By Bryan Smith on February 26, 2015 at 1:37pm
Here we have Kirby. This adorable little pink marshmallow is the titular hero to his series. He’s also one of the most powerful and determinant beings to be conceived by mankind. Let’s say you are a villain for Kirby. You try to split him up into four or ten Kirbys? He’ll come back with said team and wipe the floor with you. You transform him into only a ball? He’ll use that form to clobber you right back. You transform him into yarn, taking away his inhaling powers? He’ll use your power of yarn bring you down. Don’t even get me started on what happens when someone steals a slice of Kirby’s cake.
That (somewhat) leads me into “Kirby and the Rainbow Curse.” This game is a quasi-sequel to “Kirby: Canvas Curse,” where Kirby was transformed into a ball by an evil force. Players control a line of rainbow paint for Kirby to travel on as he fights evil. How well does the clay animated “Kirby” game play? I think it’s a fun romp, but… it certainly takes some patience and it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.
It's a Uniquely Beautiful Game
Unlike “Kirby: Canvas Curse,” “Rainbow Curse’s” art design generally feels important not only to looking at it but to the plot - what little there is. The clay animation is so vibrant and charming, it fits the “Kirby” vibe perfectly. All you need to know about that plot is an evil pair of hands that belong to Claycia are chasing a girl named Elline, who acts as the one who draws lines for Kirby. The bad guy wants to suck all the color out of everything and Kirby and his buddy Waddle Dee (the one with the spear and blue bandana) team up with Elline to stop the dastardly plan. Why Kirby decides that he doesn’t need to run and suck enemies in regularly is beyond me. Maybe Kirby finds this threat so unchallenging that he doesn’t even need to walk to save the day?
The game’s art design also did something I almost never see happen: make clay animation look not scary. Typically when someone mentions clay animation, they think “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” “Coraline,” “James and the Giant Peach,” and a lot of stuff done by Tim Burton if it wasn’t live action. All of those can be scary because clay animation has that unsettling uncanny feeling of unnatural and dead movement. Here, I feel everything is happy, bouncy, cheerful, and overall pleasant, which is what a Kirby game should be (usually).
Tis Also a Uniquely Interesting Game
The main gameplay element here is that you only use the Wii U’s touchscreen to play. With the stylus, you create rainbow paths for Kirby to roll on. Tapping on Kirby will cause him to charge ahead, which is one of Kirby’s only attacks. One of the few new things “Rainbow Curse” adds to “Canvas Curse’s” core is the Star Dash, which turns Kirby into a larger version of himself and sends him crashing into anything like a mad wrecking ball. Collecting one hundred stars lets you perform the Star Dash. As usual per “Kirby” game, there are collectibles hidden throughout each level and at the end of the level. The book segments are cute little bonuses that feature Elline drawing her adventures with Kirby and Waddle Dee. They’re charming and adorable, matching the game’s overall cheeriness.
Other than three transformations Kirby gets at set locations, i.e. rocket, submarine, and tank, there isn’t much new here. That is, if you are playing by yourself. If you have a friend, you can have her/him play along as a Waddle Dee friend with a spear. Oddly enough, the Waddle Dees play just like they did in “Kirby’s Return to Dreamland.” Having them around doesn’t hurt the gameplay as they can help Kirby with tricky collectibles and correct a mistake that could kill a Kirby that has little to defend himself.
The concept of drawing a rainbow line for Kirby to travel along is rather interesting. As opposed to traditional moving and jumping, the line does that alone. I can’t think of most other games that approached platforming like this before. Is it completely original? No, since “Canvas Curse” already did the same thing years before. Though “Rainbow Curse” actually has interesting bosses that incorporate actual gameplay as opposed to minigames for bosses.
The Road Is Certainly Bumpy
This game will certainly turn some people off who just want a simple, intuitive game. That’s because there is absolutely no way (playing by yourself anyways) to control Kirby directly. At first, this doesn’t seem such a problem. Just getting from point A to point B should be a nice, brisk outing for Kirby. That’s when getting collectibles comes in. Since a good number of these collectibles need precision and a perfectly aligned Star Dash, which is limited during regular runs, that means Kirby has to be in the right spot at the right time. Using the stylus for rainbow roads is nowhere near precise or safe enough to do these comfortably. I feel I drew the line just right, but Kirby launches off the line a few degrees off and I miss the timing, making me go through the level again just to get the collectible.
Now while the core gameplay doesn’t stray too often from “roll Kirby to his destination” too much, as it did at times with “Canvas Curse,” especially during boss battles, the overall gameplay feels a bit… lacking. All you need to do is draw lines, poke Kirby, and get to the end while collecting items. That formula does make up a good amount of “Kirby” games, but other “Kirby games” also had copy powers to experiment with and use effectively against enemies and bosses. “Rainbow Curse” suffers the same problem “Kirby’s Epic Yarn” had: an interesting concept but not much else to play with. At the very least, “Kirby: Canvas Curse” had copy abilities that Kirby can use to fight.
Some Things Lost From "Canvas Curse"
As far as sequels go, I think that in order to be the “better game following” is to build upon what the original had. I feel that certain elements from “Canvas Curse” got lost. For instance, despite Kirby being stuck in a ball, he can still copy some powers from the enemies he charges into. That doesn’t happen here. Kirby can only roll into enemies to damage them. He only has three transformations, as stated before, but they are at set locations usually that they really don’t add too much to the overall game. The transformations honestly feel like they were taken from “Kirby’s Epic Yarn.”
I think having Kirby stuck in a ball needlessly puts a slight hamper to the game. At least with “Canvas Curse,” it played a purpose. Since Waddle Dee can move freely, why not make Kirby move/act like Kirby and let him use the ball and paint powers when needed? I think that would have been a better blend of gameplay. Have areas that require the Star Dash; forcing Kirby into the ball and using the rainbow line to properly get there. I think this was a lost opportunity that gets squandered by just using “Canvas Curse’s” format only.
Clay Has Heart and Some Soul
With “Kirby and the Rainbow Curse,” I felt I had a nice, decent time with an adorable and gorgeous game. The core gameplay is fine and it gets the job done. It’s just that it needs that depth that the copy powers bring to “Kirby” games. This game should have been a marriage between traditional “Kirby” games and the style “Canvas Curse” brought. As it stands, it’s decent enough to have a look at. “Kirby” fans will enjoy this title while I recommend a cautionary look at with this one for those who like a more unique approach to platforming. Though I’d understand people not liking that there aren’t buttons to work with.