't really see the stickers while playing without standing motionless and squinting at my mech.
I'm in a really weird spot when it comes to Kirby Planet Robobot.
Now, I could be absolutely wrong here, but the rapid nature of 2D platforming releases on Nintendo's part suggests that the company is simply making cheap games in order to bridge the gap between their more large scale titles. Rather than release nothing at all, they've taken to dropping these platformers that feel formulaic and, quite honestly, repetitive.
However, of the recent rush of these 2D platformers on the 3DS, Kirby Planet Robobot is my favorite. That's actually in spite of the game's environment design, which feels almost exactly like Triple Deluxe. It's because of the mech suit that this game is so much fun, and the developers managed to balance time spent in the mech and time spent out of the mech in such a way that you'll never find yourself doing too much of one or the other.
The bones of the game feel formulaic, but the meat is new. The levels and look seem repetitive, but the actual gameplay mechanics are fresh and interesting.
I know it's odd that I'm so split on this game. It's a Nintendo title, so it likely won't drop in price too much over time. There's not much of an advantage in recommending fans to wait. Instead, the reason I'm suggesting fans wait is because of the rapid release pacing of these games from Nintendo.
If you only just played Kirby Triple Deluxe or Yoshi's New Island, this whole thing is going to feel way too similar. However, if you skipped those or you're a diehard lover of Kirby in general, Planet Robobot is a fun little game.
Is it perfect? Certainly not. It feels like it was pressed by a machine with a template. The mech suit and dynamic gameplay mechanics are its saving grace, but I don't think they'll be enough for all comers.
Disclaimer: We received a physical copy of Kirby Planet Robobot from Nintendo. We completed the game before starting this review.
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