Remember Kirby – the eccentric floaty cloud-like hero who gobbled up his enemies in a series of sublime platforming titles? Well he’s back but not quite as you remember.
As they did with 2005’s Kirby: Power Paintbrush, developers HAL Laboratory has deviated from the established canon once again to deliver Kirby: Mass Attack. This time around, a villainous dude with a cane has split Kirby into 10 smaller versions of himself, before promptly kicking the crap out of all but one. Alone and underpowered, its up to the final remaining Kirby to regain his courage, bring his nine companions back to life and defeat the evil Necrodeus.
Mass Attack surrenders all control to the stylus and touch screen, making for a platformer that initially feels quite strange to play. You’ll touch a point to make your Kirby’s move there, double tap to jump, flick to fling them into the air and tap and hold to make them fly for a few moments. It might seem unwieldy but the responsive touch screen means you’ll rarely miss an input, especially useful when the screen fills with enemies which you need to cover with a flailing Kirby scrum.
Eating fruit earns you more Kirby’s, with the goal being to keep 10 on screen as much as possible. It’s not only ridiculous cute to see the pink decet careening around the screen, but many objectives within the levels require a certain number of bodies to activate them. Combined with a difficulty level that’s pitched quite high, this means that Mass Attack encourages backtracking and careful Kirby management if you hope to unlock even a small part of the available extras.
The main game contains a massive number of levels, complete with bosses and solid gameplay and enemy variety. But you’ll also be able to unlock new levels and game modes which go far beyond the norm for any title, let alone a budget handheld game. From basic whack-a-mole clones you’ll soon discover shoot em ups and even a self contained RPG, all accessed through the game menus. It’s a ridiculously generous package.
Almost seven years on from the its North American release, Nintendo’s DS is still producing quality titles that manage to not only make good use of the hardware but also deliver gameplay that doesn’t feel constrained by the use of a stylus. With the arrival of the 3DS, there’s no doubt that developers will make the transition to take advantage of the extra dimension, particularly first part devs, but that’s a tremendous innings by any standard.
Kirby: Mass Attack provides a cheerful art style and accessible gameplay increases in complexity level by level to a real challenge long before the lengthy single player ends. With the wealth of extra levels and game modes, there’s serious value for money here, not to mention a thoroughly entertaining title.