Oct 132011

TEN-HUT! Tell me what’s pink, squishy, often makes squeaky sounds, and is bound to make you smile? No…we’re not talking about THAT. Now drop and give me 50 and stop being a pervert. What we’re talking about is one of Nintendo’s most understated franchises — KIRBY! Kirby has experienced a lot of adversity in his days; he’s been forced to shift the world around him for mobility, turned into a ball that can only roll on rainbow lines, and even been morphed into a circle of yarn and transported to a world made entirely of fabric. Now in Kirby Mass Attack, Nintendo and HAL Laboratories have fit Kirby into yet another whole new and unexpected type of game.

Instead of vacuuming up enemies into Kirby’s gaping maw and copying their abilities, as has been the stable of most Kirby games in the past, Kirby Mass Attack deviates from the core Kirby formula, yet still sticks to its roots as a platformer. This time around, the villain has split Kirby into ten tiny copies of himself! OH NO!!! Pieces of fruit are strewn about each level, and it is up to you to eat enough to grow your army from a singular Kirby to a pile of ten not-so lean, not-so mean bad guy pummeling machines. Each type of fruit has a different numerical value assigned to it, and filling the large pink meter on the top screen to 100 will recruit a tiny new soldier for your army. Once your platoon is full, each time you hit 100 points on the “Kirby meter”, 1000 bonus points will be added to your score, though the points seem to be completely arbitrary and have little bearing on the game’s outcome. It was fun to see that while Kirby has become a fruitarian, his voracious attitude has not changed. There are other things besides fruit to consume in each level, like hidden medals which unlock additional content in the form of mini-games, and power-ups like the Mega Candy which turns your Kirbys into giant, invincible powerhouses for a short time. As if controlling up to 10 Kirbys simultaneously wasn’t enough of a change from the norm of Kirby games, HAL Laboratories included a limited version of an achievement system. Though there is no WiFi connectivity for you to share your achievements, you can still show off the a list of unlockable to your friends in-person. For our younger readers, “in-person” is the way humans communicated before there was “the internet”.

Why is this giant tree always hating on Kirby?!?!

Controls in Kirby Mass Attack are all touchscreen based, which can be a deal breaker for a lot of players; especially those with huge hairy ape hands (like me), but for the most part they work well in this game. The Kirbys all follow a star throughout the level, and you guide this star with the point of your stylus. A quick double-tap on the touchscreen gathers your group in one place, and to make them run double tap and hold your stylus down on the touchscreen. Occasionally Kirbys will get stuck behind obstacles, but this was only a minor annoyance because if you touch the stylus on a group of Kirbys they will all gather into a glob that you can carry through the level for a short period of time. This feature is also very useful for getting the Kirbys up to a spot they couldn’t have reached on their own. A combination control scheme of the d-pad and stylus would’ve been preferable to complete touchscreen, but once you play a couple levels you will adapt to the interface’s shortcomings.

Ooohhh dang that green dude is about to get the pummeling of his life.

Initiating combat is as simple as tapping the enemy with the stylus. The baddie will then be marked by the star, and any Kirby in the immediate vicinity will rush in and start pummeling the living daylights out of the opponent. The more Kirbys you have, the easier it will be to destroy the foe in question, much like how battles play out in the Pikmin series. Be careful though, and choose your fights wisely, because Kirby isn’t very sturdy. When Kirby takes one hit he turns blue, and one more hit and he will turn into this really heartbreaking image of a gray Kirby with angel wings. Then he’ll start flying upward, but if you have other Kirbys you may flick them at the heavenbound Kirby with your stylus and pull him back down to the ground. Once they’ve landed, the previously slain Kirby will be blue again until you find one of the Sparkly Pink Rings of Magical Healing Wonderment© (that’s just my name for them, not official Nintendo wording). You will find one or two of these healing spots in each level, sometimes hidden and sometimes in plain sight. Flicking Kirbys through them turns them back to their normal carnation hue.

If you’ve played any other Kirby game on the DS, Kirby Mass Attack will look very familiar to you. Enemies are brightly colored, and often so freakin’ adorable you will feel bad sicking your Kirby Brigade on them. Environments are layered and textured nicely so they have a feeling of depth to them. It’s hard for me not to type all in caps and put smiley faces everywhere when talking about the Kirbys! Their adorable little faces are more expressive than I’ve ever seen them. When they’re running, they look incredibly stern and determined. When they get plucked up by an enemy and caught by surprise, they look straight at the camera and their eyes get really big and bug out! While it was kind of sad to see any of my Kirbys get hurt, just wait until you see them get zapped by electricity — your brain’s cute receptors will completely overload. If you’re anything like me you will often completely cease playing just to look at what sort of adorable thing the Kirbys are doing.

It’s hard not to have a huge smile on your face when playing a Kirby game. The gameplay is always so rewarding, and the little guy is about so endearing he’ll really make you want to be all you can be. Easy pick-up-and-play gameplay will appeal to casual gamers, but finding all medals, getting the achievements, and gold star ranking on each level will keep the hardcore audience coming back for more. A few minor issues with the Kirby collective A.I. do not detract from the fact that this is one of the most enjoyable Kirby entries on the DS to-date, all wrapped up in ten tiny pink parcels.

Kirby Mass Attack

Kirby and his foes' cuteness will make you squee with happiness every time you play it, unless you are a heartless monster. The mechanic of a group of Kirbys is one that has been relatively unused in other games, so it seems very fresh.You will want to cry when you see dead Kirbys trying to fly away. Kirbys getting stuck due to poor A.I. can be very frustrating.
VerdictKirby Mass Attack would be an excellent addition to any DS owner's library.

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