Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is the spiritual sequel to Kirby: Canvas Curse, released on the Nintendo DS back in 2005. Canvas Curse was arguably the DS’ first definitive game, as it used the stylus and touchscreen so effectively and uniquely that it remained one of the DS’ best games throughout the handheld’s entire run. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse replicates a number of Canvas Curse’s elements, this time on the Wii U. Though this time around, Kirby’s bag of tricks isn’t quite as consistent.
Much like the DS original, Rainbow Curse sees Kirby transformed into a ball, and the player uses the Gamepad’s touchscreen to draw rainbow ropes in order to move Kirby around, with quick taps on Kirby himself giving him a little boost. You only have a limited supply of ink to create these rainbow ropes at a time, but it quickly replenishes.
Being only the second game in the series to use this style of gameplay (and being ten years after the first), it all still feels fresh and unique. Unfortunately, Rainbow Curse doesn’t quite do as much with its gameplay as its predecessor did. Kirby’s trademarks copy ability was left intact in Canvas Curse, which gave the gameplay some added variety. Strangely, Kirby cannot copy enemy powers in Rainbow Curse, but some transformations do occur on a handful of stages.
At certain points in the game Kirby can transform into a tank, a submarine and a rocket, with each one being far more destructive than Kirby is in his natural state. The levels involving the transformations provide a nice change of pace from the standard levels, but they are ultimately too few in number. The transformation levels also rely too much on repeating gimmicks, leaving players to wish that there were more to them.
The gameplay remains solid, but it lacks the finer details of its DS predecessor. Kirby and the Rainbow Curse is brought to life, however, for its unique visual style and its exceptional soundtrack.
Rainbow Curse mimics the look of claymation, with the characters and locations all giving the impression that Aardman had a go at a Nintendo title. The game looks absolutely beautiful, and it’s swimming in details (when Kirby is closer to the screen you can make out tiny fingerprints on his character model). The clay visual style is so wonderfully realized that you can’t imagine it would look much better if it were actually made with claymation.
There is one downside to this. With the game’s focus on the Gamepad, the player’s eyes will be more drawn to the touchscreen than what’s presented on the TV. Given that the Gamepad’s screen presents everything in standard definition, as opposed to the high definition of the Wii U itself, you may actually need to watch someone else play to fully soak in the game’s visual beauty.
In terms of music, Rainbow Curse boasts one of the best soundtracks in the series’ history, and Kirby has always been a series of consistently catchy music. The soundtrack pays homage to the 16-bit era of video games, with the musical styles sounding like SNES and Genesis tunes brought up to date. The game also includes a sound test, where players can listen to any music they’ve unlocked. It should be noted that the game’s soundtrack is so hefty that there are a number of remixes from past Kirby titles that only appear in the sound test (giving players all the more reason to find the hidden tracks).
There are a few bonus features in Rainbow Curse, most of which are unlocked by playing through the game’s story mode. The aforementioned music tracks, as well as character models and biographies, are found in hidden chests strewn about each level. Challenges are unlocked by completing certain stages, and there’s a charming (if not entirely useful) storybook that can be found – piece by piece – in a roulette wheel at the end of every stage. Aside from the music, the additional content doesn’t pack a whole lot of punch, but it should catch the eyes of completionists.
One thing to note is that Rainbow Curse is one of the more difficult Kirby games in recent memory. It’s never Tropical Freeze difficult, but you will find a number of instances where Kirby comes face-to-face with one-hit kill obstacles, and moments where the player must react quickly with the stylus to prevent Kirby from falling into a bottomless pit. Again, it’s nothing intensely difficult, but it is more challenging than its adorable exterior might suggest.
One aspect that could have used a little more variety are the boss battles. Between the game’s seven worlds, there are only four bosses among them. The first three bosses are each recycled for another round, with little to differentiate the fights other than a color swap.
Multiplayer is an option, with additional players taking on the roles of multicolored Waddle Dees who use more traditional platforming controls to aid Kirby. It’s not the Wii U’s best local co-op, but it is nice to have as an option should others want to join in the fun.
Kirby and the Rainbow Curse may not rank among the best Kirby games, as it falls short of its predecessor and some gameplay aspects are underdeveloped, but it is nonetheless a fun and different take on the world of Dreamland that, above all else, is an audiovisual delight.