It’s hard to believe, but it’s almost been 10 years exactly since one my favorite Kirby titles launched. It was a Nintendo DS game, possibly the first to make really great use of the touchscreen system.
I’m talking about, of course, Kirby: Canvas Curse.
Nintendo tasked players with guiding an ever rolling pink ball (Kirby) through courses and in races with King Dedede. You guide Kirby by drawing lines. He rides them, you win.
It was a really unique gameplay mechanic that I haven’t really seen pulled off quite as well since, and that was all the way back in 2005. Now, Nintendo has released a sequel to Kirby: Canvas Curse for the Wii U. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is here. While it may not be as good as the original, it’s a wonderfully charming game that’s just about worth its $39.99 asking price.
Learning the Rainbow Ropes
When you start playing Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, you’ll notice pretty quickly that the initial learning curve is rather steep. It’s not that the game is difficult at all. It isn’t. There are sections that will cause you to lose a few lives, but most people who play the game at a regular pace without striving too hard to earn 1ups will beat it with plenty of lives in their pocket.
I had more than 50 leftover after my first time clearing the final boss, for instance.
That initial difficulty comes from learning how to guide Kirby. Like I said in the intro, it’s all done by drawing lines. You lay down these rainbow ropes, and once Kirby rolls into them, he rides along them (either above or below, depending on how his body makes contact). At first, you’ll sort of struggle with laying down perfect lines. It’s challenging for, perhaps, the first 20 minutes of play. Nintendo is kind enough to make the early levels very forgiving while introducing you to these mechanics, so you won’t really lose lives during this process.
What makes the line system so tough here is that it’s finite. That is, you have a meter that drains as you draw lines. Deplete the meter and you’ll be unable to guide Kirby. It slowly fills as Kirby is off the ground, but once he touches down you’ll get a quick replenishing burst. You’ll need to learn how to juggle Kirby in the air between tiny strikes rather than huge, swooping lines, and that takes some serious getting used to if you never played Kirby: Canvas Curse.
I’ve read some folks, critics and a small sect of gamers, complain about the inaccuracy of drawing and the frustrations born out of controlling Kirby indirectly. In my opinion, these complaints seem misdirected. Rainbow Curse isn’t a hard game. Once you relax and figure out how to properly draw lines, it becomes a rather automatic experience, one that I found more relaxing than stressful.
A World Made of Clay
When Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is all done challenging you with its interesting mechanics, I suggest you slow down and look at the world of the game. It’s made of clay, and it works really, really well.
Each object, whether it’s in a level or in the figurine collection screen (more on that in a bit), looks like it was hand molded in clay. The world itself gives when Kirby rolls onto it, and that sort of gives off this feeling that you’re playing in a massive, clay diorama.
The aesthetics work really well for Kirby. I’d even say I like the clay look much better than what we saw a few years back with Kirby’s Epic Yarn. Rainbow Curse looks fantastic in motion, and that only pushes the clay look to new heights.
Perhaps my only complaint is that you don’t get the same resolution when you look at the Wii U’s GamePad. You’ll be staring at the device the entire time you play, so you’ll need to take a break from action and look up at the screen every once in a while to get the full effect. It still looks good on the GamePad, but it’s not as brilliant as it is on the television.
That’s a fault of the Wii U, though, not Kirby and the Rainbow Curse.
What’s that? A Tank, a Submarine and a Rocket!
The other compelling set of mechanics at work here in Kirby and the Rainbow Curse are the unique forms he takes for specific stages. There are three stages per level and a boss fight. At least one of the three stages sees Kirby turn into a unique vehicle.
Kirby can turn into a rocket, a submarine and a tank. Each features its own set of controls that stand apart from the standard roll on the line segments.
The rocket is constantly flying fast. You draw lines to guide it, though it has no weapons. You’ll just blast through opponents. These levels were essentially the most stressful in the game. There’s typically an escape section that tasks you with drawing a line on a map and then using that as your guide to escape before the stage itself explodes.
Next comes the submarine. This is my favorite of the vehicles. Essentially, the submarine stands still unless you tap a flag down on the screen. That becomes its destination. The submarine is also constantly firing torpedoes in groups of three. You’ll draw lines to guide your torpedoes into enemies, obstacles and certain collectibles. I found this mix of movement and guiding weaponry to be a lot of fun, even when the screen floods with enemies.
Finally, we have the tank form. Here, Kirby rolls slowly at all times. You can tap him for a speed boost, too. You fire tank shells anywhere you want on the screen at any time with a tap, though you can’t control this ammo with lines. Instead, you can use lines to create ramps for the tank to climb up. If you draw them too steep, Kirby will fall.
These levels all worked really well to break up the standard action of the game. You’ll find a vehicle level basically every third stage, and that’s nice for a constant change of pace over the course of the game.
Multiplayer, Collections and Challenges
Now, Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a rather short game. There are roughly 20-25 stages across the entire experience within the main campaign. That’s not a whole lot, though I suppose you can cushion that fact with the budget price of the title.
With that said, the game does come with a few bells and whistles to drive up its value. First of all, local multiplayer works fairly well. The GamePad user controls Kirby in standard line drawing fashion while those using the Wii Remotes or Pro Controllers can hop in as weapon wielding Waddle Dees.
The folks playing as Waddle Dee can run, jump and attack independently of Kirby. They can even walk across Kirby’s drawn lines, if they so choose. The only downer is that the game doesn’t really scale too well in terms of difficulty when players are added as Waddle Dee. Having them in addition to Kirby nullifies most enemies and obstacles.
Players will also be privy to tons of collectibles (music and clay figures) and challenge rooms. The challenge rooms are like quick, 15 second blasts through puzzles. They can be super tough, especially if you take on the mode that strings multiple together and forces you to start over at death.
All of this really pads out what is otherwise a short experience, though you’ll really only sink your teeth into the extras if you like the game avidly.
The Trouble with Kirby is…
Well, it comes in two forms. First, I suppose, is the length. I’m used to Nintendo really pushing their games out on all sides in terms of content. Think of Super Mario 3D World. You thought you had that game beat, and then a rocket ship shows up and fires you to a whole new sequence of insanely tough levels.
The thing that makes this okay, though, is the $39.99 price point. Except, well, Nintendo games rarely come down in price. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse will likely hover around $39.99 at retail until Nintendo stops printing copies, then it will shoot up in cost.
I can forgive the length and content amount, honestly.
It’s the boss fights, though. They start out creatively enough. There are six bosses before you get to the main bad guy in the “story.” The first three are actually pretty interesting, forcing different mechanics on you in compelling ways.
The second three? Yeah, it’s the first three bosses again with slightly tougher move sequences. Bush league, folks. Why not design six original bosses instead of re-using the first three over again? This felt like artificial padding to me, and that’s sort of unexpected from Nintendo.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is a charming adventure that’s priced well, even if it comes with some corner cutting flaws.
If you own a Wii U and are looking for games to play, I’d say Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is one you should pick up. Realize first, though, that this game is a quick flight of fancy and not a long term investment.
If you’re alright with the amount of content it offers at its $39.99 price point, you’ll probably love it. I did, except for the recycled boss battles, and that’s why it’s one of my favorite games of the year. Granted, 2015 just started.
For Wii U owners and Kirby fans? Rainbow Curse is a buy. That goes double since Nintendo’s games rarely see major price cuts. It’s not a reason to run out and buy a Wii U, though you have those with the likes of Smash and Mario Kart. This one’s just a good time killer.
Disclaimer: We purchased a copy of Kirby and the Rainbow Curse with company funds, though a download code showed up on release day. We completed the game before starting this review.